Every year my school hosts a shadowing group for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, which is basically where we read all the books on the shortlist and discuss them over smoothie and brioche. I’ve loved it for all the years I’ve participated and this has been no exception! I actually think that the shortlist this year was the best in a while. Perhaps that’s because it catered more to my taste in YA rather than MG, but hey.
This post is a little late because One by Sarah Crossan was announced as a winner the other week, but I thought it would still be fun to tell you guys my personal opinion on all the books.
We read about one book a week, and I managed to finish them all this time. 🙂 Here’s a lovely infographic showing how I rated them. I’ll go from least favourite upwards so that we end on a positive note!
The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgewick I regret to say that this was definitely my least favourite. (I rather liked the author’s other book, Midwinterblood.) It was very carefully crafted and Deep. But…I just didn’t get it. Although beautifully written, the stories didn’t grip me, and I couldn’t understand the heavy-handed theme of the spiral. I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT ALL MEANT, GUYS. So it wasn’t really for me.
Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine I was one of two people in our whole book group who didn’t enjoy this one, so perhaps I’m in the minority. It was better than I had initially anticipated — and I think it did well to try and remove itself from typical grief/uplifting story, but it just annoyed me. The prose was too purple, the characters boring cut-outs. (MANIC PIXIE DREAM BOY MUCH. Dear Librarian: Thurston is definitely not Donna Tartt’s Boris. Uh-uh. Nope.) In a different year I might have placed I higher, but as it is it stays here.
Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders Again, in a less strong year this might have been higher. I thoght I’d hate this — especially since I haven’t read the original Five Children and It — but I thought it was a cute adventure story. And IT WASN’T SUPER PATRONISING. Thank God for that. Carnegie has a habit of picking patronising MG novels. *sighs*
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness What?! you cry. You’re putting a Patrick Ness 4th? After raving about this for so long? I know, I know. I do love this book. But upon re-reading it, I realised that…I don’t know, it just isn’t my favourite Ness book. There were other excellent books this year. And I still think that this book is really important and that the whole not-Chosen one thing actually does work. But it’s just not up there for me.
There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake Weirdly, this book moved up in my estimation from when I first read it. I understood I a lot better! And I COULDN’T REMEMBER HALF THE TWISTS. So there were a lot of surprises. *coughs* The Dreaming parts really dragged the pacing, especially since the ‘real world’ bits were pretty fast action-y, but overall a strong contender.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge I love this book! It’s one of my favourite MG reads in ages. The combination of pseudoscience/fantasy things, gothic Victorian aesthetic and historical feminism is SO GOOD. It’s just a solid novel.
One by Sarah Crossan This was wonderful; I’ve read several books by Sarah Crossan and I still think that her strength lies in verse novels. (Is that what I call them? Poetry novels? Anyway. ) She does them so well, writing beautiful poems whilst still creating a narrative! IT IS VERY IMPRESSIVE. My main problem was that it did feel a bit clichéd and expected… I don’t know, I guess I’d just have liked a bit more of a twist.
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley When I first saw this was on the shortlist, I thought it would be my favourite. And…well. It still is! I adored this book even more the second time I read it. History! Civil rights! Queer people in history! (And awesome chapter titles.) SO MANY THINGS TO LIKE. The ending was wrapped up a bit too neatly, but to be quite honest we need more happy queer characters in historical fiction. Lies We Tell Ourselves will probably have a personal space in my heart for a long time. 🙂
Although One was crowned the eventual winner, I’m not too upset because it was my second choice. I thought the judges would probably go for it. And Lies We Tell Ourselves actually won the popular vote in the inter-schools event I attended, so I’m super happy that other people have enjoyed it! (Also, OUR TEAM WON THE QUIZ. Mwahaha delicious maltesers as a prize.)