Thursday, April 10, 2014

What? You don't want to read 40 book reviews? (2013 Whitney Recap)

I don't blame you. But there are some pretty great books in the eight categories this year, and my top pick in each category is a book that I can recommend wholeheartedly. Voters are asked to rank the books from favorite to least favorite, but I think it's a little cruel to publicly list which books I hated most in each category, so for the purposes of being somewhat diplomatic, I'm restricting my comments here to my top pick or top two picks in each category.

General: The competition this year came down to two strong works: Mile 21 by Sarah Dunster, which is very readable and moving with great characterization, and Jennifer Quist's Love Letters of the Angel of Death, the most ambitious, literary and lyrical of the novels in the entire competition. Both stories are about married couples, separated too soon by death.

Historical: Both H.B. Moore's Esther the Queen, the novelization of the story of Esther from the Old Testament, and Carla Kelly's Safe Passage, about an estranged couple brought back together during their escape from the Mormon colonies in Mexico, are great novels-- well written with great characters and compelling plots. 

Romance: Melanie Jacobson's Second Chances was far and away my favorite Romance this year, with the story of a producer who falls for the star of the Mormon Bachelor, who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. The story is witty and wise, and kept me turning pages far into the night. I even had a dream about it. 

Mystery/Suspense: Josi Kilpack's Rocky Road gets my vote. Sadie Hoffmiller's character gets more and more interesting in this, the tenth novel in her culinary mystery series, and the mystery here was pretty tricky too. 

Speculative: Jeffrey S. Savage's Dark Memories was creepily reminiscent of a Stephen King novel, where the world is just a half-step away from the one in which we're living. The story of revenge, more than thirty years after the fact, for the death of a young boy in a mine, kept me turning pages. 

Young Adult- Speculative: Kasie West's Pivot Point was far and away my favorite book in this category. Addie is able to see her two separate futures in alternating chapters in this book, and in the end she faces a difficult decision. Addie and her fellow characters in both the paranormal and normal worlds made the story come alive. 

Young Adult- General: Julie Berry's All The Truth That's in Me wowed. The writing was beautiful, the historical setting was realistic, and the choices Judith faced were heartbreakingly real. 

Middle Grade: Liesl Shurtliff's RUMP was a totally delightful retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story in which we learn to sympathize with the little guy and no longer make the mistake of siding entirely with that poor miller's daughter. 

Best Novel by a New Author: RUMP

Best Novel of the Year: Love Letters of the Angel of Death

Best Novel in Youth Fiction: All the Truth That's in Me

In the five years I've been reading for the contest, I've seen the overall quality of the work improve dramatically, and every finalist should be proud of their accomplishments. Good luck!


Luisa Perkins said...

We have the same taste, Shelah. These are almost exactly my picks as well.

Th. said...


I can only speak for one category, but ditto.