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LDS Fiction: Whitney Shoulda Woulda Coulda

April 28, 2009

Let me begin by saying again CONGRATULATIONS to all the Whitney winners. Way to go, you have worked hard, and it must be so gratifying to have so many people love your work and vote for it. You are all farther along the path I hope to get on at some point.

There are a bunch of books I wish could have won something too, though, and so I’m going to write a little about them, in no particular order. Note: this is not to diminish or take away from the winners, or second-guess the decision of the Whitney Academy. As has been written elsewhere, everyone who won deserved to win, because they wrote stories that compelled interest and loyalty. I just that I wish all the books I loved could have been recognized with awards. I know that’s not possible, so I am going to write a bit about them here.

Seeking Persephone: Annette Lyon blogged about this great book here. I read through the .pdf I was sent in one sitting, it was so compelling. And this is my Amazon review of it:

What a fun read! I very much enjoyed Seeking Persephone. It had well-developed protagonists, a resonant plot that combined the Hades/Persephone myth with Beauty and the Beast, and above all, that zing! that a good romance brings. Recommended!

If you like clean Regency-era romances, and character-driven conflicts, this will be the book for you. I was quite impressed. Reading over my review of it again, I remember how much I enjoyed it. And I start second-guessing my decision to vote for Taking Chances. Ultimately, I went with Taking Chances for this reason, which is personal to me but nevertheless part of my judging rubric: I wanted the books I voted for to reflect Mormons in a way that I agreed with. I liked the Mormons in Taking Chances; I liked the healing. Because what I most want is a literature that depicts Mormons in an honest way, any book that does this gets bonus points for me. This may not be fair, but it’s my bias nonetheless. But I have to say, it goes both ways: I am much harder on books whose depiction of Mormon characters irritates me. And I’m easily irritated. So, because I liked the Mormons and the healing in Taking Chances, I voted for it over Seeking Persephone. But I LOVED Seeking Persephone too; it had a pretty sophisticated, resonant plot, and great characters.

Taking Chances: you know I loved this one, so I’ll just refer you to my earlier review.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
: ah, I loved this book. I really, really loved it. So much. Great writing, a faithful retelling of a fairy tale I love, and so many great Norwegian touches. But Jessica Day George does not overplay her research: it’s just a detail here and there, enough to give it authenticity without going overboard. So hard to do, but so well done.

Alcatraz and the Scrivener’s Bones:
Brandon Sanderson has the coolest magic systems, and Alcatraz is no exception. The coolness of the magic system, its sheer originality, was what made this book a high-ranking one for me, even though the snarky tone got a bit grating sometimes.

Fablehaven: If we ranked books based on what our kids liked, which is another perfectly legitimate way to choose in the youth fiction category, Fablehaven would be right up there. My son loves these books. Devours them.

Farworld: See my previous comment about Fablehaven. While I enjoyed this book, my son has read it about three times. He’s very excited for the sequel.

The Reckoning: Wow. I was amazed by its authenticity of setting and characters: an American journalist imprisoned in Iraq. But it’s not just an adventure story; the protagonist has to confront her childhood demons here too. Very well done.

Keeping Keller: It’s the story of a couple seeking to care for their misdiagnosed autistic son, and each other, in the face of prejudice and lack of information. The voice is distinctly fifties, and very well done, I might add. It was so unique, I really wanted to see something good happen with it.

The Wyrmling Horde: Made me want to read the rest of the series. I’ve never read any David Farland before, and now I have a whole new series to enjoy.

The Host: Not a Twilight fan. But I did like The Host, quite a bit more than I expected, and well enough to say hey, Stephenie Meyers deserves some props here. If you’ve been overwhelmed by Twihards enough to not want to read those books at all (*cough* raises hand), then I have to say, read this anyway. It’s a fun beach read, and it raises some interesting questions.

Master: Okay, I will be frank: I thought I would hate this book. That is based on its cover, which is a style of art depicting the Savior that I dislike intensely. But I actually enjoyed this book very much. I learned a lot about the New Testament. I liked her choices to make all direct quotes from the Savior actual scripture; I was so relieved by it, I can’t tell you. And I liked the main character, Almon. It felt… more like an extended parable to me than a novel, though. Almon’s arc didn’t quite work for me. But. It’s still a book I would recommend reading, in spite of the cover art, because the prose is pretty tight and there’s a lot to be learned from it. It’s an impressive book.

Legend of the Jewel: I loved Isabel! I loved her spunk! I loved that she met up with a Mormon guy and made polygamy jokes in her head! I loved the mystery, and the tight plotting. This was a great read.

I realize that it’s a bit scary to put Whitney favorites out there publicly like this: I realized that when hardly anyone commented with specific choices on my Segullah post or on Robison Well’s similar post. The LDS writing community is small, and everyone wants to be friends. And I guess that by writing about the books I liked best, I’m automatically generating a list of books that weren’t my favorites. Sigh. But I just want to applaud a few more books that I was grateful to have discovered through the Whitneys, even if they were not official winners. I loved my experience reading all of them–even the ones that were not my favorites really helped me analyze what I like and dislike in writing, and I’m grateful for that. I’m learning to read as a writer, and that has been very valuable for me.

Go Whitneys!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2009 4:09 am

    Wow–our tastes are VERY similar. Going out on a limb here: I voted for SP. I liked (and disliked) Master for the same reasons you listed. Loved Isabell. The Host beats the socks off Twilight (although I think Mistborn deserved the award). I wish The Reckoning would have taken something. What else . . . Jessica’s book was my favorite YA, but they were all great, and she already has a Whitney, so I guess she’ll live. 🙂

  2. April 28, 2009 7:31 am

    Thanks for your candid reviews – I have previously bought according to your preferences/reviews, and to date have been very very happy with the books thus read!

  3. April 28, 2009 3:36 pm

    Once upon a time, someone dared to predict Oscar winners, and now everyone does it, even in the Hollywood community. Thanks for not being afraid to blaze a trail.

  4. Emily permalink*
    April 29, 2009 4:00 am

    Annette–it tickles me that we have similar tastes. Especially about The Host/Twilight.

    Selwyn–Really? That makes me happy. Which ones have you read?

    Tanya–hmmm, I wonder who the first Oscar predictor was, and if they made waves/enemies. I understand how tricky that can be; I don’t know any of these authors in real life, and so I can see that it would be delicate. It’s like if we had a Segullah contest on our staff or something; I don’t know that I could possibly tell one friend I didn’t like her essay as well as another friend’s.

  5. May 4, 2009 6:25 am

    Um, Bound, Mother In Me, Spare Change, was there a book by Kilpack at some stage? There have been quite a few…

    I was able to buy a few all at once a couple of months ago (a year?) all based from a Segullah post… I pretty much lifted all of your suggestions and went from there =)

    I contemplated not reading any more of your posts to save my wishlist from obesity, but thankfully that moment of insanity passed and I’m still reading and taking notes. Thanks for taking the effort to read and post about them!

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