Journey Through the 2015 National Book Award Longlisters

NBA2015Happy almost-Halloween, Hubbers! The leaves are changing, it’s cooling down (even in Arizona where I just was – it was 90 degrees! Brr!), and it’s my favorite time of the year. But, on to the books! Over the next couple of months, I thought I’d focus on the National Book Awards longlist for Young People’s Literature – although, due to my trip, I wasn’t able to get as much reading done as I’d have liked. But, we’ll start small this month, and I’ll be working my way through the longlist over these cold & rainy months to come. This month, I’m focusing on 3 books that are fun, interesting and perfect books for all the teens in your life. I know they’ve announced the finalists by now, but I thought it would be fun to celebrate all of the great books that made the longlist since they are all winners to me! Here we go…

NimonaNimona written & illustrated by Noelle Stevenson: I remember a while ago, one of my teens kept telling me how much she loved this webcomic – Nimona – and, she thought I should read it, too. I kept putting it off until I saw they had put the webcomic into book form. I fell in love right away with the shapeshifting Nimona and the villain she is the sidekick to, Lord Ballister Blackheart. All Lord Blackheart wants to do is show the citizens that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, Mr. High & Mighty, Mr. Can-Do-No-Wrong, really isn’t that great. Plus – there’s a backstory to their relationship! And, there are dragons! And, feelings & emotions! Noelle’s illustrations are so bright and colorful and the characters are fully fleshed out; they feel like real people to me! It’s just a fun and hilarious story that certainly quenched my thirst for an action story without your typical leading man or lady. A great story of a girl who’s not afraid to show her strength, but showing her feelings might be a bigger problem than anyone realized.

SymphonyCityDeadSymphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson: This is a nonfiction title that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I finished it a few months ago. In September 1941, Hitler’s army surrounded Leningrad after previously fooling Stalin into thinking they were friends & allies. No one could come in or out of the city (legally, at least), and food was scarce if not nonexistent. During this time, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote a symphony, his 7th symphony, for Leningrad – his place of birth and life. But, the book is so much more than a story of the symphony; it’s also an engaging and thrilling story of the life of Shostakovich as well as a history lesson of Leningrad and Russia from the deaths of the Romanovs to the end of the war. This book is tough to read at times, the desperation and misery that the citizens of Leningrad went through is unbearable to imagine…but, to know that so many of them survived this torture is what makes the book so uplifting, as well. A nonfiction book that will intrigue anyone interested in the power of music or more generally, World War II.

bone gapBone Gap by Laura Ruby: This is a book that still stands out like a fairy tale to me – here’s what I said about it in my feminist teen literature post: I didn’t know what to expect when I opened this book. It’s described as magical realism, and I don’t know if I like magical realism. Well, I’m still not sure I do, but I definitely do if Laura Ruby is writing it. This is the story of Finn and Roza and the town they live in, Bone Gap. Roza was a beautiful and bright spark in the lives of Finn and his older brother Sean. She showed up one day, and then, after a while, she disappeared. But, Finn knows what happened; a man who moved like a corn stalk kidnapped Roza, and he stood by and watched it happen. No one believes him and his far out story, especially since he can’t describe what the man looked like. Told from many different voices and perspectives, nothing and everything is what it seems in Bone Gap. Lest you think this is some story of Prince Charming coming to Sleeping Beauty’s rescue, it’s not. Roza is determined to get away from the terrible man who has taken her away from everything she loves, and Finn is dead set on making people see that he’s more than just a “spaceman”; he has hopes and dreams, too – most notably, wanting people to believe him and realize that Roza is more than just her looks. She is a person. Plus, there’s a beautiful horse that takes him on wonderful rides with his sweetie, Priscilla – wait, she likes to be called Petey. If a book could be called ethereal (can it?), this is the epitome.

Sorry for only 3 books this time; I always like to base my life on High Fidelity and their “top 5 lists” whenever I’m listing things I like. Alas, I will do better next month. Join me as we continue along this journey through the National Book Awards and the great books for teens that have been recognized.

—  Traci Glass, currently reading The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin