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Best Novel Recommendation: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue deals the issues of blame and responsibility under tyranny, and asks how and if there is a way to heal from old wounds. Bitterblue has been queen since she was 10, and now that she has come of age she feels a duty to right the wrongs left by the late king, as well as to explore who she is, stifled by advisors all these years. She is a non-magical protagonist in a magical world. Also: code-breaking, sex positive characters, and inventing the printing press.

Bitterblue is a sequel to Graceling, and a companion to Fire, but it can be enjoyed without having read books one and two (though there will be spoilers for both). I know many people were upset about a YA category not being added last year, so I doubly suggest giving this one a shot if you're looking to get YA on the ballot.

Comments

I think you actually want that tagged for 2014, not 2013. I've added the 2014 tag, but you may want to drop the 2013 tag. (Hugos are dated by the year they're presented, not the year the work appeared.)
Bitterblue came out in 2012. I know I rec'd it late.
Oh, I see. Sorry about that. I'm just used to people mis-tagging stuff during the first few months of each calendar year.

BTW, while I have no strong feeling for or against a YA Hugo, can you address the issue of works being eligible simultaneously in multiple categories? YA works are in fact already eligible for a Hugo Award in the category based on their length. Creating a separate Hugo Award for what is really IMO only a marketing category says, I think, either:
  1. The works aren't good enough to compete in their own length-based weight class (to which the usual argument is to point at those YA works that have won Hugo Awards, like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Double Star)

  2. YA Works are so good that they deserve to be eligible in two categories simultaneously (which seems wrong to me on general principles, but I may be misunderstanding the argument).

On thing that I have occasionally heard is that people think the rejection of a separate category for YA works somehow means that they aren't eligible at all, which isn't true. Surely not many people really think that a Hugo Award administrator would disqualify a work of SF/F marketed as YA that got enough votes to make the ballot because "it's not real SF/F, since it's aimed at the YA market," do they?

I'm not trying to be sarcastic. I'm genuinely confused about this. I've been at a every Business Meeting for twenty years, and I still don't see the argument being made in a way that clarifies the situation for me.
I've never been to WorldCon and haven't had a conversation about this debate before, but I have been thinking about it since I watched the Business Meeting webcast last year. When it was voted down, I remember authors and fans lamenting that the Hugos will not remain relevant if younger generations aren't aware of them, and making them aware means having a YA category. I can see their point. I can also see the point that YA is just a marketing category. Had I been at last year's Business Meeting, I think I would have voted for the trial run of the YA category because I'm willing to give it a chance and see what happens.

My thought process on this is always developing, but here's where I am now. The categories are length-based, and they must be that way for a reason. I don't know what people were thinking when they made up the rules, but I suspect it might have to do with the type of story being told. Short stories are very different from novels in that novels are more complex in terms of subplots, character arcs, etc. Short stories have the opportunity to take on stranger, more experimental subject matter and form because there isn't as much pressure on them to be accessible. For me, reading a short story is a much different experience than reading a novel. Reading YA novels and adult novels are also different experiences for me, though admittedly not as dramatically as the former example. The experiences of YA characters are unique enough to YA books that I'm willing to look at them as something different enough to merit their own award category (formative experiences: first time falling in love, first time being betrayed, first time transgressing).

I don't like the idea of a book being nominated in two categories. There would have to be a provision, such as an author choosing which category they would like to be in without knowing what the competition is.
Thanks for the well-reasoned and thoughtful reply. It really is a difficult question.

The length-based divisions are traditional and historical, and are generally based on how people interacted with the field: either novels or shorter works published in the magazines that were the primary way many if not most fans got their SF/F. And there is the practical matter that objective length (with some provision for slippage between categories) is far easy to adjudicate than content or marketing category. The specific divisions have gone from 2 to 3 to 4 to 3 to 4 (as I recall) based on politics, including the rather passionate involvement of some prominent SF professionals the last time we split the medium-length category into the existing Novella and Novelette categories.
And thank you for the context. :)
I just read Kristin Cashore's books Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. The characters were great--complex and strong and the stories were an exciting read. Having grown up in South America during military dictatorships and torturing, I know first hand about how cruel we can be to each other. I just didn't think that it was necessary to be so "vivid" with the violence in Bitterblue. Isn't this a young adult novel? We already knew that Leck was a sociopath who raped and tortured animals and little girls, did it need to be added that he forced other people do it too? I wish the focus could have stayed more on the rich complexity of how to heal from the ravages of injustice and torture. Plus, how to heal, forgive and bring to justice the people who were swept along in the wave of that violence.
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