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Cannonball Read III: Summary Reviews of the Shortlisted Books for the 2011 Carnegie Medal

By sevenstories | Books | June 17, 2011 |

By sevenstories | Books | June 17, 2011 |

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading the shortlist for the 2011 Carnegie Medal which celebrates excellent young adult writing in the UK. As a school librarian, the Carnegie Medal is a book prize I’m particularly invested in. I am always impressed by the shortlist and it always includes a great selection of brilliant writing. Last year’s winner was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which was superb.

So here is a brief summary of each one in descending order from my least to most favourite. (Having said that, I did enjoy all of them!)

Book titles link to the full review sevenstories did of each book and I encourage you to check them out. —TU

6. The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff
Whilst Rosoff has created a wonderful heroine in Pell, I felt the tone and beauty of this book would be much better suited to an adult audience. The novel is subtle, melancholic and evocative with an unusual and non-traditional romance, but most of my teen readers reported it as boring.

5. White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick
I really like Sedgwick as an author (and he was super nice when I was lucky enough to meet him recently when he visited my school), however I don’t think that White Crow is his best novel and I would recommend Revolver and My Swordhand is Singing as better examples of how good Sedgwick can be. Having said that, White Crow is wonderfully scary and unsettling and was popular with intelligent but reluctant to read students. It was a good read, but I didn’t love it.

4. The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean
A lovely, quirky novel which follows the adventures of the eponymous Pepper Roux as he seeks to escape his prophesied death on his fourteenth birthday. Pepper is a charming hero and his escapades are funny and at times moving and the book has a strong message of being true to yourself.

3. Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace
A thought-provoking, and at times upsetting, story of race and responsibility set in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe. The closest to home as even though Monsters of Men is possibly darker, this is based in the real world. As well as being meaty, it’s also an exciting, fast-paced read with complex characters.

2. Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin
My runner up is the story of Zarita and Saulo in this story of exploration, revenge, growing up and romance. The story is constantly evolving with several evocatively described settings. Breslin seamlessly melds humour and tender human moments with moments of violence and cruelty. The characters are both flawed and yet very sympathetic. An exciting read with appealing but realistic characters against the chilling backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition.

1. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
This was definitely my pick for the winner, I felt it was in a different league from the rest of the shortlist. Carnegie is quite a unique young adult book prize as it is judged by adults and the criteria are not as simple as the books which teenagers enjoyed the most. I felt some of the books on the shortlist were wonderful but not right for its audience (Rosoff) and some were lovely books but perhaps not quite worthy of winning the Carnegie medal which sets out ‘to celebrate outstanding writing for young people’. To me, Monsters of Men was the only book on the shortlist that could truly be described as outstanding. Words I used to descibe it when I first reviewed it included magnificent, shocking, intriguing, surprising and compelling. My conclusion was thus; ‘A worthy conclusion to an outstanding trilogy’ so it was clearly a Carnegie contender for me from the outset.

The winner has actually already been chosen and I am looking forward nervously to finding out who it is on Thursday 23rd June. I know one of the members of the judging panel and am very jealous that he knows the outcome and was trying to read his face when we spoke about it, but to no avail unfortunately!

For more of sevenstories reviews, check out her blog, a case for books.

For more information about Cannonball Read III, click here.

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