I have to face the facts: I am never going to be able to read all of this year's Cybils nominees. And even if I could, I'd never have time to review them all! So you'll just have to follow the Cybils blog and all the other Cybils judges* to get highlights about all the awesome books I'll never get around to. I'll just review as many as I can, sometimes with shorter reviews so I can fit them all in. Here are a couple from the YA Spec Fic list that I was thrilled to find at my library.
I got sucked into reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here by the fun premise and the engaging characters and . . . fortunately for my state of mind this one isn't quite as soul-wrenching and brain-exploding as some of his past books have been. *cough*Chaos Walking*cough*
But, The Rest of Us Just Live Here has its share of deep insights into relationships, human choices/free will/destiny, self-knowledge, trust. You know, all the big stuff. The reasons we read YA.
Plus awesome characters: Mikey and his sisters who take care of each other because their parents are so messed up; Mikey's best friend Jared (Jared is so awesome I love Jared but no spoilers so I can't tell you why!); Henna, the girl Mikey loves who thinks she loves someone else but isn't sure. And they're all just trying to navigate the last year of high school and figure out what to do with their lives, while in the background the indie kids battle the latest supernatural menace.
I love the chapter headings ("Chapter the Fifth, in which indie kid Kerouac opens the Gate of the Immortals, allowing the Royal Family and its Court a fissure through which to temporarily enter this world; then Kerouac discovers that the Messenger lied to him; he dies, alone"), and the way the indie kids' story starts out seeming completely irrelevant, but then gradually starts to impact Mikey and his friends, but the real drama and excitement is still friendship and love and saying what you feel and trusting your friends. It's spoofy and funny and heartwarming and just very, very real. (And a tiny bit devastating, but in a good way.)
Apple cake, moist and dense, the kind your grandma used to make, but with a bit of ginger and cardamom along with the cinnamon in the streusel topping. (Your grandma didn't use a streusel topping? Everything should have a streusel topping. Especially apple cake.)
Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby, is a weird, wonderful book. Seriously weird. It's not a book you can come into with any expectations, particularly genre expectations, because it isn't like anything else. People are calling it magic realism, but it's not quite that. There's mythology of different kinds woven through it, (what is it about cornfields??) but it's not exactly retelling a myth. Except that it's about myths, and how the stories we tell ourselves and each other matter; the stories that we believe matter and we can change them.
I loved the writing and the characters, but about halfway through I was starting to get worried. There were some disturbing stories being told, and I was afraid that maybe Laura Ruby has a big chip on her shoulder about the way men and women interact with one another and this book is her way of disturbing us into realizing how wrong things are. Yes, men can be nasty and ignorant and treat women as objects, and people do judge and label women in unfair, hurtful ways. I was afraid that was going to be the message of the book, and I wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading.
I should have trusted Ruby. She knows what she's doing. Bone Gap is a story about stories, and you can't change the stories other people tell but you can change your own story. And you can save yourself, and you can save other people, too. I loved Finn and Rosa and Petey, each with their strengths and hurts and different kinds of courage.
There were some seriously creepy scenes, and some wonderfully magical ones, and the most magical scenes were maybe the most realistic ones, because what is more magical than people choosing to trust each other?
I don't know if I would have tried this one just based on its blurb: just read it, it's the only way to know if you'll like it!
Sweet potato pie. (Unless sweet potato pie is your familiar comfort food, in which case choose a pie that isn't familiar but if you tried it you'd probably like it.)
*I hope this link takes you to the right page of the blog, but if not, the judges are announced in blog entries in late September, so just keep navigating through to find them.