Over at the YALSA Blog, I've been interviewing the six authors of the five finalists for The Morris Award; winner will be announced at ALA's Youth Media Awards at its Midwinter Meeting in Boston on Monday, January 18 from 8-10 p.m. at the Westin Copley Place Essex Center South.
Here are the interviews, along with links to my reviews of each book.
ASH by Malinda Lo
From my review: "This retelling unfolds slowly, deliciously. It's an internal story; a story about Ash grieving the loss of her parents, shutting down from it, and eventually choosing life and love. This is a tale about recovering from grief and unbearable loss. . . . Take note, librarians and teachers looking for a great book with both literary merit and one that encourages deep discussion; you'll want this one."
From the interview:: "I did outline [Ash], and came up with long character questionnaires. At the same time, I was an anthropology graduate student, so I approached worldbuilding from an anthropologist’s perspective. That means I thought about rituals—cultural practices that can mark major changes in one’s life, like birth, marriage, and death."
From my review: "A lushly written Southern Gothic tale, with family and town secrets, and teens discovering that the world is not what they thought it was. It's not just finding out that the supernatural is real; it's learning that trusted adults have kept secrets. And then trying to figure out what to do about it; and trying to take charge of your future when everyone is telling you that future is set in stone."
From the interview:: Margaret Stohl: "By the time we got to the sequel, we practically had the guillotine of lost ideas set up in our office, and our editor just pointed out that we (meaning she!) cut twenty thousand words off of this last draft." Kami Garcia: "Gatlin reminds me a lot of the small town in North Carolina where my grandmother and great-grandma grew up. But the thing about Gatlin is that it really describes a lot of small towns, all over the country. Because pie baking is pie baking and porch gossip is porch gossip regardless of where you’re baking the pie and dishing the gossip."
THE EVERAFTER by Amy Huntley
From my review: "Maddy, revisiting a physics class: "something can be two things at once, and that observing them influences which of the two they are... Ms. Winters has moved to talking about how everything in the universe is connected in ways that can't always be seen or understood. ...at the subatomic level no time has to pass for one particle to know about and be affected by what's happening to another." Maddy's head is about to explode, and so is mine, but what Huntley has done is taken the fantastical (the afterlife, ghosts, Heaven) and wrapped it in science."
From the interview:"In college I took a class called “Physics for Poets.” I found the class fascinating, but terrifying as well. The thought that there might not be a god, that everything came down to this random event called The Big Bang, fascinated me in a horrifying way. What if I really was nothing more than matter and energy? What if that meant I’d spend eternity floating around in the universe alone? This notion nagged at me for years. Then one day, in the teacher’s lounge, my colleagues were talking objects they’d lost. One of them said in a very offhand way, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if all those things showed up after you were dead? Just when you couldn’t use them?"."
FLASH BURNOUT by L.K. Madigan
From my review: "A perfect romance, written from a teenage boy's point of view. Blake really likes Shannon, even eventually saying the "l" word. He's trying to figure out how to be a good boyfriend, what to say, what not to say, to ignore the "advice" of his brother and friends that say, don't be so into her, ignore her sometimes."
From the interview: "I needed a reason for Blake to say (about Marissa), “She had the most heartbroken eyes in the world.” That was a line pinging around in my head, and it needed to come out in the story. What’s the best way for someone to look closely at another person? Through the lens of a camera. So photography was a device, at first, for building their relationship. I had not made a conscious decision to expand it into a central theme. As I kept writing, the characters led me – as they are wont to do – in the direction they wanted to go."
HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour
From my review: "As Caitlin looks back on her friendship with Ingrid and gains insights into both Ingrid and herself, she is also going forward, cannot really avoid it, really. Time does that. Comfort doesn't come from where she hopes -- their photography teacher is cold and dismissive to Caitlin. A new girl, Dylan, offers friendship and the start of Caitlin getting on with her life as she slowly heals and reconnects with her parents, makes new friends, even falls in love. Caitlin moves on, with loss and without regret."
From the interview: "A woman I knew in grad school had a coffee table book about tree houses. One evening I started looking through the book and was immediately captivated. Then, a year or so later, when I was searching for a way for Caitlin to channel her grief in an active way, I remembered them. The last thing I wanted was to write a book about a girl who sits around and cries. Caitlin does a bit of that, but I wanted her to create something, to move around, and the more I thought about it, the more fitting it seemed to have her create a structure that was all her own and that she could ultimately share with others once she was ready to let people in again."
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy