Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Alex Awards Reading Report (2014):
All Ten Read!

Last week I had this post all ready to go except for the book cover images, when technology let me down. I accidentally deleted all the HTML, and Blogger helpfully auto-saved the blank page for me. POOF! Permanently vanished!  I wanted to cry.

This week the 2015 Alex Awards list was announced, so it's good to be able to say that I finished my personal challenge to read all ten titles on the 2014 list!   And a happy report it is, as all ten are winners.  Different genres, different styles, but not a dog in the pack.

 2014 Alex Awards 
(given by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of ALA)
~ The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.
Links go to a book's entry in the Paideia Library online catalog.
  • Lexicon: A Novel  by Max Barry.  A thriller and a puzzle about the mysteries of the human mind and power of language, and the dangers of absolute control. Oh, and also about preventing the apocalyptic destruction of the entire human race by a single murderous Word.
  • Help for the Haunted by John Searles.  This novel is as much a study of a dysfunctional family as it is a mystery about who and what killed Sylvie's professional ghost-hunting parents one stormy night. 
  • The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu.  A fun space alien spy romp, with historical input.  Tao is thousands of years old, but on Earth his kind can only survive when hosted by a human body.  Past hosts have been history makers both good and bad, but his most recent host, an unachieving IT worker named Roen Tan, is one of convenience, not choice.  And given that Tao needs to change Roen from a couch-potato to super secret agent in just weeks (the war between pro- and anti- human alien factions is at a crucial stage), it's no wonder he's impatient, snarky and fond of the olden days of competent hosts..
  • Brewster by Mark Slouka.   This is a deeply moving novel about growing up, being a guy and  wanting to be loved by parents who can't.  I posted a review here on the blog back in May.
  • The Death of Bees  by Lisa O’Donnell.  Two sisters in hard-luck Glasgow struggle to keep the appearance of normality following the sudden death of their father, and suicide of their grieving mother.  With the bodies inexpertly buried in the back yard and each sister secretly convinced the other is guilty of offing their dad, the only caring adult who takes notice is the grieving gay widower next door, who just happens to have a conviction for solicitation of a minor.  This gritty novel is about how birthfamily can let you down, how trying to go it alone can be a mistake, and about how real family can be formed from unexpected ingredients.
  • Golden Boy by  Abigail Tarttelin.  The opening of this novel includes a graphic assault, and left me thinking about putting the book down for good.  I kept on reading, though, and accept that the violence at the beginning is crucial to understanding Max and his torment.  16-year-old Max is practically perfect -- a good student, a loving and beloved son, a great big brother, handsome, athletic.  He likes all the regular guy things, including girls.  The big family secret is 'in his pants' -- Max has working boy parts and working girl parts too.  Betrayal by a long-time friend forces him to the very edge emotionally, and only then does he find the support, true friendship and acceptance he needs to keep on living.  This thoughtful and sensitive novel ended up being one of my favorites on the 2014 Alex list.
  • Mother, Mother  by Koren Zailckas.  This was so much better than I'd anticipated (I was kind of afraid to read it after the dark reviews), and one of my top choices for the year.  Review from March is in this blog post.
  • Relish by Lucy Knisley.  A winning graphic novel memoir with recipes.  I wrote about it here back in April.

  •  The Sea of Tranquility  by Katja Millay.  Another favorite from the 2014 list.  Nastya has lost her identity, after a violent attack that left her with broken fingers, a broken body and a shattered future as a concert pianist.  With a new name, new school, and a new self (goth, sexy, uncaring, brash) she lives only for revenge.  Josh has lost his family -- everyone he's ever loved has died, and now he's an emancipated high school senior, taking care of himself and never letting himself care about anyone.  This is a romantic, weepy and very emotional novel about learning to rejoin and embrace life when it seems there's nothing left to live for.

  • The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. The book blurb didn't sound so great to me (teenager nabbed at British customs with an urn of cremains and a bag of pot), but you should read this book anyway!   It's a wonderful portrait of the unlikely friendship between an awkward, epileptic British boy with a flaky mom and a non-existent dad, and a misogynistic, cranky American Vietnam-vet widower, and of Alex's growth from strange kid to capable young man, brave enough to face both death and life head on.

 The high school Book Club is reading The Universe vs. Alex Woods for April.  I hope you will read one or many of the 2014 Alex Books -- if you do, please let me know what you think of it!

The 2015 Alex Awards list is published on the ALA website.  No promises from me yet -- a couple I know are going to be great, but the rest, well . . .  I'll let you know later.