Shelah, Maralise, and I have spent the last couple of months reading and evaluating this year’s Whitney finalists. If you haven’t seen the list yet, pop over here and take a look. We’re not quite finished reading them all yet, but we thought we would talk about our early favorites to give more people a chance to become acquainted with them before the winners are announced at the LDS Storymakers banquet on May 7.
This year’s Whitneys have a couple of changes. Because of the strength of the LDS YA writers, the Whitney committee created two categories instead of just one: YA General and YA Speculative. This is a great move, in my opinion, because the YA books do divide easily along those lines and both categories are delightfully strong. The other major change is the possibility of a book sweeping three categories. Before this, in order to honor as many individual authors as possible, a book could only win in one category, even if it qualified by number of votes to win in three. So last year’s In the Company of Angels won Best Novel and was therefore ineligible to win Best Historical. This year we could have one author sweep several categories.
And if we at Segullah could choose that one author to sweep several categories, based on our reading so far it would have to be Kristen Chandler, author of Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me. This is a fantastic book. KJ Carson’s insecure and snarky voice drew me in, and I loved the nuanced portrayal of issues surrounding the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. And it’s a got a nice romantic zing to it as well. Theoretically it could win Best Novel, Best Novel by a New Author, and Best YA General.
Best YA General could also easily go to Carol Lynch Williams’ novel-in-poems Glimpse, the story of two sisters and their abusive mother. The writing is spare and beautiful, and the poetic form lends itself well to showing as much of their story as we can bear to understand. Williams is a powerful writer.
In Speculative Fiction, Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings was our favorite. The Way of Kings is the first of Sanderson’s new Stormlight Archive series, and it’s an impressive start. I confess that I’m not that into the battle scenes, and there are quite a few. And while Sanderson’s magic systems are cool, what I really love are his immensely satisfying endings. The ending of this book was so perfect. There’s a bit of a learning curve if epic fantasy is not your genre, but the final payoff is worth it.
Best Mystery goes to Betsey Brannon Green’s Murder by Design for Best Mystery. Murder by Design has this great Southern voice, probably the best example of clear character voice in a locally published finalist. There’s a great sense of place, a satisfying continuation of librarian Kennedy Killingsworth’s love life, and a good mystery to boot.
I liked Jillian’s character quite a bit. She was prickly, which gave her some depth…. I think Wright does a great job with the setting of the book too. The LDS singles scene in Boston came alive for me, and I thought Boston itself was one of the most interesting characters in the book.
We still haven’t finished and decided on the General, Historical, or Youth Speculative categories, but we will post a final list of all favorites in a couple of weeks when we’ve finished reading. In the meantime, comment and let us know which of these you’ve read or are looking forward to reading. Good luck to all the finalists!