The Whitney Award finalists were announced Tuesday. It's always fun to receive recognition from one's peers for a job well done and I certainly think Josi Killpack and her assistants deserve a pat on the back. They undertook a massive task and carried it off in great style. I've been a judge for at least one category every year since the Whitneys began and this year I got to judge Historical. We didn't have as long a list to read and choose from as some of the other categories did, but we certainly got some of the most outstanding novels of the year to read, including those that did not become finalists. You can find a complete list of the finalists here.
The next round of voting will be by a larger group of people including members of Storymakers, publishers, book store staff, etc. They will narrow the finalists down to one winner in each category--except speculative. That category has been divided into an adult and a youth category. There will also be an overall novel of the year chosen by a smaller group of readers, those few people who manage to read all 35 finalists or who have the nerve to lie and say they did. Actually I've read and reviewed 20 of the finalists and only found a couple of those disappointing. Sorry, but I just can't bring myself to read ten speculative novels, so I won't be voting in Novel of the Year category this year. There will also be an award for the top novel by a first time author. Yes, it is possible this year to get one of the overall awards and place first in a genre as well.
Every year there is considerable debate over which genre or category some novels should be placed in, or even if they should be considered at all. A book only needs to be written by an LDS author to be eligible; it doesn't have to have any connection whatsoever with the LDS Church or its beliefs or standards. Sometimes the line between genres is very thin, making category placement difficult for the contest committee. Last year the novel that placed first in Romance wasn't even a Romance, but it was an outstanding novel that deserved recognition--just not in that category. I must say I'm more comfortable this year with the categories each finalist was placed in, more so than any other year. There are also fewer books left off the finalists lists that I think should be there. There are always a few that touch me or another reader in a particular way that just doesn't have the same impact on someone else so they don't make the finals, but they're still great books.
I'm pleased to see that in the four categories I'm most interested in, Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Historical, and General Fiction, the finalists are not only well written, but well-edited and for the most part, reasonably copy edited as well. If I have time, I'll read the General Youth Fiction finalists. Several books in that category sound interesting. Anyone just looking for a good book to read could pick up almost any book on the list and have an enjoyable read.
Congratulations to all of the finalists. Reaching this point is no small feat. Books that reach the finalist stage have already been screened for quality and have already proved their worth. The next level of judging will be much harder because merit won't be as big an issue as personal appeal and luck. There will only be one winner in each category, but in my book, you're all winners.
Are any of these books your personal favorites for 2010? Are there any books among this 35 titles you think don't deserve to be there? Which outstanding books were left off of this list?