So we’ve talked a lot about Printz-worthy fiction and nonfiction for 2012, and also about the Excellence in Nonfiction Award, but today I was thinking about the Morris Award, and young adult debuts. Considering that it is only about six or seven weeks until the Morris shortlist is announced, I decided to look around and see how many YA debuts I had actually read this year.

And the answer is . . . apparently, not many. I did a not-exhaustive search and found the following sources: Kelly Jensen has a series of posts on The Hub listing debut novels. Goodreads is maintaining a list of debut authors for young adult and middle grade here. And RT Book Reviews had a list from BEA here.

Again, as I say, I don’t pretend these lists are exhaustive, or even correct, but here is a list of debuts that I have read:

The Catastrophic History of You and Me, by Jess Rothenberg

Grave Mercy, by Robin LeFevers

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

The Princesses of Iowa, by Molly Backes

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, by Kat Rosenfield

Long Lankin, by Lindsey Barraclough

Kissing Shakespeare, by Pamela Mingle

Three that I haven’t read but that I have on hold at the library or sitting on my nightstand are The Wicked and the Just, by J. Anderson Coats, When the Sea is Rising Red, by Cat Hellisen, and Personal Effects, by E.M. Kokie.

Thoughts on the ones that I’ve read:

I’ve already talked about Seraphina and Amelia Anne is Dead and GoneI think both are excellent books in very different genres. I hope that both will be on the Printz table as well as the Morris table. It is not by any means unprecedented for a debut author to win the Printz Award (Where Things Come Back, Looking for Alaska, A Step from Heaven) or a Printz Honor (Skellig; Stuck in Neutral; The Body of Christopher Creed; Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging;  Fat Kid Rules the World; Keesha’s House; The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things; Stolen). I may have missed some. But in any case, these and others may well be in contention for both.

I also mentioned Grave Mercy (assassin nuns!). It’s gotten some stars, but I don’t see it as a serious contender for the Printz. The Morris, however, might be a place for it. It’s a fun read (although I think it was a little bloated) and an original idea.

I listed Long Lankin as one I had read, although to be honest I never finished it. After I had checked it out, read some, renewed it, read some more, renewed it again, and still hadn’t finished, I decided I wasn’t really committed to it. Of course, if it gets on the Morris shortlist, I’ll go back and finish it. It takes place in rural England in the 1950s, and it’s basically a gothic novel, although I got almost halfway through it and I still hadn’t gotten to anything very scary. Lots and lots of foreshadowing, though. It’s very slow-paced, and it is told in multiple voices. To me, the voices weren’t distinct enough.

Kissing Shakespeare is a piece of fluff. Although it’s the only piece of fluff I’ve ever read in which Edmund Campion SJ was a major character (along with Shakespeare, of course)! I think the biggest problem with this book is that the time-travel element was so lame. I love time travel, but I didn’t buy this one.

The Catastrophic History of You and Me is yet another entry in the dead-narrator genre. I do think this book is well-written, but I think it has a few problems.
I think the author is trying to do a little too much here–bring in the stages of grief, tell the story of Brie (main character, 15-year-old girl who literally dies of a broken heart), tell the story of Patrick (Brie’s guide to being D&G–dead and gone), deal with Brie’s family, etc. The book had some great moments, and I will definitely read more by this author, but in my opinion, it doesn’t quite get there. Although, again, it could be a Morris contender.

The Princesses of Iowa is a contemporary novel about a girl whose goal since middle school has been to become a homecoming princess. It’s a dream she shares with her mother, and her two best friends. Unfortunately, things go wrong at the end of junior year, when she and her friends are involved in a drunk driving accident. She spends the summer in Paris (she considers it exile; naturally everyone else thinks she’s incredibly lucky) and returns to major changes in everything around her. This book has some good moments, but again, the author is trying to cram too many issues into one novel, and it doesn’t quite hold up. Paige, the main character, spends too long being whiny and clueless, and the whole importance of the homecoming court didn’t quite ring true–it seemed kind of old-fashioned. But maybe it’s still important in Iowa.

So that’s it for me. I’m going to start When the Sea is Rising Red  tonight.  I have The Wicked and the Just on hold, because you gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. I also have Personal Effects on hold, because I read a review of it somewhere (can’t remember where) that intrigued me.

I think the great thing about the Morris Award is that it gives us new authors to watch for. I mentioned a couple of days ago that I read (and enjoyed) Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride recently, and I doubt if I would have read it at all if I hadn’t read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, which was a Morris finalist a couple of years ago. It will be interesting to take a look in about ten years and see what the later careers of Morris Award winners  bring us.

How about you–any debuts you’re particularly impressed with ?

Oh–and Go Giants!!

– Mom



Filed under Awards, Books, Teens

5 responses to “Debuts

  1. (Fun fact: Kelly mistakenly listed Monstrous Beauty as a September YA debut [thinking Overboard was middle-grade, perhaps], but heck if I was going to correct her. [Exposure on The Hub? Who would pass that up?!] And anyway, if you turn out one novel per decade maybe you should get honorary debut status each time.)

  2. Sarah Flowers

    Yes, I noticed that. In fact, that’s mostly why I made the disclaimer. Also, those lists are entirely fiction. There may be some debut nonfiction out there that I’m not aware of.

  3. Nancy

    Is GRAVE MERCY eligible for the Morris? The author has published many MG novels (as R.L. LaFevers).

    • Mark Flowers

      No, Nancy – the Morris is for first time authors only. As mom said, sometimes it’s tricky to get a good list of what’s out there. Thanks for pointing out that Robin and RL LaFevers are the same person though – I completely forgot about the wonderful Theodosia books.

  4. Pingback: Palate Cleansers | crossreferencing

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