February 14 is one of my favourite days of the whole year. No, I'm not talking about Valentine's Day. February 14 is the day that the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, or as they are better known Cybils, are announced. I have been a big fan of this award since it launched in 2007 and each year I wake up on the 14th and start bouncing because I generally know who I want to win the awards... but will they?
One of the things I continue to love about the Cybils is that they still remain a grassroots organization. It's still just a bunch of bloggers getting together to nominate a lot of books, read a lot of books and declare that these are the books that kids (and adults) should read this year. It all starts off with the nominations in the fall. Anyone can nominate a book as long as it was published within the last year and they make sure to nominate it in the right category. Multiple nominations do not improve a book's chances. Once the nominations are closed, the panelists step in. Let me tell you, these bloggers? They are hardcore. Each book that's nominated needs to be read at least part way by at least one of the panelists. That is no small task. Check out the 2011 Cybils by the numbers -- there were 1298 books nominated this year!
The panelists have about two months to read these books. (They become very, very good friends with their librarians.) Then they do battle. I joke! Kinda. Each panelist has their favorite books and they have to convince the other people on their panel that their books deserve to be a finalist. Sometimes they need to reread books. Sometimes they need to grab books that they didn't read the first time through the list because other people were reading them. Somehow after all the rereads and discussions, they whittle it down to just seven books per category. The finalists are announced January 1 and then that's where the judges step in.
I was a 2010 Cybils young adult fiction judge and let me tell you, it's not easy. I got the list of seven books along with the rest of the world and then began the process of trying to get my hands on them. Panelists and judges are both responsible for obtaining the books themselves. We were lucky last year and a few publishers did send us review copies but I also utilized the library and, when the library didn't have them or couldn't get me a copy fast enough, I bought the e-books. I had four weeks to read all of them, meanwhile having conversations with the other judges in my category and weighing the merits and shortfalls of each book.
Choosing a book by committee is hard. I do have to give a huge amount of thanks to the panelists because what they do to shrink that huge list of nominees down to just seven books per category is much harder. Still, if you've ever been involved in a book club or any book discussions you know that people can have very different opinions about the same book. It makes for wonderful discussions but when you have to pick just one book as the best? Hard.
Somehow, in the end, one book emerges as the winner. Then, just as Cybils buzz reaches its peak, you are walking around with a secret. You know who the winner is in at least one category and no one else can know. That is a delicious secret if there ever was one. For the 2011 Cybils judges and public the wait is over. The 2011 Cybils have been announced.
The two awards I always look at first are the ones for Young Adult Fiction (I have a bias, I'll admit it) and Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction. I'm please to see the young adult award went to Geoff Herbach's Stupid Fast. When I saw the list of finalists I had a hunch it might win. Reviews, like this one from Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophine really made me want to read it.
As things start to get better in one aspect of his life, it becomes a struggle in the others. Watching Felton deal with his dysfunctional home life, with the dark secrets that are buried under his family, was really touching. I liked the fact that Geoff wasn't afraid to show that Felton isn't just a one dimensional guy. He, like all the rest of us, has to figure out what is most important in his life.
I don't think I've ever correctly guessed the winner of the Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction award and this year is no different. The award went to Moira Young for her Blood Red Road. It's been a winning year for Young. She also picked up the Costa Book of the Year Prize. I think my favorite review of Blood Red Road comes from Adam at Hitting on Girls in Bookstores:
There is something about BLOOD RED ROAD that makes me want to write it in all caps. It's probably because whenever asked what I was reading I would practically shout (in a deep gravely voice) "BLOOD RED ROAD!"
These are only two of the thirteen prizes awarded. Go check out the rest of the winners and have your library card handy. You are going to want to read these books.
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