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text 2018-07-04 20:58
2018 Hugo Ballot: WSFS Best YA Award
Akata Warrior - Nnedi Okorafor
The Art of Starving - Sam J. Miller
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) - Philip Pullman
In Other Lands - Sarah Rees Brennan
A Skinful of Shadows - Frances Hardinge
Summer in Orcus - T. Kingfisher

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. 

 

YA is a new category this year. To which I can only say: IT IS ABOUT FUCKING TIME. This year's business meeting should give it a permanent name as well. " The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Award for Best Young Adult Book" is a bit unwieldy. The proposed name is Lodestar, but of course, no bit of progress can be made without some pushback.

 

The category was added as a separate award from the Hugos, which is how the Campbell was already classified. Of course, the Campbell's been treated just like a Hugo forever, with only the occasional footnote to point out that it isn't one. But now that there's a YA category, blogs feel the need to lead with it not being a Hugo. It's voted on by the same people as part of the same ballot and awarded at the same ceremony. 

 

  • Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking) - I started Akata Witch years ago, and abandoned it a quarter of the way, and didn't make it quite as far in this sequel. I'm just not in love with the protagonist or with the habit of every person around her constantly being hypercritical and challenging her every word and action. I'm just not the right audience.

 

  • The Art of Starving, by Sam J. Miller (HarperTeen) - I didn't make it more than a few chapters into this one, but I have a very hard time reading about eating disorders. I was hoping this would be a bit more metaphoric, but there's a scene where the narrator accidentally eats some tater tots and finds himself powerless, and I just can't. Again, I am not the right audience.

 

  • The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman (Knopf) - I read a sample and didn't find anything interesting enough to bother continuing. 

 

  • In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan (Big Mouth House) - I completely missed this title in spite of it being from one of my favorite YA imprints - the same small press that published Archivist Wasp. While the cover art is kind of lackluster, the story is dynamite. Portal fantasy with a pacifist bi protagonist in a low magic world where most humans train to be soldiers. Brennan discusses writing this as a serialized work on her blog in the afterwards. As a complete novel, it's a delight to read. Easily my favorite YA novel on the ballot.

 

  • A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK / Harry N. Abrams US) - This has a bit of a slow start, but turns into an interesting, somewhat dark jaunt across war torn England. The main character is a very appealing form of bold, constantly subverting the expectations of those around her. 

 

  • Summer in Orcus, written by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), illustrated by Lauren Henderson (Sofawolf Press) - This novel was also a portal fantasy originally published in a serialized format. It was also a fun jaunt, but it felt a bit young for a YA novel. Like it would be better classified as the high end of middle grade.

 

So my favorite two of these were originally serialized stories, which is not consistent with my usual view of serialized short fiction. Perhaps encountering them already collected into a continuous narrative makes them work better for me. In spite of my reservations about the categorization of Summer in Orcus, it will place second on my ballot after In Other Lands. Third will be Skinful of Shadows, and the rest I may just leave off the ballot.

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review 2018-06-09 20:44
The Book of Dust ★★★★☆
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) - Philip Pullman

Absolutely worth putting all my other books on "pause" for. This was as much fun as The Golden Compass, and without all the complicated nature-of-the-universe plot machinations of the other books in that trilogy. There is plenty of action and peril to propel the story along, and the two new main characters are easy to invest in. Baby Lyra isn't given much to do, other than to just be a baby, but it was interesting to see how the author portrays the relationship of human to daemon in infancy. 

 

I think this probably works as a stand-alone, but it's hard to know how much of my familiarity with the characters of Lyra's parents and the world they occupy informed my understanding of this book's events. Interestingly, this book seems to incorporate a little more fantasy into its steampunkiness than I remember from the first book. 

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library after a six month wait on hold. Michael Sheen's performance is fantastic. 

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text 2018-06-08 12:40
The Book of Dust - 46%
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) - Philip Pullman

Well. I was a sort of unwilling reader to start, but now I've been thoroughly sucked in. 

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text 2018-06-05 18:24
The Book of Dust - getting started
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) - Philip Pullman

I wasn't planning to read this book now. I'm not prepared to read this book now, and I don't really even want to read this book now. But my turn has suddenly come up after having it on hold at the library for more than six months, so I guess I better read it now rather than going to the back of the line again. 

 

That means putting Mr. Mercedes on pause, which I'm reading while I've got The Outsider on pause. I hope nothing else comes up, because I'm going to start losing track of everything.

 

Also, I hope this one works as a sort of stand-alone, because I only vaguely remember His Dark Materials, and I don't have time to put this one on pause while I go back and re-read that trilogy!.

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review 2018-04-15 15:34
Highly recommended prequel
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) - Philip Pullman

This first prequel to the Dark Materials trilogy is a joy to read. It sets up a lot of what transpires in the successful trilogy regarding Lyra, a newborn baby in this book. Introducing Malcolm and Alice as well as many other important characters, the book tells us about various agencies trying to take Lyra for their own purposes.

The writing is engaging and fluid and entraps the reader into the plot. Highly recommended.

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