The 2009 Cybils winners have been announced. Check them out here!
I was on the science fiction/fantasy panel for young adult books. As a panel, we chose, easily and unanimously, Fire, by Kristin Cashore. This is a companion novel to Graceling, which was a finalist last year for the Cybils. I read Graceling in preparation for reading Fire, thinking that I should understand the first novel first. It really wasn't necessary to do so; Fire stands nicely on its own, with only one crossover character to Graceling (though it gives away a bit of Graceling's storyline to hear this particular character's history). I won't rehash our panel's review of Fire here ... you can check out what we had to say about it in the above link.
Of the other finalists, only one really presented any competition to Fire for me, and that was Laini Taylor's Lips Touch: Three Times, which Alysa already reviewed here. I chose Cashore's book in the end, though, because it seemed to appeal more to both a male and female audience, whereas Lips Touch I think is geared more toward a female readership. The writing in both was marvelous---beautiful imagery, deep characters, well-paced story lines, lots of good to root for. As for the other books ...
Sacred Scars: Very dark, very edgy, quite a few F words, compelling writing, disturbing plot, fascinating characters.
Tiger Moon: Truly sublime writing. Makes me want to visit India someday, or at least learn more about it. The first two-thirds of the book were quite slow, though. And our panel was concerned about the fact that the cover appeals to a younger teen audience, but that there's a minor scene of sensuality sandwiched in the middle of the book that doesn't fit that apparent target audience.
Dust of 100 Dogs: Did. Not. Like. This book was ick. The language. The extremely adult content, both violent and sexual. This took "edgy" and jumped off the cliff with it. I definitely do not recommend to a teen audience. Yes, the plot is unique and interesting. But the main character was obnoxiously superior. And there were some unanswered questions that bugged me (e.g., if all the four characters were doomed to live the lives of 100 dogs, how is it that they all came back to humanity at just the right time to make them all the same age they were before they began their dog lives? That seems a little overly coincidental ...).
Candor: Good book. Cool, devil-may-care main character. Interesting story. But speaking of plot holes? Yikes! I just couldn't get around them. And not so much holes as just a completely hard-to-believe premise. I thought we were asked to accept a little too much on good faith as readers. I won't go into details and risk spoiling the plot. And the love story felt a bit forced, to me. Anyway. Not one of my favs, but a good-ish book nonetheless. Good teen appeal.
The Demon's Lexicon: I wasn't a big fan of this entry either. The writing just didn't do it for me. It was often redundant (I thought I was going to have to chuck the book if the main character "snarled" one more time). There is a cool surprise twist that I didn't see coming. So. Read it for the twist. But not for much else.