The YALSA Best of the Best Challenge officially ended on June 30th, and all of us who participated had a great time reading for the challenge.  We decided to wrap up the Challenge by commenting on our favorites and considering whether we’d be up for it again next year.

Titles read

  • Robin: 25 of 25 titles
  • Emma: 25 of 25 titles
  • Snow: 10 of 25 titles
  • Abby: 25 of 25 titles
  • Sarah: 25 of 25 titles

Favorite book you read?

Snow: Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson

Abby: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.  Jeffrey Lu is the best.  Ever.  Go read it now.

Sarah: I really liked Hero by Perry Moore and Wheels of Change by Sue Macy.

Robin: For me, there were many books I enjoyed, but the one that has really stuck with me (haunted me, even) has been Rotters by Daniel Kraus. I  was transfixed by the audiobook, and kept listening even though I think I would likely have put down had it one, not been part of a challenge, and two, I had been reading it in print.  Now I can’t shake it, weeks later, and I keep recommending it left and right.

Least favorite book you read?

Snow: Doesn’t apply to me. If I didn’t like it, I gave up after giving it the Nancy Pearl Rule of Fifty try.

Book you gave up on?

Snow: Ghetto Cowboy — Started it right after finishing The Scorpio Races, which was too many horses at one time. I will go back and finish it later. Why We Broke Up — Just couldn’t make any headway, even though I wanted to like it. Gave up after the second time starting over. Middle School: the worst years of my life — too much like Wimpy Kid, I didn’t need to read it again.

Abby: Carter’s Big Break.  I know a lot of other people loved this audio book, but the voice was too over-the-top for me.  Plus, the “teen-speak” made me crazy.  I sadly gave up on Scorpio Races, too, but only because the cd player in my car broke with disc 2 in it.

Sarah: Zahra’s Paradise.  I just couldn’t handle the puppy killing at the beginning.  I will probably try it again when I’m in a place of strength because I think the story of growing up in Iran is going to be an interesting one.

Robin: I didn’t quite give up on any books, but I admit I did have a bit of a struggle finding 25 books that I was excited to read out of the complete set of possibilities. I think that was partly because I’d already read a number of the titles that I would have been excited to read (which is good, I think) and then that I was less than enthusiastic about reading some of the other options.

Favorite re-read (if you re-read)?

Snow: I did not re-read, but I really wanted to and if I had I would have started with A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori.

Abby: The Grey King  I read this when I was little and somehow didn’t know it was a series.  I am so happy Susan Cooper won the Edwards Award, because now I finally read the whole series and it was fabulous.  I’m planning to re-read shortly.

Sarah: The only re-read was Anya’s Ghost.  I had loved it so much the first time, I wanted to see if it was still awesome.  It was.

Robin: I loved listening to The Dark is Rising.  I read at least that title every few years, and it always holds up, but it was a different way to reread to listen to it.

Favorite format (if you mixed up your formats a bit)?

Snow: I’m glad I had this push to listen to as many audiobooks as I did. After hearing The Scorpio Races it’s hard to imagine it any other way.

Abby: Graphic novel (surprise!)

Sarah: The pure unadulterated book always has my heart, but I do love those graphic novels as well.

Robin: For me, it was audiobooks.  I’ve been truly converted over to audiobooks in the past year or so, whereas I’ve always been an easy sell on prose and comics both.  Audiobooks it took me  a while to figure out when to listen to them (now, it’s when I walk/commute), but now that I have them, I’m never going back!

Which list did you read the most books from?

Snow: I was tied between Quick Picks and Great Graphic Novels, which is kinda funny since Great Graphic Novels had the most titles I’d read before the challenge started, so I didn’t think I’d have that many left to get through.

Abby: Top Ten Graphic Novels.

Sarah: Top Ten Graphic Novels, but percentage-wise Nonfiction Award would have won.

Robin: Percentage-wise I read the most from the Printz Award list.  I’d already listened to Scorpio Races when the challenge went live, but I was so glad to have the push to read the rest.  In terms of number of titles read, I read the most titles from the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten.

Would you do this again next year?

Snow: Probably.

Abby: Yes!  Definitely planning to.  I finally read a lot of things I had been meaning to.

Sarah: Yes!  I think it helped me read some things that I might have missed otherwise.

Robin: Yes indeed!  And this time, I’ll plan so that I have piled up books I want to read for the challenge and wait until it starts to tackle them.  It’s not like I never have anything else to read. 🙂

What did you love about doing this challenge?

Snow: It prodded me to look more closely at the Alex Award winners to find ones I might like.

Abby: Like I said, I finally read a lot of things I had been meaning to, plus I found a lot of books I might have missed otherwise (Jasper Jones).

Sarah: I loved discovering new things and then also having a reason to read all of the books that I’d planned on reading.

Robin: I really liked having the push to read outside my comfort zone, and to read titles that I know at least someone thought was worthy of an award or top ten placement.  It’s also why I like book clubs — they make me read books I’d never pick up on my own, and whether I like them or not, I’ve learned something from the reading.

What didn’t you love about doing this challenge?

Snow: Several things. First, and most important, I don’t like that YALSA requires sign-in to view the lists. It’s a pain to deal with and it slows everything down. Second, there needs to be a final list of titles somewhere other than at Goodreads. Not that I don’t love Goodreads, but there was a problem with people adding titles to the list on Goodreads and confusing people about which titles were the official ones. Also, and this is purely my own fault, I might try NOT doing the challenge while under deadline to do three or four other projects that involve reading.

Abby: I almost wish there had been a couple more weeks and five more books.  The last couple of weeks I have been debating over which books to read to finish the challenge.  I still didn’t get to a few I really wanted to, like Ready Player One and The Scorpio Races.

Sarah: I wished that the count started right after everything got the awards.  I had already made it a point to try to check out a few of the award winners, and I wanted to stay away from re-reads as much as possible to see new things.  (Not that this is a big deal, but I’ve found myself thinking of only the challenge books when talking about the award winners…)  I also agree with Snow that I wish there was one complete list somewhere, so there wouldn’t be so much clicking back and forth.

Robin: I think starting closer to the Awards announcement might well be a good idea, although as I said above, now that I know the challenge is coming, I can also plan ahead to schedule my reading of eligible books.  Still, I don’t want to have to put off reading a book I’m dying to read, or that everyone’s talking about, just because I want it to count for the challenge.

Suggestions for the future challenges:

Snow: A friend who was also doing that challenge had another suggestion she’d love to see implemented. She thinks it would make the lists a bit more inclusive to add in the Schneider Family Book Awards and the Stonewall Awards. Neither of the awards is administered by YALSA, but they are for the same age range. There is precedence, as the Odyssey Awards are not completely administered by YALSA. What do y’all think?

Abby: Agreed.  I would have liked to have seen more diversity.  There was a lot of heavy realism books and a lot of fantasy/sci-fi books, but all in similar veins.  These two awards might open it up to more diverse issues than the drug issues and friends/family dying that I kept seeing.  I also would have like to see some more funny books assigned and Close to Famous has some very funny moments.  Plus, I read two out of the three Schneider Family Books last month anyway, because they have been assigned for summer reading here.

Robin: I agree that it might be great to include other awards — like the Stonewall Awards for YA lit — to increase the diversity of titles available for us to read.

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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