1999 Alex Awards
The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Knopf, $29.95 (0-375-40403-1).
The photos will grab teens first: a three-masted wooden vessel broken and splintered; rugged ice-encrusted faces of the ship's crew; fields of ice stretching into infinity. The Imperial Transatlantic Expedition, Sir Ernest Shackleton's daring but ill-fated attempt to cross the South Pole, comes to life in pictures taken by one of the crew and in the words of the men who lived the extraordinary Antarctic adventure. It's an exhilarating account of one of the greatest episodes in the history of polar exploration and one of history's all-time great survival stories.
Boylan, James Finney.
Getting In. Warner, paper, $14 (0-446-67417-6).
Boylan takes wicked aim at the college mystique, bringing together three adults and four high-school seniors for a whirlwind tour of swanky eastern colleges that turns into a journey of self-discovery none of them will ever forget. Long-kept secrets, betrayals, and complex relationships between teens and between teens and their parents mark this raucous, sexy, and also moving novel that gives new meaning to going off to college and coming of age.
Needles. Scribner, $22 (0-684-84232-7).
"I know about needles. My sister leaves them everywhere." So begins this absorbing memoir of a growing up marked not by illegal drugs but by diabetes. In graceful yet unsparing prose, Dominick recalls the exacting routines, the doctors, the hospitals, and the struggle for normalcy that shaped her older sister's life and later ruled her own. Although a candid record of the ravages of illness on family and self, Dominick's story is also an inspirational account of hope and courage. A paperback will be available next spring.
At All Costs. Warner, $24 (0-446-52315-1); paper, $7.50 (0-446-60740-1).
That federal agents happened to be looking for someone else didn't matter once they learned that Jake and his wife, Carolyn, were on their Ten Most Wanted List. By that time, though, the Donovans, with their 13-year-old son, were already on the run and committed to proving that the 16 people whose lives they were accused of taking were viciously murdered by someone else. Gilstrap, the author of Nathan's Run (1995), combines his expertise as an explosives safety expert with political dirty dealing and breakneck pacing to produce a terrific nail-biter that will leave teens clamoring for more.
Kercheval, Jesse Lee.
Space. Algonquin, $18.95 (1-56512-146-5); paper, $12.95 (0-425-16683-4).
In a memoir so beautifully and seamlessly written that teens will think it is fiction, Kercheval tells her own story, beginning when, at age 10, she moved with her family to a home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, in view of Cape Kennedy. Set against the promise implicit in the launching of Apollo, her touching recollection of her youth and teenage years--her strange, unhappy parents, her difficulties fitting into a new school, and her first love--speaks to universal concerns about growing up and resurrects a pivotal episode of American history and culture for a new generation.
Last Days of Summer. Avon/Bard, $21.95 (0-380-97645-5); paper, $12 (0-380-79763-1).
"Dear Mr. Banks, I am a 12-year-old boy and I am dying of an incurable disease" begins the first of many letters sent by determined, perfectly healthy Joey Margolis to tough-talking, loose cannon Charlie Banks, rookie third baseman for the New York Giants. Filled with energy, heart, and laugh-out-loud humor, this poignant epistolary novel looks at loneliness, friendship, and love in a way that both transfixes and transcends its 1940s setting.
Legends: Stories by the Masters of Modern Fantasy
. Ed. by Robert Silverberg. Tor; dist. by St. Martin's, $27.95 (0-312-86787-5).
It reads like an honor roll of modern sf/fantasy writers: Orson Scott Card, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Jordan, Stephen King, and more. With editor Silverberg carefully supplying background, 11 stellar genre writers reenter the well-established universes they so lovingly created in series: McCaffrey returns to Pern, Silverberg writes again about Valentine as king, Roland the Gunslinger continues his journey toward the Dark Tower. Series fans won't be disappointed in the least, and the novellas provide teens who don't know the earlier books with a wonderful preview of what's in store. The first volume of a three-part paperback edition will be available sometime this fall.
Robinson, Kim Stanley.
Antarctica. Bantam, $24.95 (0-553-10063-7); paper, $6.99 (0-553-57402-7).
The popular author of the Mars trilogy takes readers on a journey to a place with an equally inhospitable climate, bringing along a disparate group of characters with vastly different agendas for the frozen continent. Teens who like multilayered sf will be as pleased with the vivid blend of fact and fiction Robinson uses to depict the stark landscape as they are by the story's diverse cast and its gradually widening circle of intrigue.
Almost a Woman. Perseus/Merloyd Lawrence, $24 (0-7382-0043-3).
The author of When I Was Puerto Rican (1993) continues to limn her past, this time focusing on her adolescence and young womanhood. In a patchwork of memories, she recalls her guilty longing to escape the Brooklyn barrio, where she lived with her mother and large, extended family, and what she finds (including an affair with an older man) when she leaves. The mixture of regret, joy, and confusion is unmistakable in this portrait of a daughter growing up in two cultures. A Vintage paperback will be available in October.
Caucasia. Putnam/Riverhead, $24.95 (1-57322-091-4); paper, $12.95 (1-573-22716-1).
Questions about integration, intermarriage, identity, and the status of mixed-race children bubble beneath the surface of this dramatically rich, heartrending novel set in the 1970s. When her white mother, a civil rights activist, goes into hiding, Birdie, the lighter-skinned of two daughters, goes with her. The traumatic leave-taking not only separates Birdie from her beloved older sister but also loosens her grasp on her mixed-race heritage, a legacy that turns out to be increasingly important to her as she enters her teens.
Committee: Bonnie Kunzel (chair), Princeton (NJ) Public Library; Betty Carter, Texas Woman's University, Denton, TX; Susan Farber, Greenburgh Public Library, Elmsford, NY; Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego, CA; David Mowery, Brooklyn (NY) Public Library; Pamela Spencer, Alexandria, VA; Deborah Taylor, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD; Stephanie Zvirin, Booklist/American Library Association, Chicago, IL.