The 2011 YA Fiction Nerdies Go To…

Since I cannot bear to watch award shows live because they drag out the moment of WHO WON the categories I most care about for what might seem like HOURS or DAYS, I will not inflict such unnecessary pain on you, the dedicated YA fiction lovers reading this post.

The winners for the 2011 YA Fiction Nerdies are…

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner

Divergent by Veronica Roth

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Now that you know who won, you can scroll down to learn more about these incredible titles, their authors, and even check out some book trailers with a slightly calmer heart rate.

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner

Her website:

Her Twitter: @gaepol

We teachers get excited when we see that something new, set in the here and now, connects up to something we teach. No exception here when we see that this makes so many connections with Of Mice and Men.

But that doesn’t really give credit to how she manages to create these wonderfully quirky characters that you feel like you know them – or that you want to know them, help them, love them.

But Paul W. Hankins (@paulwhankins) takes this feeling of universality and relate-ability farther than that feeling of having met these people before:

Gae’s characters are us. We don’t always know that we’re about to go on a journey. Our friends, our stories, sustain us. Gae captures this. How, when, and why we share stories is what THE PULL OF GRAVITY really is. Delivering a book and being delivered by a book. Powerful.

Powerful indeed, Mr. Hankins.

“I live and write on Long Island with my two amazing boys, my handsome, smart husband who sings, and two very “enthusiastic” cockatiels, Taha and Bobo (who are screeching to me now to be included, way loud from the other room). When I’m not writing, I’m still a practicing family law attorney/mediator, and when I’m not doing that, I’m swimming, or reading in my hammock in the sun.” Bio from

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Her website:
Her Twitter: @veronicaroth

Brian Wyzlic (@brianwyzlic) wrote to share what we teachers know is the best rating system by students ever:
“There has only been one book that has not spent a single day this year on my classroom’s bookshelves: Divergent. Almost every day, I have a student see the dust jacket, left behind by the current borrower, and ask “Is Divergent in yet?” It is usually checked out within minutes of being checked in. The waiting list is longer than for any other book — by a wide margin. It may not win a Nerdy, but it definitely qualifies for an award from my students.”
I’m with Brian on this. Divergent”s been missing from my shelves with a waiting list since I brought it in my room and told my students it took me five hours to read it and a waiting list for Insurgent has already been started.

“Veronica Roth is only 23, so her bio will be short. She’s from a Chicago suburb. She studied creative writing at Northwestern University, and wrote DIVERGENT (Katherine Tegen Books, May 2011). The second book in The Divergent Trilogy, INSURGENT, will come out in May 2012. In the meantime she will spend endless hours browsing Wikipedia in her pajamas as she eats corn flakes. (Or some other kind of bland breakfast cereal.)” Bio from

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

His website:
His Twitter: @Patrick_Ness

I remember Kim McCollum-Clark (@KimMcCollum) giving me a well-traveled copy of A Monster Calls in August and telling me that I needed to read it immediately. I struggled to stay up late enough to finish it that night, but succumbed to sleep a mere 40 pages from the end. The next day, I had a hard time focusing on much at the writing institute I was at because I just had to finish that book. I did not follow the instructions given to me by the many who had already been mesmerized by its powers – I did not have a box of tissues at the ready. But I learned two valuable lessons that day: crying at a large gathering of teachers will ensure not only concern but the necessary tissues and crying about a book while proclaiming it brilliant will guarantee that people start writing down the title.

I know how it felt to read this powerful book, but Teresa Rolfe Kravtin (@trkravtin) offered a much more eloquent review:

“A tour de force. Patrick Ness weaves a tale rich with layers of symbolism, paradox, and ultimately understanding, of grief and the incredible power love and acceptance. Illustrations by Jim Kay bring the images within the psyche of Conor to remarkable reality, and the graphic novel nature of the book allows the reader to experience Conor’s palpable, symbolic dream world. It takes a virtuoso to meet the difficult challenges inherent in such a project, and what Patrick Ness has delivered is an extraordinary gateway to understanding the process of love and loss.”

More briefly put by Lauren Peugh (@Lopopo5): “A beautiful, unexpectedly lovely novel about pain, loss, and forgiveness. The scary beginning will draw adventurous kids in, the heartfelt story will keep them there.”

As a side note, there is a hauntingly lovely audiobook version of this narrated by Jason Issacs that would be amazing if packaged with the book. I can’t imagine totally missing out on the illustrations since I read the book with them.

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and SUNDAY TELEGRAPH and is a literary critic for THE GUARDIAN. He has written five books(Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, and Topics About Which I Know Nothing). Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.” Bio from

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Her website:
Twitter: @laurenmyracle

This book is not a light, easy read, but so many of the best YA novels are the ones that almost dare us to continue reading as we wrestle with the troubles and conflicts along with the characters on the pages. It reads like a mystery, but as Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) points out in her review: “This is a book about more than just finding a criminal. This is a book about overcoming past injustices and obstacles and ultimately finding out the truth. The truth not only about the hate crime at hand, but also Cat finding out the truth about herself and others in her town. It is also about the thin line between good and bad. It is always not clear which side of the line someone falls. And sides change easily. This is an important book to have around and ranks up there with books like Speak as a book that is just so tough to read, but so important to share.”

“Lauren Myracle is the author of numerous young adult novels. She was born in 1969 in North Carolina. Lauren Myracle holds an MA in English from Colorado State University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. she has written many novels, including the famous IM books, ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r.” Bio from

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Her website:
Twitter: @libbabray

Lauren Peugh (@Lopopo5) offered this review: “Told with Bray’s trademark caustic wit, it is the tale of a planeful of beauty queens who get stranded on a desert island. Think “Lost” meets “Miss America”. Add a healthy dose of reality tv (in my mind, only large doses of reality tv are healthy!) and a boat of sexy pirates and you’ve got a hilariously snarky don’t-miss read!”

If the words caustic wit and hilariously snarky sound like fun, then you must read this book if you haven’t already. I have to say that I couldn’t stop giggling as I listened to the audiobook version of this (read by the author herself!), but the footnotes were what nearly made me shoot coffee out of my nose.  (If you’re prone to such unfortunate responses to funny things, do avoid listening to this on your commute to school. It’s hard to explain the coffee stains day after day…) The teacher in me couldn’t help but think about how nicely this would pair with Lord of the Flies or serve as a awesome example of satire, but I know that it’s more important that I put this in the hands of someone else who needs a good laugh.

If you’re up for an amazingly awesome interview of Libba by herself about Beauty Queens:

I lived in Texas for most of my life; I live in New York City with my husband and six-year-old son now; I have freckles and a lopsided smile; I’m allergic to penicillin.” Bio from but you should really go online and read the whole thing. It’s so much more Libba.

Cindy Minnich is a high school English teacher who is more and more grateful every day for the authors who slave over their work to create opportunities for her to revitalize the readers in her classroom. Thank you especially to the ones on this list as well as those who were nominated.