For the past three months, I've been reading furiously, casting anxious sidelong glances at the towering stack of books that awaited me, checking my fellow first-round-panelists shortlists to see what I needed to read in order to argue for or against in the final showdown. Now I'm done, and as I tweeted yesterday, it feels awfully strange not to be reaching for my next nominee.
Books nominated: 172
While I've judged second round before, this was my first year on the first-round judging panel. While I always knew there were a lot of books nominated, I wasn't prepared for the reality of such a huge stack facing me. Now, granted, I always have a huge stack facing me. I generally have 900-some books on my TBR list. But they're not all big thick novels, and I don't have to read them all within three months. Luckily, nobody expects or even thinks it possible for one person to read Every. Single. Book that's nominated. This is why we have several panelists, so every book can get covered. I'm proud to say that our panel managed to have at least one reader for every single one of those 172 books, and all but a few of them had two readers.
Books I read: 79
Now, to be fair, a goodly numbers of those I read before the start of the Cybils, in my usual reading. Many of those were acquired from NetGalley. (Thanks, guys!) I also got review copies in both paper and digital form from publishers and authors, as well as stacks and stacks of them from my lovely local library. Not only am I a patron, I'm also an employee! So I was able to stalk my hold list with doubled efficiency.
Books I put down unfinished: 24
I did my best to give books more of a chance than I would normally, but some of them just didn't work for me and I had to put them down. Some of those books were much beloved of my fellow panelists, even. See above re: number of panelists. Different tastes.
First Cybils book I read: Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton
Coincidentally, this was also one of the first NetGalley books I ever read, partially on my Nook and partially on my phone (because my Nook got lost on a subway; long, traumatic story with an unlikely happy ending). This was October of a year ago, as in 2010. When it got nominated, I had to stop and think about whether it was even eligible, because I'd read it so long ago.
Last Cybils book I read: The Monstrumologist: Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey
This was one of those books that wasn't on my list originally, because I couldn't finish the first Monstrumologist book, and I sort of put it off. It was a dark, horrifying book, dripping with blood and other liquids best not reflected upon. It was a great book and now I know who to recommend it to when they ask. I also know not to eat chips and salsa during autopsy scenes. Urgh.
Book I was happiest to see nominated because it gave me an excuse to bump it far up my list: The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan
Alan! Alan, Alan, Alan. Sigh. You'll have to give me a moment.
Book I now carry in my mental go-to list: Blood Red Road by Moira Young
"Oh, you liked the Hunger Games? Here. Take it. Take it, I say."
Book I never would have read otherwise: White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick
Actually, this honor belongs to quite a number of books that I added to my TBR list when they were nominated, but White Crow was about on par with The Isle of Blood for the kind of dark and gooey creepiness that I tend to avoid.
Book I'm most glad I read, because at least I can discuss it now: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Seriously, for a time, every other reader's advisory question seemed to start with this book. (The others started with The Hunger Games and Twilight.) Having now read this, I have a better feel for what these kids want and I can say with complete assurance, "Oo, have I got a book for you!"
Biggest surprise: Angelfall by Susan Ee
I fell splat in love with this small-press e-book. A world in flames, evil angels, a tough girl in tougher circumstances . . . holy wow. There may be a review. You never know. I could get wild and crazy.
Ever since about mid-November, I've promised myself that after the judging was done, I'd take a break from not just reading at the Cybils pace, but even reading at my regular pace. Currently, I'm dawdling my way through a book that has nothing to do with the Cybils or even kidlit. It feels nice, and I'll be ready to get back to my regular reading soon. I've been knee-deep in ghosts, vampires, witches, magic, dystopias (oh, so many dystopias), and the like ever since the beginning of October. I just checked my stack, and I'm not reading anything with even a whiff of anything supernatural or sci-fi for the next two weeks.
And who did I vote for in that last, pitched battle? Ha, you don't think you're going to catch me that easily, do you? You'll have to wait for the announcement on January 1, just like everyone else. But I can tell you that it's a whiz-bang list, and I can't wait for the reactions.
Thanks and kudos
Thanks to Sheila Ruth, our most excellent and fearless panel leader, and my fellow panelists, Tanita Davis, Steve Berman, Sommer Leigh, Hallie Tibbets, and Vivian Lee Mahoney, who made being part of this panel so much fun. Thanks also to all the other Cybils judges, because I now know exactly how hard we all work. And to Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold, whose idea this was in the first place, I had a wonderful time and I'd do it again. Just give me . . . oh . . . about nine months to recover. Sound good?