This year, I was on the nominating panel for the Cybils in the YA Fiction category. It was an amazing experience. I read some fantastic books, and I discussed them with some wonderful people. Discussing and debating books with intelligent people like my co-panelists makes me feel smarter, and it sharpens my brain, and I love it. It makes me really think about the merits and appeal of the books I’ve read, rather than simply, did I love it or not, which, when I’m not at my best, is what my critical skills are reduced to. I had to be on top of my game to defend books that I loved and reject books that I didn’t feel deserved a place on our short list. I had to think, and I love thinking! I love it when critical thinking is demanded of me. And I love the Cybils.  Even though the short list we came up with isn’t my personal short list, I was forced to rethink some of my choices, and to either back off or come out with stronger arguments than ever. I believe that if you can’t defend your position, you either need to rethink your position or rethink your reasoning, and the Cybils force me to do that with books. Have I mentioned how much I love that?

A shout out to my fellow panelists:

Leila Roy of  Bookshelves of Doom
Rebecca Laney of Becky’s Book Reviews
Amanda Snow of A Patchwork of Books
Trisha Murakami of The Ya Ya Yas
Kate Fall of Author2Author
Abby Johnson of Abby (the) Librarian

They all rock, and their blogs are awesome. Add them to your must-read list if you haven’t already!

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for–the finalists! Out of all the nominees, the YA fiction panel (me and those mentioned above) chose seven books that will go on to be read by the judges. The finalists are:

Check out the lists for all categories, including blurbs from the panelists about why particular books were chosen:

Easy Readers
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Non-Fiction MG/YA
Non-Fiction Picture Books
Young Adult Fiction

I also wanted to mention a few favorites of mine that didn’t make our shortlist. I read a lot of great books for the Cybils, but these really stood out: I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert, Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher, The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti, The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith, Good Enough by Paula Yoo, How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan, and Everything You Want by Barbara Shoup. I loved a lot of the books on the list, though, and many are definitely worth reading.