Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

2020 finalists for the Lodestar Award for Best YA Book

I'm a late convert to the Lodestar Award. I opposed instituting it, because I felt (and feel) that there are already too many Hugo categories (even if this is formally not a Hugo). It also seems to me that the diligent voter is carrying an ever heavier burden of reading obligations, though I guess this applies more to Best Series than here. However, I have to admit that pound for pound, the Lodestar Award finalists have been pretty good books, and have given me more new authors to look out for.

Anyway, in brief here's what I thought about this year's final ballot:

Catfishing on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Marvin: I don’t know why you can’t ever tell us where you are. I mean even if your dingo father’s on CatNet he’s not going to be in your Clowder.
This is being marketed as a novel-length expansion of Kritzer's Hugo-winning storyt "Cat Pictures Please", which fought off the Puppies in 2016. For me this wasn't a good start, because I am one of the few who was not charmed by the original story. However, the book is a cracking good read, with conscious AI, dysfunctional family, a courageous road trip across the northeastern USA, and a hilarious robot sex education scene. A good start to the list. You can get it here.

Deeplight, by Frances Hardinge

Second paragraph of third chapter:
It wasn’t me! It was somebody else’s idea! I was scared, and it wasn’t my fault! I was tricked into it!
A grim, intense tale of body horror, toxic friendship and an isolated shorefront community in a well-imagined but devastated fantasy world. I did find myself somewhat wincing for the protagonist at times, as his trust was stretched to breaking point. Also, I absolutely loved the cover. You can get it here.

Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Mom and the two strongest aunties dragged the unconscious investigator into the parlor. I looked away, feeling a little guilty about all the trouble I’d caused, though the sound of his head thunk-thunk-thunking across the threshold gave me a moment of vindictive pleasure. They laid him on a quilt as if they were going to nurse him back to health. The quilt would have to get washed afterward. I could guess who’d be stuck with that task.
I've enjoyed Yoon Ha Lee's adult books, but felt that this story of Korean animal spirits, queer-inclusive space opera and a plucky protagonist seeking her lost brother didn't quite balance all the various elements. Still, good to have a deep dive into a culture that I don't know all that much about. You can get it here.

Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher

Second paragraph of third chapter:
The shortcomings of the pillow, however, were nothing compared to using the ground as a mattress. Things poked him and prodded him, the ground was hard and rocky, and the only crop to survive the drought seemed to be the bumper crop of insects.
Fun short book about a boy wizard sent on a heroic quest with his armadillo friend. I found it a bit slight compared to some of the others on the ballot, but it's engagingly written. You can get it here.

Riverland, by Fran Wilde

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Gasping, I struggled onto my back and floated for a moment beneath stars pricked bright into a pitch-black sky. The bed frame was gone. The carpet, too.
Very dark portal fantasy about emotional abuse. Densely written, and I didn't really get into it. You can get it here.

The Wicked King, by Holly Black

Second paragraph of third chapter:
“Watching my back is the perfect opportunity to stick a knife in it,” I remind him.
Sequel to last year's Lodestar finalist The Cruel Prince, with lots of palace politics leavened with sex, and our precocious heroine sorting out the governance of her city-state and its relations with its neighbours and its minorities. Perhaps the most small-p political of the finalists. Enjoyable enough. You can get it here.
Tags: bookblog 2020, hugos 2020, writer: fran wilde, writer: frances hardinge, writer: holly black, writer: naomi kritzer, writer: ursula vernon, writer: yoon ha lee

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