This past year—2020—was definitely an unprecedented year. Nothing went according to plan, and everything that happened was difficult, to say the least. And because of everything that happened in 2020, beginning in March and lasting until the end of August, I experienced a massive reading slump. I read books throughout that time, but not as many as I usually do. In fact, in August, I read zero books.
Luckily, in the summer, I stumbled upon the Cybils Awards—a kid-lit blogger approved book award—and decided to submit an application to be a panelist. I ended up being chosen to be a first round panelist for the Young Adult Fiction/Speculative Fiction categories, and it was one of the best things that happened to me! It sparked new life into my reading habit and introduced me to a number of books I might not ever have read otherwise.
I read 36 books (37 if you include You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, which I didn’t get to finish until a couple days after the first round panelists convened and decided on our seven finalists for each category) between the beginning of September and the end of December, although most of my reading began in October when nominations started to roll in.
Unfortunately, I wrote only two reviews during the awards (one for Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, which I loved, and one for The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, which I also enjoyed), mainly because, like reading, I’ve been having a difficult time sitting down to write. I hope that I can go back and write more reviews for some of the other books I loved at some point during 2021, but we’ll see.
I don’t think I can say that I disliked any of the books I read, although there were some I enjoyed much more than others. For me, my top three picks in Young Adult Fiction category included Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, and Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez.
My top three picks in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category included Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, and Legendborn by Tracy Deonn.
A couple books that didn’t make the short lists but that I loved included Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle, as well as The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune and Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka.
I have to say—publishers were very generous to send me a number of books that were more difficult for me to get my hands on, which I greatly appreciated. Thank you! Above are the books I received in the mail from publishers. (The photograph does not include an advanced reader copy of The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg or three books I received after our judging was over, including Winter, White and Wicked by Shannon Dittemore, The Iron Will of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee, and Once Upon an Eid). I’ve read six of these books (the first six on the left), but I hope to read a couple more of the remaining seven books before I send them off to a new home.
If all goes well, I’m planning on donating these beauties to an organization called 50/50 Books, a bookstore that distributes books to schools, community centers, and other organizations across the nation in order to promote literacy and book accessibility. I hope that with my donation, these books will get into the hands of kids and teens who can enjoy them even more than I already have! They are the rightful audience of YA after all and should have complete access to all that YA has to offer.