Today's the big day! For most people, it means a new year but for anyone who survived the first round of Cybils judging, it's the big reveal day.
I say survived because not everyone does make it. We're charged as a panel to read through 196 nominations and make a few cuts. This year, it was 189 cuts. Only 7 made it to see the new year and to see themselves on the final list.
I've talked about life on the panel already and offered a few book lists. What I didn't get to talk about much was what happened after the mid-season trench report, which was that I read a few more books, and then participated in a marathon chat session with fellow panelists the day after Christmas. We'd whittled down our short lists to 5 each, then over the course of the week before Christmas, we knocked the overall shortlist down to 12 titles. The day of discussion, after a weekend of frantic reading (I reread 5 books in about 3 days) and email sending (I would venture to guess maybe 100 or more emails sent over a 24 hour period), we'd made our collective shortlist a total of 10 books.
Then we argued.
The thing about the Cybils or any book committee is that your tastes and your interpretations aren't always the same as the rest of the group. Sometimes you end up arguing for a while over the subtle difference between "addiction" and "obsession" (ahem) but it's okay. There's something to be said about being able to argue small points like -- and there's something to be said the titles I was so intent on fighting for made the top ten list.
Being on a panel like involves a level of discussion unlike any book discussion you usually have. I'm a critical reader and I blog my reviews with a critical eye. So do the rest of the panelists. You're arguing with smart, savvy readers and you see layers to texts you didn't see before. And when the criteria for a Cybils book marry both literary merit and teen appeal, you get an interesting opportunity to talk about who the book is for and whether or not it's believable to and for teenagers. But in the end, the list we came up with has something for everybody and meets both criteria.
Every single book nominated on the panel this year got read by at least one person, which blows my mind. 196 books in a not-quite-three-month-period is a huge number. In reading that many books, so many interesting commonalities emerged. I pointed out some of them before, but one of my favorite ways of looking at data is visually, and I tossed out the idea of creating a Cybils YA Fiction Bingo card. For anyone wondering what some of the unique and interesting things that popped up this year, well, here you go! If you're feeling like challenging your 2011 YA Fiction expertise, print this out, along with the list of nominated titles we had in our category, and try to figure out what will score you a bingo or two.
This year, I managed to read 162 books of the nominated books and some 48,474 pages (not counting the rereads!). I don't think I've ever read that much in a short amount of time. And I think maybe it made me a little crazy.
Now that I've talked about everything except the finalists, perhaps I should get to it. You should stop by the Cybils website to read our panel's blurbs for each of the titles suggested and to see what made the cuts in the other categories. What I find interesting is that of the 7 titles we picked, 5 were debut novels (in the sense that the author had never before published a book). If you consider first YA novel as debut, then 6 of them were. Three had a sports theme within them. And the covers are pretty muted, too (which doesn't detract from them being pretty good covers).
These are in no particular order.
Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Everybody Sees the Ants by AS King
It's a nice mix of books that spans so many different topics and themes. There's definitely something here for every type of reader, even if it's not something for every reader. That's the beauty of the Cybils. Funny, too, looking through these books then back at the bingo card, I actually think these books only fit into a couple of those slots (boarding schools and sports).
I'm eager to see what the judging panel chooses as their winner from these 7 books, and, uh, I'm glad not to be in their shoes.