2008 Alex Awards

american shaolin

Matthew Polly. American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch; An Odyssey in the New China.  illus. Gotham, $26 (9781592402625). 
A college student tells his fascinating, funny story about traveling from Kansas to China’s Shaolin Temple, where he attempts to master kung fu and find courage. A 2008 Best Book for Young Adults.

bad monkeys

Matt Ruff. Bad Monkeys. HarperCollins, $23.95 (9780061240423).   Jane Charlotte earns her living by killing bad people for good reasons in this high-octane, clever thriller of conspiracies, revenge, and secret government agencies.


Conn Iggulden. Genghis: Birth of an Empire. Bantam, $25 (9780385339513).   Temujin, the abandoned son of a khan, survives the harsh Asian tundra to become one of the world’s greatest military leaders in this absorbing historical tale.

the god of animals

Aryn Kyle. The God of Animals. Scribner, $25 (9781416533252).  After her older sister elopes, 12-year-old Alice is left behind on the family’s rundown Colorado horse farm to cope with her distant parents and the unsolved murder of a classmate.

a long way gone

Ishmael Beah. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Farrar/Sarah Crichton, $22 (9780374105235).  Beah tells, in his own words, his harrowing experiences as a child soldier in the Sierra Leone civil war. A 2008 Best Book for Young Adults.

mister pip

Lloyd Jones. Mister Pip. Dial, $24 (9780385341066).  On a war-torn Pacific island, 13-year-old Matilda describes how an eccentric white teacher fires the imaginations of the village children by reading Great Expectations aloud. A 2008 Best Book for Young Adults.

the name of the wind

Patrick Rothfuss. The Name of the Wind. DAW, $24.95 (9780756404079).  Homeless thief Kvothe wins a place at the school of magic, where he hopes to learn more about the mysterious Chandrian, who murdered his parents.

the night birds

Thomas Maltman. The Night Birds. Soho, $24 (9781569474624).  Asa, a Minnesota boy growing up in the nineteenth century, learns secrets about his family’s violent, complicated past following the bloody Dakota Conflict of 1862.

the spellman files

Lisa Lutz. The Spellman Files. Simon & Schuster, $25 (9781416532392).  Isabel can’t quit her private investigator job; she works for her family, and they’ll kill her if she tries to leave. A quickly paced, quirky mystery.

tales from the farm

Jeff Lemire. Tales from the Farm: Essex County, v.1.  illus. Top Shelf, paper, $9.95 (9781891830884).  In this stark, moving graphic novel, Lester, a recently orphaned 10-year-old, finds escape in a private fantasy world of aliens and superheroes with his friend, a former hockey player.