2012 Oregon Book Awards: Judge’s Comments in Young Adult Literature

Linda Sue Park was the judge for the Young Adult Literature category of the 2012 Oregon Book Awards. She is the author of several novels and picture books, including A Single Shard, the 2002 Newbery Medal winner. She writes fiction and poetry for both adults and young readers.  Her most recent titles are A Long Walk to Water, winner of the Jane Addams Peace Prize, and StormWarning, book number nine in Scholastic’s39 Clues series.
Here are Linda Sue Park’s comments on the 2012 Oregon Book Awards finalists for the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature

Pies and Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick

The four first-person narrators keep the reader on their toes in this book, the fourth in the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. It is perhaps an easier read for those already familiar with the characters, but the persistent reader will get to know them quickly enough, and the author does a good job of differentiating their voices and interests. Great fun for fans of Jane Austen, as the plot parallels Pride and Prejudice, with well-chosen quotes as chapter headings. Naturally, a good choice for mother-daughter book clubs!

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

A plot that lives up to its terrifying premise: A girl sick with pneumonia is lying down in the backseat of the car waiting for her mother to emerge from the drugstore when the car is stolen by a teenager unaware of her presence. Upping the stakes still further, protagonist Cheyenne is blind. The tense relationship with her inadvertent kidnapper Griffin that forms the heart of the story is skillfully developed, and the high-drama ending is balanced by a quiet, believable coda.

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

A novel in verse that presents a highly unlikely setup: A switched-at-birth teenage girl about to meet her biological parents encounters a boy facing major surgery to donate part of his liver to his father. Amber comes across as totally believable; it is the strength of her voice that compels the reader to turn the pages. While some of her musings are less successful as poems (with the questionable line breaks and structural anomalies common in verse novels), readers will quickly come to care about both her and Cade, with the final two pages providing satisfaction to those who prefer unambiguous endings.

Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi

What kind of kid says, “When I grow up, I want to be a mortician”? This book introduces us to teen Donna Parisi, whose desire to become a mortician is neither comic nor macabre; her first-person narration rings with authenticity. The strong writing helps propel the reader through this slice-of-life story, and the questions Donna confronts about loss and death and moving on are human universals.

Wildwing by Emily Whitman

A classic time-travel/mistaken identity story made new in a number of ways. Addy, a working-class girl in early twentieth-century England, finds herself in the thirteenth century masquerading as the aristocratic Lady Matilda. While the use of the present tense initially feels artificial, the compelling plot and well-chosen details beguiled this reader. The focus here is on social relationships and class differences rather than anachronistic technology. Fascinating details about the sport of falconry are nicely woven in to the plot. Addy falls in love, contends with an unwanted fiance, and has to figure out how to help the villagers whose futures depend on her marriage to a wealthy lord. Even the standard villain–an advisor to the lord–is given a fresh twist. A book that will satisfy lovers of historical fiction, fantasy, and romance.

Friday, August 31, 2012 is the deadline to submit books for consideration for the 2013 Oregon Book Awards. The guidelines and applications can be found on Literary Arts’ web site. Contact Susan Denning for more information. 

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