Thursday, April 26, 2012

Summing Up: Edgar Nominees For Best Juvenile

I finished reading all the YA and Juvenile Edgar nominees in time! I'm pretty proud of myself just for that accomplishment, to be honest--that's ten books, enough to make a little TBR pile side table.

But you didn't come here to hear about that; let me give you the skinny on the Edgar nominees for Best Juvenile. To refresh, here's the list:

Horton Halfpott by Tom Angleberger (Abrams – Amulet Books)
It Happened on a Train by Mac Barnett (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Vanished by Sheela Chari (Disney Book Group – Disney Hyperion)
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey (Egmont USA)

And at the risk of sounding lame, I should say that all of these books are winners. Think about it: of all the middle-grade mysteries published last year, only five could make this shortlist. That's quite impressive, no?

I'll add to this that it's extra-difficult to write a true mystery for the MG audience--not a fantasy, or a historical, etc. The age of the protagonist (usually 8 to 12 years old) makes it very challenging for a writer--I mean, what ten year-old you know goes around solving mysteries and catching bad guys? Exactly.

Which is why so many MG mysteries aren't mysteries first, and many on this list really weren't. Horton Halfpott and The Wizard of Dark Street are both fantasies first, I think. Icefall is more of a historical, Vanished a stronger coming-of-age story than a mystery. It Happened on a Train is the one solid, tried-and-true mystery here.

But this year, I did feel like the mystery wasn't just tacked on. Every one of these books relied on the mystery to carry the plot forward, which hasn't always been the case in previous nominee reads. So I'm pretty pleased after reading these Best Juvenile mystery nominees.

I do hope to see more realistic/contemporary MG mysteries in the future. We really need more books that are junior versions of the mysteries (and thrillers--I'll lump those in there) that are so popular with adults. Readers love mysteries--so why aren't there more solid mysteries for kids?

Alright-y, I'll kick myself off the soapbox here. Because I should really give you my prediction of the winner...

And I'm really not sure... I think It Happened on a Train is the strongest mystery here, so that's my pick.

But I'll add that all of these are really strong contenders... So don't call your bookie and blame me when it all goes south, okay? I'll post the winners here after the announcement on April 26 (that's tonight!)...

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