The finalists for the 2013 Whitney Awards were announced last Friday and people are already talking about who was included, who wasn’t, and which books are likely to be winners. As I did last year, I’m going to share a few of my first impressions this month, and then follow up at least once during the next two months after I have read more of the finalists.
Who was included: My first, general, impression was that there were a lot of familiar names and familiar publishers in this year’s group of finalists. Then I looked more closely and realized something else–this year’s finalists are dominated by female authors. Out of the adult fiction finalists, 23 of the 25 books were authored by women (and the majority of them feature female protagonists). In youth fiction, 12 out of the 15 finalists were written by women, and many of them also feature female leads. The Young Adult General category books are all stories about young women, four of them with contemporary settings and one historical. Also, Heather Moore has dominated this year’s group with 4 books as finalists in four different categories. If I remember correctly, that’s the highest number yet for any author.
Who wasn’t included: Every year with the Whitneys, as happens with most other awards, there are books that just don’t make the finals for some reason or another. I’m not surprised that Ryan McIlvain’s Elders is not one of the finalists in the General category, but I was surprised and disappointed that Ryan Rapier’s The Reluctant Blogger didn’t make it. I know it received enough nominations, and in my opinion it is a much stronger book than at least two of the other finalists. Another book that could have ended up in historical was Songs of Willow Frost, especially since Jamie Ford won a few years ago for his first book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I was also surprised to see, yet again, Orson Scott Card left out of the finalists. Another author who has been consistently excluded is Dean Hughes, whose recent series Come to Zion has yet to see any books make it into the finals. Annette Lyon is another established author whose most recent book (Band of Sisters: Coming Home) didn’t make it either.
What I’m planning to read: I like the change made last year to separate Youth fiction and Adult fiction because it makes reading the finalists more manageable. As I did last year, I plan to read all 25 titles nominated in the Adult categories. I’ve previously read 8 of them, so that makes my task easier. Most of the finalists that are left for me to read are somewhat shorter books that shouldn’t take too much of my time; this may be an optimistic goal, however, since I’ve recently started an online graduate program. I’ll do what I can and report back in a month or two.
First impressions: I’ve only read two of the books in the General category so far, Mile 21 and The House at Rose Creek. Out of those two, I thought Mile 21 had much more complex characters and a more original plot. I’m most looking forward to reading Love Letters of the Angels of Death because of the positive reviews I’ve read and the intriguing plot. I’ve also only read two books in the Historical category; the other three are all by authors that I’ve read before and enjoyed, so this could be a tough category to decide on. I feel the same way about the Romance category–I’ve read 3 of the books and there are some strong contenders here. I love Melanie Jacobson’s writing and want this to be her year for an award, but Julianne Donaldson and Sarah Eden are some pretty stiff competition. I don’t have a lot to say about the Mystery/Suspense category or the Speculative Fiction just yet since I’m not very familiar with the books that are finalists. I’ll have to post more after I read some of them.
What do you think about this year’s finalists? Which ones have you read and which are you planning to read?