ALA Midwinter is where all the committee work of the organization is done. All those awards that were announced... those final decision are made at Midwinter. While the Caldecott, Newbery and other award committee meetings are closed, the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee meetings were open, so I took the opportunity to see how a list like this is developed.
At the meeting I attended, the committee was going back through the list of nominees. Audience members were invited to comment on the titles if they wanted and committee members were advocating for their favorites and trying to sway other committee members into voting for particular titles. There was such rich conversation about the books. This group took very seriously their charge to select only the absolute "best" of the year.
One of their meetings featured about 80 local middle and high school students, who were invited to come and talk about which books they thought should be on the list. Each student prepared for this meeting by reading 20 or more books from the 200 titles that were under consideration. It was fascinating to hear which books they liked and did not like and why.
These are some of the titles that got high praise from the kids:
Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
Firelight by Sophie Jordan
The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
Divergent by Veronica Roth (this one was the most popular; one girl even touted it as the next Twilight or Hunger Games)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Between by Jessica Warman