Cybils YA Favorites

The Cybils process is grueling.  As a Round 1 panelist, you read and read and read for two months and along the way you fall in love with books.  You make your list and then you talk to you fellow panelists.  Horror of horrors, they don’t see the same gems that you do!  The end result is an amazing conversation (ok, many conversations) where the final shortlist is decided.  You learn from your fellow panelists and it’s an amazing experience.  I’m thrilled with our shortlist, but of course there are books I wish we could have added to the list.  Thus, my personal Cybils list was born.  Below I have highlighted some of the books I absolutely loved in the YA category this year and I hope you love them too!

Bookshelves 3 stories

Bookshelves 3 stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick-Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, who survived the Pol Pot Regime in Cambodia as a child, McCormick’s tale weaves fiction and nonfiction into a raw and heartbreaking tale of childhood lost.  Arn loses his family and eventually is moved to the very center of the Killing Fields, where he is forced to make decisions that no child should ever be forced to consider.  This is a tissue book, but it’s an important one for teens to read.
  • Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk- This is definitely not a tissue book! Guy is forced to join the Forensics Club at school when his friend Anoop drags him there in the hopes of meeting girls. Guy had me laughing throughout the book, even when he was thinking about his recently-deceased father.  Nothing is sacred to Guy and he will have you laughing on every page.  The snark is perfect and Guy reminds me of some of my friends in high school.  Perfect for high school readers looking for a book not full of love or tears.
  • The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab- Be warned- this one weighs in at over 400 pages.  But unlike many YA books that seem to drag on when they reach page 350, this one kept me intrigued.  It deals with a lot of issues that don’t crop up in a lot of YA and I appreciated that.  Caro’s older sister joined the convent when Caro was only 8 years old, so they never really knew each other.  For a long time, it was easier to lie about her sister’s whereabouts rather than explain her vocation, which only upsets Caro’s parents.  But when Hannah quits the convent and moves back up, Caro’s whole life is turned upside down.  A great addition to any high school classroom library.  (I also appreciated that the parents in this one were actually decent people who were struggling with how to help both of their daughters).
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- Do I really need to say anything else about this one? I have 8 copies in circulation in my classroom library and they are all being held hostage by students. Easily the most popular book in my classroom.
  • Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan- This one is just plain fun! Three girls named Elizabeth, from very different classes, are brought together in in England’s scandal-filled court. It’s a very bawdy time period and Sullivan doesn’t shy away from that! But don’t assume this is just Gossip Girl set in the seventeenth-century. It’s intelligent and full of detail about the time period. Probably more on the upper-end of YA, but I would have read it as a teen and loved it!
  • Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn- When I taught 6th grade, Hahn’s books were extraordinarily popular. When this book was nominated for the Cybils I picked it up immediately. I wasn’t sure that Hahn’s writing would hold up in YA but boy oh boy, does it! Based on Hahn’s true-life experience growing up in the shadow of a local murder, this story will haunt you. Perfect for true-crime addicts!
  • Four Secrets by Margaret Willey- This one creeped me out, in a good way. A great mystery that also deals with the ramifications of bullying, it will keep you on the edge of your seat. The story is told from four perspectives, and it actually works!
  • Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie- Matt’s brother, TJ, was killed in Iraq and ever since then Matt’s world has changed. Their father is distant and cruel and Matt is pushing away his friends. But when TJ’s belongings finally arrive from Iraq, Matt sets out on an impromptu road trip to deliver his brother’s unsent letter. But did he really know Matt at all? Kokie pulls no punches and the story moves quickly and without reservation. Highly recommended.
  • You Are My Only by Beth Kephart- Two tales woven together to complete a single story, Kephart’s prose is really poetry and it’s compulsively readable. I read this one straight through and I imagine many teens will, too. I won’t spoil it, but know that the stories of two women are told- Emmy, who is abused and neglected by her husband and Sophie, a 14-year-old who is homeschooled and hidden away from the outside world. Both stories are heartbreaking yet the story is full of hope. Gorgeous!

The Cybils are Here! The Cybils are Here!

It’s Cybils Day!

Today is one of my favorite days of the year- the finalists for the Cybils Awards have been posted! Be sure to check out the finalists in the all of the categories, but I am especially proud of the finalists in the YA category.  My fellow panelists and I worked really hard to come up with this list and I think it’s pretty awesome.  There were 191 books nominated in our category and we read and debated them all.  It was a hectic few months (and I’m excited to read some non-YA books now that I have time), but well worth it.  The whole experience culminated in a fast-paced Googlechat that was over 3 hours long last week.  It was insane, but in an awesome way.


And with that, I present to you the 2012 YA Finalists!  Good luck to the next round of judges; I am not at all envious of your position.  😉


2012 Finalists
Young Adult Fiction


by Matthew Quick
Little, Brown

Nominated by: DLacks

Boy21 got game. And that game is basketball, as played diligently by narrator Finley, sublimely by his girlfriend Erin, and almost supernaturally by the titular Boy21, also known as Russell Allen. Boy21 also has heart, as it explores loyalty, friendship, class and racial differences, and the way the past impinges on the present. But most importantly, Boy21 has soul, as all three main characters work to free themselves from the constraints and grief that dominate their lives, threatening to prevent them from becoming who they truly are. So much more than a sports book, Boy21 speaks to our common humanity, and to the notion that we must not live our desires, nor our fears, in silence, lest we lose our humanity.

— William Polking, Guys
Lit Wire

Code Name Verity

by Elizabeth Wein

Nominated by: Ana @ things mean a lot

A harrowing and riveting tale of best friends who find themselves at the center of the British war effort in World War II, Code Name Verity defies simple categorization. Verity, a female spy for the British, makes a simple mistake while on assignment in German-occupied France and is captured by the Germans. While being tortured for information on the British war effort, she begins to write her confession. An unreliable narrator, the depiction of a strong female friendship, extraordinary prose, and allusions to Peter Pan make this novel a standout. A tour de force of a novel, Code Name Verity is multi-layered and heartbreaking. It’s a book that will leave you whispering “Kiss me hardy. Kiss me quick,” and turning back to page one to begin an immediate reread.

— Sarah Gross, The Reading Zone


by Eliot Schrefer

Nominated by: 145lewis

Endangered follows a teen on her annual summer trip home to the Democratic Republic of Congo to visit her conservationist mother. When civil war erupts in the nation’s capital, Sophie finds herself on the run with a young bonobo ape named Otto. She navigates a war-torn country while struggling to protect her charge from a starving population. In a story that highlights inhumane behavior, we come to appreciate the communal problem-solving of the bonobos and the kindness of strangers along Sophie’s escape route. And at the end of this short novel, readers of all ages will find themselves speeding to the Internet and the library to learn more about these shy, matriarchal primates.

— Kirstin Fearnley, Sprite

I Hunt Killers

by Barry Lyga
Little, Brown

Nominated by: Kelia

A body shows up in a field outside of town, setting into motion a series of events all too familiar for Jasper “Jazz” Dent, son of murderer Billy Dent and the public’s favored heir to Billy’s legacy of ruthless horror. Jazz, concerned they may be right, starts to investigate the murder, using skills learned from his father. Jazz’s constant questioning about nature, nurture and, ultimately, destiny, combined with the hunt to stop a possible serial killer, make for a thrilling and deliciously scary read. Although the book contains a large amount of gore, the blood is never gratuitous and occasionally comes from Jazz’s hemophiliac best friend–and one of the panel’s favorite characters–Howie. Part true crime, horror and psychological thriller, the atmospheric and moody I Hunt Killers explores the dark, creepy corners of being raised by an infamous serial killer.

— Kellie Tilton, The Re-Shelf

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

by Jesse Andrews

Nominated by: Leila Roy

This is not your average cancer book. Narrator Greg wants readers to believe that he’s totally unlikable, but it doesn’t take long to see that his almost violent self-hatred is a coping mechanism for his mess of a life. As Greg navigates his senior year of high school, he also deals with the fact that his mother guilt-trips him into hanging out with the very ill Rachel, the changing nature of his friendship with Earl–a very short, chain-smoking African-American classmate, and the fact that college (and real life) is waiting just around the corner. This frequently hilarious and absolutely heartfelt debut by Jesse Andrews provides incredibly snarky, completely self-aware narration (“This entire paragraph is a moron,” Greg states at one point), fully realized characters, and a great deal of depth.

— Clementine Bojangles, Early
Nerd Special

Storyteller, The

by Antonia Michaelis
Abrams for Young Readers

Nominated by: Sommer Leigh

On the continuum of dark to light, light to heavy, Antonia Michaelis’ The Storyteller definitely resides on the dark/heavy end. But it’s also found on the gorgeous end of the scale, as it’s one of the most beautiful books we read this year: structurally, lyrically and emotionally. Flawlessly translated from German, The Storyteller is about a sheltered girl falling in love with a boy who is not only damaged, but possibly irrevocably lost. Michaelis incorporates Leonard Cohen’s lyrics into an atmospheric mystery that is reminiscent of the Grimm brothers, David Almond and Kevin Books. It’s tragic from beginning to end, but it’s also a fairy tale about love, forgiveness, innocence lost and innocence preserved.

— Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom

Theory of Everything, The

by J.J. Johnson

Publisher/ Author Submission

Johnson deftly blends humor and grief in this story of a teenager’s struggles to make sense of her best friend’s death. The witty chapter drawings (designed by Johnson) and main character Sarah’s pitch-perfect voice make The Theory of Everything compulsively readable, but the underlying veins of emotions—confusion, grief and even hope—keep this from feeling like lighter fare. Teens will understand Sarah’s desire to keep the world at bay with her “snarkbox,” but it’s the moments when Sarah puts aside the snark to truly face life that will leave a lasting impression. With a cast of characters that includes a tame possum, a wonder dog, and a maybe-creepy-maybe-misunderstood Christmas tree farmer, The Theory of Everything keeps readers guessing—and laughing—and crying—to the last page.

— Kendall Kulper, Blogging
for YA

*Doing the happy Cybils dance*

I can finally announce that this year I will be dedicating the months of October, November, and December to the Cybils once again!  I am on my dream panel, the YA fiction round 1 panel, for the first time and I could not be more excited.  My panel is tremendous and I can not wait to work with them. Check out who I am lucky enough to talk YA with!

Round 1

Leila Roy
Bookshelves of Doom

Sarah Gross
The Reading Zone

Kellie Tilton
The Re-Shelf

William Polking
Guys Lit Wire

Clementine Bojangles
Early Nerd Special

Kendall Kulper 
Blogging for YA

Kirstin Fearnley
Sprite Writes

Round 2

Maureen Kearney
Confessions of a Bibliovore

Maureen Eichner 
By Singing Light

Adrianne Russell 
The Writer’s Republic

Michelle Castleman
The Hungry Readers

Jessica Silverstein
Reading on the F Train


We have about two weeks until the nominations open, but I will be preparing in the mean time.  Start thinking about the books you want to nominate so that you can get started on October 1st.  I am looking forward to reading all of the nominated titles!

Why You Should Apply to be a Cybils Judge

The Cybils are awesome.  There’s no better way to say it. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved as a panelist for the last few years and it’s non-stop fun.  Is it a lot of work?  Hell yeah.  You will be reading, and reading, and reading, and then reading some more.  You will ignore your family and friends because you need to try every book for yourself.  You will reread a lot of books to try and see what your fellow panelists might see in it that you missed the first time around.

The conversations you have with your fellow panelists will be enlightening and you will learn so much.  It’s a frantic few months, but so worth all of the time and energy you will invest into it.  So if you haven’t applied yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.  And soon! The deadline is August 31st.

But you be chosen as a judge if you don’t put in your application!  So get on it.

It’s Time for the Cybils!

I am very excited to announce that I will be a Round 1 Panelist for the Middle Grade Science-Fiction/Fantasy category for this year’s Cybil Awards!  I tend to focus on YA here on the blog, but I have a special place in my heart for MG science fiction and fantasy.  It’s what my youngest sister loves to read and what many of my new freshman enjoy reading.  I am looking  forward to some great nominations this year!

The Panelists and Judges:

Round One

Charlotte Taylor
Charlotte’s Library

Anamaria Anderson
Books Together

Donalyn Miller
The Book Whisperer

Justin Colussy-Estes
Guys Lit Wire

Sarah Mulhern Gross
The Reading Zone

April Conant
Good Books & Good Wine

Rebecca Newland
My Reading Frenzy

Round Two

Melissa Baldwin
One Librarian’s Book Reviews

Hayley Beale
100 Great Children’s Books

Kim Rapier
Si, se puede

Rosemary Kiladitis
More Coffee, Please

Gina Ruiz

There are some great bloggers in my group, huh? 🙂

Remember, nominations are already open!  Head over to the Cybils blog to get your nominations in!

Happy Cybils Day!

Today is the day!  The Cybils Awards have been awarded. I am so happy with all of the judges’ choices.  Head on over to the Cybils’ blog to see which books took the top prize. 🙂


Cybils Winners!

The Cybils are Here! The Cybils are Here!

Quick!  Go check them out!  The shortlists for each category were posted this morning.   I am so proud of our MG/YA Nonfiction shortlist- it is full of amazing books.


Cybils Shortlists

Cybils Nominations!

The Cybil Award nominations close tomorrow!  Remember, anyone can nominate a book.  Teachers, librarians, parents, readers, teens, grandparents- anyone!

The Rules (courtesy of the Cybil Awards website)

The rules:

  • One book per genre per person. Have two young adult books you love? Get a best friend, co-worker or random stranger to nominate the other one.
  • Anyone may nominate. Anyone! This means you. And me. And that person over there, and the guy who cut you off in traffic. Or that kid you won’t sit next to at lunch. Anyone!
  • The book must have been published between the last contest and this close of this one. In other words, between Oct. 16, 2009 and Oct. 15th 2010.
  • The book can be bilingual, but one of the languages must be English.
  • As long as a book has a nomination, it’ll be considered. You don’t need to try and nominate it over and over. The nomination form will kick it back to you anyway.

All you need is the 13-digit ISBN number, easily found on Amazon.  Now, nominations are almost closed, but there are still some great books that need to be nominated!  Looking for some ideas?


Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction:

Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made it by Michael J. Trinklein- Everyone knows the fifty states but did you know about the hundreds of other statehood proposals that never worked out? This book is a tribute to the great unrealized states of West Florida, South California, Half-Breed Tracts, Rough and Ready, and others.

Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes by Kelly Milner Halls- The true story of volunteers from all over the world who worked to save the animals of the Baghdad Zoo during the war in Iraq.

Journey into the Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures by Rebecca L. Johnson- An exploration of ocean research sites all over the world who participated in the Marine Life Census from 2000-2010.

Liberty or Death: The Surprising Story of Runaway Slaves who Sided with the British During the American Revolution by Margaret Whitman Blair- The real story of African Americans during the Revolutionary War.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy) by Barbara Kerley- A look at Mark Twain’s life through the eyes of young Susy Clemens.

William Shakespeare: His Life and Times by Kristen McDermott- A creative biography of William Shakespeare, presented as a scrapbook made for his daughter.

Cleopatra Rules!: The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen by Vicky Alvear Shecter- I haven’t read this one yet, but the design is great and it’s gotten pretty good reviews!

YA Fiction:

The Beautiful Between by Alyssa Sheinmel- I loved this quiet coming-of-age novel set in New York City.


All of my favorite middle-grade books have been nominated.  Yay!

Cybils Nominations

Have you nominated YOUR favorite book(s) of 2010 for the Cybil Awards?  I am on the Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction Panel and we have some great books so far.

But do you know what is missing?  You!  Your nomination!

Nonfiction Monday and the Cybils

I am so very excited to announce on this Nonfiction Monday that I am back with the Cybil Awards this year!  Ah, but this time I have stepped out of my comfort zone- middle grade fiction- and I am jumping headfirst into the MG/YA Nonfiction Panel. I am thrilled to be working with some fantastic teachers, authors, librarians, and much more for the first round.

Courtesy of the Cybils blog, check out my amazing category!

Panel Organizer: Susan Thomsen, Chicken Spaghetti [TW]

Panelists (Round I Judges):

Karen Ball, Mrs. B’s Favorites
Sarah Mulhern Gross, The Reading Zone [TW]
David Judge, Adventures at Wilder Farm
Jessica Leader, Jessica Leader [TW]
Susan Thomsen (see category organizer)

Judges (Round II):

Edi Campbell, Crazy Quilts [TW]
René Colato LaínezLa Bloga [TW]
David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy [TW]
Colleen Mondor, Chasing RayBookslut [TW]
Sandhya Nankani, Literary SafariSepia Mutiny [TW]

October 1st the nominations open and I can not wait!