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2013 Whitney Nominees

By Emily Milner

whitney logoThe Whitney Nominees for 2013 have been announced! It’s been over a week, but I wanted to introduce this year’s nominees to Segullah readers even though I’m a little late. Here’s a link to the site with all the covers, and here is a list of them by category, with a few thoughts along the way:

In General Fiction:
Love Letters from the Angel of Death, by Jennifer Quist.
Mile 21, by Sarah Dunster
Road to Bountiful, by Donald Smurthwaite
Ruby’s Secret, by Heather B. Moore
The House at Rose Creek, by Jenny Proctor

My first thought on reading this list is gratitude that there are no inspirational fiction books here. I have in other venues mentioned my opinion that inspirational fiction deserves a whole Whitney category to itself, because it really is its own genre, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue this year. I’m excited to see Sarah Dunster–you can read her short story “Back North” from Segullah’s online journal archives. Donald Smurthwaite is one of my favorite LDS authors–he’s gentle and real without preachiness. And this is Heather B. Moore’s first of four Whitney finalists–I think that is a record for Whitney finalists from a single author in a single year. Go Heather!

In Historical Fiction:

Belonging to Heaven, by Gale Sears
Esther the Queen, by Heather B. Moore
Safe Passage, by Carla Kelly
The Mounds Anomaly, by Phyllis Gunderson
Where the River Once Flowed, by Jennie Hansen

Familiar names in this category, including three previous Whitney winners (Gale Sears, Letters in the Jade Dragon Box, 2011, Heather B. Moore, Abinadi, 2008, and Carla Kelly, Borrowed Light, 2011 and My Loving Vigil Keeping, 2012). Jennie Hansen is a previous Whitney finalist, and Phyllis Gunderson is new to the Whitneys. I confess that this is not usually my favorite category, but this list of authors makes me look forward to digging in to the books.

In Romance:

Blackmoore, Julianne Donaldson
Hearth Fires, Dorothy Keddington
Longing for Home, Sarah Eden
Second Chances, Melonie Jacobsen
The Orchard, Krista Lynn Jenson

Again, another strong category–four previous Whitney finalists here (Sarah Eden, Melonie Jacobsen, Krista Lynn Jenson), and Julianne Donaldson won with Edenbrooke last year.

In Mystery/Suspense:
Rocky Road, by Josi Kilpack
Deep Cover, by Traci Hunter Abramson
I, Spy, by Jordan McCollum
Finding Sheba, by Heather B. Moore
Spy for a Spy, by Jordan McCollum

Traci Hunter Abramson won this category last year; Josi Kilpack’s culinary mysteries are always great fun, and I’m halfway through I, Spy and really enjoying the voice of Jordan McCollum’s Mormon CIA spy.McCollum is also eligible for best novel by a new author this year.

In Speculative:
Dark Memories, by Jeffrey S. Savage
Echo in Time, C. J. Hill
Heart of the Ocean, by Heather B. Moore,
The Witnesses, by Stephanie Black
Winter Queen, by Amber Argyle

This year Covenant published two Speculative finalists (Dark Memories and The Witnesses), two were self-published (Heart of the Ocean, and Winter Queen), and one, Echo in Time, was nationally published (C.J. Hill is Janette Rallison’s speculative fiction pseudonym). I confess this surprises me: I expected to see Orson Scott Card’s The Gate Thief or Brandon Sanderson’s The Emperor’s Soul here as well. I look forward to reading all of them, though: Stephanie Black dominated the Mystery/Suspense category for several years, and Jeffrey Savage and Heather Moore deliver as well.

Youth Categories:
YA Speculative
Friends and Traitors: Slayers 2, by C.J. Hill
Insomnia, J. R. Johansson*
Pivot Point, by Kasie West
Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson
Blackout, by Robison Wells

This is the category that I most enjoy reading for fun, and I had already read Steelheart and Insomnia when the finalists were announced. Blackout has received great reviews (it’s too late for the contest, but if you decide to buy just one finalist this year, read this post and then go buy a copy of Blackout), and I really enjoyed Pivot Point. Because this is my category, there were a few books I thought I might see here and didn’t: Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist, Natalie Whipple’s Transparent, and Kiersten White’s Mind Games.

YA General
All the Truth That’s in Me, by Julie Berry
Chasing June, Shannen Crane Camp
Dead Girls Don’t Lie, by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Going Vintage, by Lindsey Leavitt
The Distance Between Us, by Kasie West

I am so looking forward to reading All the Truth That’s in Me and The Distance Between Us. And I’ve already read the other three (this is my other favorite category. It’s going to be close, and as always a tough question is whether to choose a well-written but light-hearted book like Going Vintage over something weighty and more serious like All the Truth That’s in Me. If a book treats subject matter that’s tougher or more important, it feels like it ought to win, even if I actually enjoyed reading the other one more. What say ye?

Finally, Middle Grade:
Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor’s Secret, by Chad Morris*
RUMP: The True Story of Rumplestilskin, by Liesel Shurtliff*
Sky Jumpers, by Peggy Eddleman*
Wednesdays at the Tower, by Jessica Day George
The Runaway King, by Jennifer A. Nielsen

I just finished reading aloud The False Prince to my kids, who loved it and insisted on reading The Runaway King without having to wait for it to be read aloud. Jessica Day George is always a good idea. And the other three authors are new to me, but I’m excited to discover their stories.

The big takeaway I’ve been thinking over this year is that, as much as I enjoy reading the Whitney finalists, I really wish all the Segullah readers could also read the ones that interest them. Last year, for the first time, the publishers put a lot of the ebooks on sale off and on throughout the reading period. I plan to have Segullah‘s Facebook page list updates of these sales, so that if you’re interested in reading all the General finalists you can pay $10 for three of them (this week only) instead of $30. I will also comment back here when I learn about more sales, so that reading the Whitney finalists is more accessible to everyone.

Right now (February 11), the books on sale (for $2.99 or less) I’m aware of are:

Road to Bountiful, by Donald Smurthwaite
Ruby’s Secret, by Heather B. Moore
The House at Rose Creek, by Jenny Proctor
Dead Girls Don’t Lie, by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Winter Queen, by Amber Argyle
Chasing June, by Shannon Crane Camp

I’ll keep you posted for more books on sale; let us know in the comments if you hear about other sales. And I’m interested in the question I asked earlier: which book would you rank higher, if the writing were equal: a well-written romantic comedy, or a well-written drama? Is it possible for comedy to win even when it seems less substantial?

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

3 thoughts on “2013 Whitney Nominees”

  1. Thanks for your Whitney thoughts, Emily!

    One note–Phyllis Gunderson actually is a previous Whitney finalist; she was in the Speculative category for The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer in 2007 (the first year of the Whitneys). And I agree that the Historical category looks intriguing this year!

    Thank you for the list of books on sale! I think it's great strategy for the publishers/authors to make them available at a discount at Whitney time.


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