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.