I'm a bit late to the party in talking about the nominees for the National Book Award, but here's some thoughts I had in looking over the 2008 nominees for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
Does buzz work against a book?
There's been a lot of discussion around The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks when awards are talked about, and I think few people were surprised when it was one of the five nominees. But will that work against it? I can remember several cases where there was pre-award buzz around a book that ended up not winning the big prize. Just when it comes to the Printz Award, for example, I had heard mention of Saving Francesca, Octavian Nothing Vol. 1 The Pox Party, The Book Thief, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as a winner. None of these books won the Printz; two were shut out entirely, not even meriting an honor award. Yet in the same breath, it's not that these books went completely unrecognized. Both The Book Thief and Octavian Nothing merited Printz Honor Awards; Octavian Nothing and Absolutely True Diary were the National Book Award winners in their respective years. It's perhaps too soon to tell if buzz will hurt Frankie Landau-Banks, but I think just getting recognized as a nominee is a validation of the importance of this book.
The esteemed members of the panel
I didn't realize this, but the National Book Award is determined by a panel of authors from the same field. Not just any authors, either--these are major players in the field. The 2008 panel is headed by Daniel Handler, with Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, and Cynthia Voigt. That's some panel! In the past few years, the National Book Award panels have included such authors as Elizabeth Partridge, Pete Hautman, Scott Westerfeld, Linda Sue Park and Patricia McKissack. It's very gratifying to know that not only is this award granted by an author's peers, but that authors are giving back by serving on panels such as these.
--Apparently, publishers have to submit books for consideration for the National Book Award. While my friends and I have jokingly called the ALA Youth Awards press conference "the Oscars", it could be that the National Book Award's announcement deserves that nickname more.
--In 2008, submissions for Young's People Literature just edged out Fiction as the second-most submitted work. Nonfiction is the big winner in this category.
--I'm very envious of those who live close to New York City and can attend the National Book Award Teen Press Conference. What a wonderful way to publicize and celebrate the National Book Award--not to mention the fact that this event is just for teens!