ABNA – Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (Young Adult Reviews)

Well. Things have changed since Anne of Green Gables. Remember that series? And the Cherry Ames, Nurse series? And Nancy Drew and The Bobsey Twins?

There are three finalists in the Young Adult Fiction category. I thought the first two had clichéd back stories. The third, I plain didn’t get.

The first, Spookygirl (by Jill Baguchinsky). Young girl’s Mom dies, father can’t take care of girl, girl goes to live with Bad Aunt, girl comes back to live with father. This has been done before, many times. The only difference is that this father runs a funeral home, and the girl helps the father with makeup on the faces of the corpses and also paints portraits of them when they are dead, but before the funerals. And oh yeah, there’s this ghost named Buster who lives with them and he has to be caged up sometimes, but if you leave him in the cage too long, he gets really pissed and makes a mess of things. Really? Is this what the younger set likes these days? Oh wait, yes it is. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, and, I guess, ghosts. The writing seemed to be fine, and strives to be humorous but to me it sounded like an older person trying to appeal to a younger person. I could be wrong, I’m not sure of the age of this author. I was moderately hooked though, on one aspect of the story. Seems Mom died under suspicious circumstances, and it appears some believe it was Dad who did it. That’s interesting, and would be enough to keep me reading.

The second, Lost in Thought (by Cara Bertrand). Here BOTH of girl’s parents die in a car crash. Now I suppose this does, in fact, happen to a few people, but I have read a lot of books with this back story. I am not sure why an interesting book can’t be written where the heroine’s Mom and Dad remain intact, not dead, and not divorced either. Add to this, neither of our heroine’s parents had any family but, luckily, Dad was very successful in his short life (I put him in his twenties when he died) and made a lot of money, such that our heroine is endowed with trusts and millions of dollars. It is a little vague how he accumulated this vast amount of wealth, lucky stock buying maybe, which I guess if you are a teenager, isn’t really important, but to us older, cynical individuals, we want to know. So, how did that happen exactly that he made so much money at such an early age? Heroine lives with an “Aunt” (a Nice Aunt) who is really Mom’s college friend. Hmm. Okay, this could also happen. Oh, one more thing. Our heroine sees dead people. Remember the movie, Sixth Sense, “I see dead people”. Word for word. Good writing, and a pretty good hook though. Our heroine, who is subject to fainting spells and migraine headaches due to the fact that she sees dead people, sees the same car which was responsible for her parents going off the road into a roll, which ultimately killed them.

The third, Devolution (by Richard Larson). This one did not have a clichéd back story at all. But that’s because I couldn’t understand a word of it. I couldn’t figure out where we were, or why we were there, or what we were doing there. An example from the third paragraph:

Virus outbreaks were handled meticulously. The self-replicating programs never made it very far into the system before security software found them and walled them in: once that happened, a quarantine zone was established.

Are we inside a computer? Not sure. There are some references made to electronic nodes in the backs of skulls, so maybe not really. At any rate, I was clueless as to what was going on. This is really not my genre, maybe there are people out there who actually get this, but do not count me among them.

And one more thing. I was taught that dialog attributions should always be “said” or “says”. Don’t use cried, exclaimed, repeated, yelled, or whispered. Just “said”. He said, she said. It is only to let the reader know who is talking, it should never try to describe how the person is talking, that should be done through other means. This author violates those rules. “I was there before the sirens,” Dimas grinned. No. Dimas said those words, and may have been grinning while he said them, but nobody ever grinned a sentence, to my knowledge. Here’s another one. “… the shop-keeper lowed”. Lowed? Later his characters, continue, and point out, snort, rumble, demand, lie and protest. And there is a generous use of adverbs, which should be used, if not never, rarely. As in “Dimas said dryly”.

I’m trying hard to read other genres, but in the case of YA, it’s difficult. I’d have to give Lost in Thought my vote here. I like the title, and I was moderately hooked, and the writing is good.

The results will be in tomorrow, and I’m going to be logging on early to see how well I did with my reviews. Did I like what the general population liked? Or not?

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