Friday, 10 May 2013

4 Past YA Edgar Nominees You Should Read

Last week the Mystery Writers of America presented the Edgar Awards at a banquet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. Live by Night by Dennis Lehane took out the Best Novel award, while Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein took out Best Young Adult Novel (a full list of all winners can be found here). My congratulations go out to all of the winners, but as those of you who have been following this blog over the past few months will know, none of the nominees for Best Young Adult Novel really impressed me this year. Code Name Verity wasn’t even a mystery; and of the four remaining nominees, three of them (The Edge of Nowhere, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, and Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things) had very weak mysteries as minor sub-plots; and Crusher, although a true mystery, was nothing special. The Edgar Awards home page claims that the Edgars are “widely acknowledged to be the most prestigious awards in the (mystery) genre”, but by giving the award to a book that isn’t a mystery novel, the Mystery Writers of America are devaluing their own brand. As I said before, in a previous post, if a non-mystery can win an Edgar, what is the point of having this award at all?

The really disappointing part about all of this is that, had they wanted to, the Edgar judges could have filled the YA novel shortlist with great mysteries. There were some fantastic YA mystery novels released in 2012 that didn’t get nominated at all, including: Slide by Jill Hathaway and I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga. I highly recommend them both to readers and Edgar judges alike (reviews to follow in future blog posts). I Hunt Killers was nominated for the 2013 Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award for Best Young Adult Novel, so I’m hoping it wins there. The Stoker Award Winners are to be announced on 15th June 2013.

I wish I knew what went wrong with the Edgars this year, because in the past the Edgar Nominees list has actually proved to be a pretty reliable source of good mystery fiction. This was the reason why I decided to read all of this year’s nominees. Here are four past YA Edgar nominees and winners that prove that the judges’ decisions aren’t always misguided:

Shelter by Harlan Coben (2012 Nominee)

Coben is best known for his series of adult novels about sports agent turned detective Myron Bolitar, but in Shelter, Coben turns his attention to Bolitar’s 16 year old nephew, Mickey, who has come to live with his uncle following the death of his father and is equally talented when it comes to solving mysteries; in this case, the disappearance of Mickey’s girlfriend. Coben’s highly enjoyable and often hilarious style translates well to YA fiction, and an overarching plot centring on a secret organisation that may have been involved in the death of Mickey’s father is likely to keep this series going for several more books to come.

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (2010 Winner)

Cody’s life is going well. He’s the quarterback on the school football team and dating Clea, the smartest girl in school in his small town of Little Bend, Colorado. All that changes, however, when Clea’s father sends her away to boarding school in Vermont; the couple break up; and Cody has a career-ending football injury. Then, one day, Cody learns that Clea has gone missing from her new school. Determined to find her, he travels across country to join in the search, and in the process, uncovers a number of secrets the townsfolk would rather remain hidden. This is a solid and suspenseful mystery that benefits from well-developed characters courtesy of an extended set-up before Clea’s disappearance.

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford (2010 Nominee)

To earn some money before going off to college, high school graduate Christopher gets a job as a janitor in the local morgue. But when a body shows up listed as a suicide that even Christopher can tell was murdered, and the town sheriff is the prime suspect, Christopher teams up with Tina, an ambitious young newspaper reporter, to get to the bottom of the apparent conspiracy. John C. Ford’s debut novel is full of twists and turns and a strong sense of humour. The highlight for me was Christopher’s younger brother, Daniel, a primary school aged genius who may one day take over the world.

Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams (2006 Nominee)

When Cracked-Up Katie, an eccentric local woman in Echo Falls is found murdered, 13 year old Ingrid Levin-Hill decides to follow in the footsteps of her hero, Sherlock Holmes, and investigate. Ingrid is everything you wish you were as a child, but probably weren’t: a smart, soccer-playing, aspiring actress with detective skills to rival Nancy Drew. Like any kid, she makes mistakes, but her flaws make her human – and drive the story. She is essentially an older version of Ruby, the nine year-old detective of Abrahams’s earlier adult novel, The Tutor, and it’s easy to see why Abrahams decided to use her as the star of his first foray into YA fiction. In spite of Ingrid’s young age, Abrahams never talks down to his audience, so this book will appeal to readers of all ages, not just 13 year olds.


  1. Geez, I haven't read any of these! Shelter sounds good.

    1. Harlan Coben's a fantastic writer and "Shelter" is a great "gateway" book to his adult crime novels.