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The Edgar Awards 

 

2007

Winner

Buried by Robin Merrow MacCready YA MAC
High-school senior Claudine looks after her alcoholic mother in their decrepit trailer on the coast of Maine. She cleans up her vomit, washes her clothes, and takes on the role of parent in their family of two. When her mother disappears, as she frequently does on binges or with a new boyfriend, Claudine is at first relieved to have the house to herself, and she tells everyone that her mother is in rehab. She worries about her mother, too. Claudine is both immensely competent and obsessive-compulsive, scrubbing her hands to the point of damage and engaging in counting rituals. Although she attends a support group and has a caring best friend, teachers, and school counselors to turn to, she is clearly coming apart. MacCready spins a tantalizingly creepy web of Claudine's disintegration, told through letters to her absent mother, dream sequences, and flashbacks. The shocking but wholly believable climax is a moving ending to this cautionary, empathetic story of codependency. For another book about a teen raising herself, suggest Ron Koertge's Margaux with an X.

Nominees

The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks YA BRO
With the same hint of supernatural overtones as his Lucas, Brooks's latest novel grabs and holds readers' attention from its very first chapter, in which narrator Ruben Ford, who possesses a form of second sight, senses his sister Rachel's murder on a desolate moor. Determined to find Rachel's killer so her body can be released from the coroner's office and returned home for burial, Ruben, 14, and his 17-year-old brother, the streetwise fighter Cole, travel from their London home to the tiny, dying town of Lychcombe. There, the boys find hostile, loutish villagers bent on covering up the festering corruption that lies at the town's core—and the root cause of Rachel's rape and death. The boys' investigation sets off a series of beatings, confrontations and kidnappings. Although some of the violence takes place off stage, enough of it unfolds in such detail that squeamish readers may find themselves skimming over certain passages. These grim goings-on provide a setting that highlights the narrative's fragments of haunting beauty: Ruben's connection to the Dartmoor countryside and Cole's unexpected attraction to a gypsy girl. Subplots about the Fords' own partial gypsy lineage and the mythic aura of the moor serve to heighten the suspense. Peopled with singular protagonists and downright scary villains, this bleak-yet-romantic tale is a whirlwind ride for the right reader.

The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson YA FER
This suspenseful tale includes some unusual technical elements for good measure. Seventeen-year-old Cameryn has wanted to be a forensic pathologist for as long as she can remember, and when a killer strikes in her hometown of Silverton, Colo., she takes advantage of her father's position as coroner to assist in the autopsy. But she had not expected that she would know the murder victim. Cameryn's interest is both personal and professional, so when the Medical Examiner sends her from the room, she does some independent investigating in hopes of bringing her friend's killer to justice. Cameryn then finds her own life in jeopardy as she hones in on the murderer. Ferguson's (Show Me the Evidence) novel includes detailed descriptions of human corpses and the autopsy process, but viewed through Cameryn's fascinated eyes, the dealings with the dead are more clinical than gross, and reinforce her resolve to make sure justice is carried out. The ending will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Ages 12-up.

Crunch Time by Mariah Fredericks YA FRE
Fredericks weaves together the experiences of four juniors who are in the throes of preparing for the SATs: Max, an intelligent test-taker and gifted writer with his sights set on Columbia; Daisy, his best friend, a popular basketball star who freezes up at test time; Leo, a hottie and a skilled tester but with no extracurriculars to his credit (thus he yearns for "the perfect score" to ensure entry to Yale); and Jane, daughter of a movie star with average scores and little idea of what she wants to do. The quartet comes together in an SAT prep course, when the teacher can't find the test booklets, and Daisy suggests they walk out. Through a first-person narrative that shifts among the four, the author convincingly portrays each character's motive for leaving the class, and for accepting Jane's invitation to study at her house. They gradually improve their scores over the course of their weekly meetings. Meanwhile, Max finally summons the courage to tell Daisy that he feels more than friendship for her, just as Leo begins calling Daisy at home. And when a brilliant senior admits that she was paid to take the SATs for someone in their class, suspicion causes the narrators to turn on one another. Even more than the mystery, teens will be intrigued by the philosophical discussion these four characters bring to light regarding what it means to be judged by standardized test scores. Ages 12-up.


The Night My Sister Went Missing by Carol Plum-Ucci YA PLU
As the book opens, 17-year-old narrator Kurt Carmody recounts his sister's disappearance from a dune party, where she was last seen on the abandoned pier on one of New Jersey's barrier islands. Someone brought a gun to the party; several partygoers heard the sound of a shot, and Casey vanished from the end of the pier-no trace of blood, no body. Kurt finds a quiet corner of the police station where he can overhear the cops' interrogations of the high school students who were at the party, each teen's answers throwing suspicion in a new direction. Through Kurt's first-person narrative, Plum-Ucci (The Body of Christopher Creed) addresses peer pressure and the chasm between social strata in this beachside town. Suspects include Stacy Kearney (the "Fallen Queen type"), granddaughter of the island's wealthiest man, who is allegedly pregnant, and Stacy's ex-boyfriend Mark Stern, who had just started dating Casey. All the members of this loosely connected community harbor secrets they do not want to be revealed. But in the end, someone's secret comes to light with devastating consequences. Ages 12-up.

2006

Winner

Last Shot by John Feinstein YA FEI
The setting is college basketball's Final Four, and the stars are the two teenage winners of a writing contest, Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, whose prize is a free trip to the tournament and an opportunity to cover the games. Friction between the pair quickly turns to camaraderie when they overhear one of the players from fictional Minnesota State being coerced into throwing the title game. Feinstein makes good use of his insider's knowledge of the Final Four as the intrepid junior reporters set out to expose the scandal, ultimately weaseling themselves into the bad guys' lair in classic Hardy Boys' fashion. The premise holds together, if a bit shakily, and Feinstein keeps the action moving throughout. The draw, though, is the vivid background, complete with cameos by real-life media personalities and big-name coaches.

Nominees

Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams YA ABR
Welcome to Echo Falls.Home of a thousand secrets, where Ingrid Levin-Hill, super sleuth, never knows what will happen next.  Ingrid is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or at least her shoes are. Getting them back means getting involved in a murder investigation rivaling those solved by her idol, Sherlock Holmes, and Ingrid has enough on her plate with club soccer, school, and the plum role of Alice in the Echo Falls production of Alice in Wonderland. But much as in Alice's adventures down the rabbit hole, things in Ingrid's small town keep getting curiouser and curiouser. Her favorite director has a serious accident onstage (but is it an accident?), and the police chief is on Ingrid's tail, grilling her about everything from bike-helmet law to the color of her cleats. Echo Falls has turned into a nightmare, and Ingrid is determined to wake up. Edgar Award–nominated novelist Peter Abrahams builds suspense as a smart young girl finds that her small town isn't nearly as safe as it seems.

Quid Pro Quo by Vicki Grant YA GRA
Cyril Floyd MacIntyre, 13, is perplexed over the disappearance of his mother, a 28-year-old law-school graduate. He begins his tale with a frank description of his mother's past behaviors. Drug use and a life on the street took their toll on Andy, who, at 15, pregnant with Cyril, began taking more positive steps. She raised her son, continued her education with the aid of public assistance, and became an attorney. When she vanishes, Cyril becomes involved in a web of intrigue and deceit searching for her. His discovery of resurfacing shady characters who played a role in Andy's disappearance makes for a suspense-filled, well-plotted legal thriller. Sure to be a popular choice with teens.

Spy Goddess, Book One: Live & Let Shop by Michael Spradlin YA SPR
Someone has stolen the Book of the Seraphim, and legend has it that the second coming of Mithras is near. Fifteen-year-old Rachel Buchanan, an unenthusiastic student at Blackthorn School, wouldn't care except that her class recently visited the museum that houses the artifact, and she overheard her headmaster talking urgently to an FBI agent. Something is up, and Rachel isn't one to sit by without investigating. When Headmaster Kim disappears, Rachel is the only person with enough information to rescue him.

Young Bond, Book One: Silverfin by Charlie Higson YA HIG
What does it take to become the greatest secret agent the world has ever known? In this thrilling prequel to the James Bond series, readers meet a thirteen-year-old schoolboy whose inquisitive mind and determination set him on a path that will one day take him all over the world, in pursuit of the most dangerous criminals known to man. When we're first introduced to young James, he's just started boarding school at Eton in the 1930s. His first adventure is set in the Highlands of Scotland, where James spends a holiday at a remote castle. Mysterious things start to happen -- someone has disappeared; then James discovers that the dark waters around the castle contain a sinister secret and he becomes aware that a very dangerous mind is at work. SilverFin is the story of Young Bond's first mission to thwart a deadly foe.

2005

Winner

In Darkness, Death by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler YA Mystery HOO
Gr. 7-10. This is the third installment in the authors' series of intriguing mysteries set in eighteenth-century Japan, beginning with The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn (1999). In this book, 14-year-old Seikei and his adopted father and mentor, Judge Ooka, set out to discover who murdered a powerful warlord. Signs point to a ninja, a hired assassin. But who procured the services of the ninja? Judge Ooka orders Seikei to travel to a northern town with the seemingly inept Tatsuno, who turns out to be a ninja himself. Eventually, Seikei's journey takes him to a sacred mountain, where he has brushes with the supernatural and a dangerous encounter with the murderer, who reveals the name of the man who hired him. Although the mystery plot itself is not as elaborate as those in the other novels in the series, this is a great adventure story, featuring lots of action, authentic period details, and an evocative, shadowy atmosphere.

Nominees

Story Time by Edward Bloor YA BLO
Gr 6-9-A book filled with social satire, black comedy, fantasy/humor, and extreme situations. Eighth-grader Katie and her brilliant Uncle George, a sixth grader, find themselves mysteriously redistricted and assigned to Whittaker Magnet School, which focuses entirely on excellence in standardized testing. The regimented kids are taught by regimented teachers in the basement of a haunted old library building and the school is run by a strange family obsessed with its own achievements, whether they are earned or not. All sorts of things are amiss at Whittaker, where elitism reigns; where dramatic deaths are hidden nearly as carefully as the dark secrets involving the building, the town, and the people who live there; and where appearances are paramount. Back at home, Kate lives with her agoraphobic mom, who has mysterious ties to the library, while George lives next door. Kate wants only to return to Lincoln Middle, where she could play Peter Pan and be with friends, while George tries to make the best of what is a monstrously warped situation. The Whittaker family goes to extremes to impress the visiting First Lady, creating an atmosphere ripe for catastrophe-as well as for redemption. This expansive and engrossing tale has elements of Roald Dahl, J. K. Rowling, and J. M. Barrie (the Peter Pan subtheme is not coincidental), but with a decidedly American flair.


Jude by Kate Morgenroth 
Gr 8 Up–Fifteen-year-old Jude believes that his mother abandoned him at birth. When his heroin-dealer father is murdered, the authorities discover that he is the son of DA and mayoral candidate Anna Grady, and that he was kidnapped by his father at three weeks old. His mother welcomes him into her comfortable life and sends him to an exclusive prep school. When a schoolmate dies of an overdose, Jude, though innocent, is implicated. His mother's boyfriend, Harry, the deputy police commissioner, convinces him to take part in an elaborate charade to help Anna get elected on an anti-drug platform. Harry promises that once she's elected he will come forward with evidence that Jude is innocent. Instead, Jude is tried as an adult, sent to the state penitentiary for five years, and finds that Harry never meant to get him out at all. The plot is tight, deliberately paced, and full of delicious twists. Unlike many suspense novels, the characters are as thoroughly developed as the story. Jude, especially, is lovingly written–self-conscious and highly moral, with an angry toughness that balances him into believability. The dialogue, especially between Harry and Jude, is fluid, charged, and revelatory instead of expository.

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick YA SED
Gr 6-9–Set in a European city in the late 18th century, this tale of magic and treachery, the first of a two-book set, takes place during the "Dead Days" that lie between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Boy, who lacks both a real name and any knowledge of his past, is the virtual slave of a disagreeable magician, Valerian, who treats him either with indifference or cruelty. Several harrowing events, including a mysterious murder, bring Willow, a clever orphan girl, into their lives. The theme is a classic one, for Valerian has sold his soul to some ill-defined otherworldly spirit in return for earthly pleasures. Now his time of reckoning is at hand, and he must find a way to save himself before December 31 or be lost forever. The two teens accompany him on a seemingly crazed quest for a book that might hold the answer. The novel is heavily overlaid with a sense of foreboding, and the language powerfully describes the bleak weather and the squalor of the decaying city. Part of the adventure takes place in a dismal graveyard, part in a terrifying maze of subterranean canals. Unexpected twists keep the action moving, and the suspense never flags. In the end, much is explained yet much remains uncertain. Readers who enjoy fast-paced melodrama with an overlay of the supernatural will devour this tale and wait eagerly for the next installment.


Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly YA WEA
Gr 6-9–A missing person's report opens this suspenseful novel set in southern England. Abby Ryzner, a 13-year-old Goth, has vanished, and the last person to see her alive was her former best friend. Emma switched schools and distanced herself from Abby and a fantasy game the two of them had played for years after a traumatizing episode in which she was labeled a freak. With mixed emotions, Emma joins the search. Chapter titles provide a grim countdown of the passing days. Emma feels caught between two worlds–that of her new, fashionable friends and Abby's punk-looking companions who are into D & D. As she begins to hang out with Abby's friends, including Ski, a guy she can talk to, Emma finds herself, once again, absorbed by role-playing games. Knowing Abby was trying to set up a challenging, live-action game, Emma and Ski descend into the bowels of an industrial plant, armed only with flashlights against a scary, pitch-dark maze of tunnels with gurgling pipes. To their horror, they discover the truth about Abby's disappearance. The two mysteries keep readers guessing. Emma, the narrator, gradually gains strength to surmount shameful memories and learns to accept her own uniqueness. She also makes peace with Abby's family, after showing compassion and imagination in helping resolve the puzzle of their daughter's whereabouts.

 

 

 

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