Monday, December 8, 2008

Shortlist for the Morris Award

I'm really excited about YALSA's Morris Award, given to a first YA novel. You can see the complete list here, and personally I'll say that I have a definite favorite (Madapple) and a least favorite (Absolute Brightness). Hmm. I also loved Me, the Missing, and the Dead and am happy to see it on the shortlist.

So, um, may the best Madapple win!


After thinking about this for a little while, I have decided that I am really, really bothered by the inclusion of Absolute Brightness on this list, given the award's criteria. They say:

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award celebrates the achievement of a previously unpublished author, or authors, who have made a strong literary debut in writing for young adult readers. The work cited will illuminate the teen experience and enrich the lives of its readers through its excellence, demonstrated by:

-Compelling, high quality writing and/or illustration
-The integrity of the work as a whole
-Its proven or potential appeal to a wide range of teen readers

Now, those first two are debatable. Ask fifty librarians what constitutes compelling, high quality writing and potential teen appeal and you'll get fifty different answers. On these points, I'm not going to debate with the committee, although clearly they have different ideas about compelling, high quality writing than I do. On the second point, I have to ask this: Doesn't the "integrity of the work as a whole" include fact-checking? The thing that turned me off Absolute Brightness the most was the number of factual errors that could so easily have been fixed. All it takes is one look at a map to know that the Parkway and the Turnpike are nowhere near each other, and that Neptune is quite a schlep to Trenton. It would only take Google to tell you that the scene with the dad pumping his girlfriend's gas would not be possible, because you can't pump your own gas in New Jersey.

I know it's fiction, but if we're quick to judge historical fiction based on its accuracy, why can't we deem a book to have less integrity when the author didn't bother with the geographical facts of the setting? The New Jersey setting in Absolute Brightness is mentioned a lot; this is not one of those books that could be set anywhere. It's because of the frequent mentioning of New Jersey and the many wrong facts about it that I think this book lacks integrity as a whole.

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