moon hil coverIt’s Whitney Awards Season! The Whitney Committee announced the 2012 finalists last week; you can find the complete list with pictures here. Once again, Segullah staffers will be working together to decide on our Whitney Academy vote: Rosalyn-Speculative and General; Blue-Romance; Kel-Mystery; Emily-YA Speculative; Sharlee-YA General; Sandra-Historical. Shelah will read them all (forty this year!) and vote in the Best Novel, Best Youth Novel, and Best Novel by a New Author categories. It’s something we look forward to every year.

A few changes this year: The Whitney Committee has added a new category, Middle Grade Fiction, and split the Best Novel of the Year award in the Best Adult Novel and and Best Youth Novel. This means that Whitney Academy members only need to read twenty-five books to vote for Best Adult novel, or fifteen to vote for Best Youth Novel. That makes the increased reading list a little easier, in that academy members can still vote in a Best Novel category even if they have not read all of the books.

I haven’t kept up with possible Whitney finalists as much this year as in years past, but I do have a few preliminary thoughts (some of them thanks to Segullah staffers and the comments at the end of this post at Dawning of a Brighter Day). Go look over the list linked to above before you read what I’ve got to say, though.

1-One of the first things I think about when looking through the list is “But what about [insert my favorite reads of the year here]?” In this case, I was thinking what about Courtney Miller Santo’s Roots of the Olive Tree, Luisa Perkins’ Dispirited, and Ally Condie’s Reached. I also wanted to see Sarah Dunster’s The Lightning Tree, and Theric Jepson’s Byuck. (We noticed the absence of Stephanie Black, who has won the Mystery category several times, but that’s explained more easily because she is on the Whitney committee this year and therefore not eligible to win.) It’s hard to see your favorites ignored, but I know the process of choosing finalists is extensive and as fair as possible.

2-As Theric pointed out in the comments I linked to, the way I think “what about this book?” is a good thing; it means the field of Mormon literature is getting stronger.

3-There are seven self-published books this year, more than ever before. I enjoy seeing authors return as finalists; I also love finding new writers whose work I had not been aware of previously. Self-publishing is taking off dramatically.

4-I really love this award. I’m not that in to the Oscars or the Golden Globes; I’m more into the Whitneys. I follow the authors’ careers online a little, so when J. Scott Savage publishes his first national market book (Zombie Kid, a middle grade finalist) and it makes the finals, I’m happy for him and his crazy work ethic that got him this far. I’m tickled when Tanya Parker Mills makes it back into the General Finals, since I loved her 2008 finalist The Reckoning. Annette Lyon is one of the kindest and most gracious writers out there, and I’m cheering for Paige as well. And it’s great to see Josi Kilpack represented again, since her work running the Whitneys for two years made her books not eligible this year. I could go through every category and name favorite authors in each, and I very nearly did, except the blog post was turning too epic so I scaled back to just a few. But in addition to authors I’ve come to appreciate more over time, I love discovering new writers and books I would not have noticed otherwise. I’m looking forward to the books in my category, YA Speculative, and hoping to get to as many of the others as I can.

Which of these books have you already read? Which books do you wish had made the finals?

February 9, 2013
February 12, 2013


  1. Luisa Perkins

    February 11, 2013

    Thanks, Emily! In addition to those you mentioned, I was sad not to see Anne Perry and Orson Scott Card in the finals this year.

  2. Lindsay

    February 11, 2013

    I think the link you posted to the complete list of finalists with pictures is broken. Fix it quick so we can check them out! Congrats to the nominees.

  3. Emily M.

    February 11, 2013

    Agreed, Luisa. Especially since, as you mentioned at Dawning of a Brighter Day, Anne Perry is keynoting at Storymakers this year.

    Lindsay, thank you! And you said what I forgot to, and meant to: Congratulations to all the nominees!

  4. Melissa Mc

    February 11, 2013

    I’ve only read one of them, The Rent Collector, and I was totally surprised how much I liked it.
    Here are my thoughts:

  5. Courtney

    February 11, 2013

    I was sad to see two of my favorites (which were both nonfiction) not on the list: Heaven is Here and Book of Mormon Girl.

  6. Andrew H

    February 12, 2013

    The Young Adult-General category leans pretty strongly to light romances (except for The Space Between Us). I have seen good reviews of all of them. But I am surprised more nationally recognized, grittier books did not get in, like Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s Breaking Beautiful, Carol Lynch Williams’ Waiting, and especially Martine Leavitt’s My Book of Life by Angel. Although the committee may not have been aware of Leavitt’s book, about a teenage prostitute. I did not know about it until a couple of weeks ago, and it was not on LDS Publisher’s comprehensive list of novels written by Mormons. I loved Leavitt’s “Keturah and Lord Death” in 2006.

  7. Lee

    February 12, 2013

    I don’t understand why general fiction is basically romance novels. There were plenty if books published by respectable presses that are clearly in the general fiction category. Was it truly that the content of some was faith challenging instead of faith promoting? I was similarly dismayed when they ignored Udall a few years back. U guess if this is a contest for PG books then it should explicitly state that.

  8. Emily M.

    February 12, 2013

    Melissa, thanks for the link to your review! It makes me look forward to reading the book.

    Courtney, I’ve heard good things about those books too, although as far as I know there are no plans to create a nonfiction category for the Whitneys.

    Andrew, agreed. Carol Lynch Williams won a couple of years ago with _The Chosen One_, which was beautiful and also quite gritty. But I think the academy committee, the people who read and vote on nominated books, changes every year, and so tastes will change as well. I loved _Keturah and Lord Death_, too. I also wonder, though, how much of that absence is due to authors choosing not to actively engage with the LDS writing community. I know LDS Publisher wants to create a comprehensive list of books published by LDS authors every year; it’s not like an exclusive club or anything. So I wonder how many of these absent books made it to the finals in the first place.

    Lee, yes, Udall’s absence a couple of years ago was problematic. Again, I think there are likely some committee members who do choose only PG books. Not all do, though; you can look over past aware winners and see that this it true. For me, I don’t see the General category as dominated by romance so much as inspirational fiction and fiction that appeals mostly to women, or “book club fiction.” There is a difference between a romance and women’s fiction, although it can be subtle. I actually think the General Fiction category looks quite a bit stronger this year than it has previously, but I get what you’re saying. Do you have specific titles published this year that you wanted to see included?

  9. Tanya

    February 14, 2013

    I, too, was disappointed not to see “Dispirited,” “The Lightning Tree,” and a few others not on the list. This has become so much more competitive–a good thing for LDS lit, but more difficult for so many deserving authors. I’m very grateful to have made it as a finalist this year. (And thanks for your good wishes, Emily. :D)

  10. Th.

    February 15, 2013


    I think I bought more LDS fiction this year than I ever have. Yet I feel further behind in Whitney season than ever before. Sigh.

  11. Annette

    February 16, 2013

    Agreed on Anne Perry and Luisa!

    I’m a little confused at the idea that the General category is somehow veiled Romance–it’s totally not. It may have a lot of WOMEN’S FICTION, but that’s a totally different genre. Lumping Romance and WF together is like lumping Romance and thrillers. Not even remotely the same thing.

    Emily, Thanks so much for the plug for PAIGE! It means a lot!

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