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2021

1st Place: Adrift, by Abby Snyder

SYNOPSIS

Ever since her parents were mysteriously lost at sea eleven years ago, Elettra Axel has been plagued by nightmares and a deep fear of the water. But even stronger than that fear is Elettra’s desire to know what really happened to her mother and father’s ship and all the others that were lost in that dangerous stretch of water–and put an end to it. When an opportunity comes for Elettra and her adopted sister Aderyn to join a voyage in search of the truth about this legendary danger, they bravely take it. But each mystery only folds into another, and the shadowy monster that haunts Elettra’s nightmares is stronger here than she could ever have imagined… and determined to take her too.

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Abby Snyder’ explores the power of lost memories and haunting fears in this watery fantasy. An excellent premise and compelling characters make its dialogue, action, and keen eye for detail stand out. All the judges enjoyed the strong and satisfying opening and resolution.

2nd Place: Hollow, by Sophie Monastra

SYNOPSIS

There are thousands of things wrong with the world, and Technopathic runaway Shal is one of them.

He’s running from the ashes of the city he destroyed. Running from a past that keeps on chasing him. But while running from a corporation of superheroes who want him dead, he gets stranded in the small, ordinary town of Hollow. And to make his stay worse, he’s trapped between an agent determined to make him suffer, a robotics genius who will do anything to find her cousin, a doctor who claims to be making a cure for his powers, and an old friend who’s decided to stop running and fight back.

As Shal gets dragged into their conflicting plans, he must figure out which side he’s on—if he’s on any side—before they tear the world and him apart.

And this time, he can’t run away.

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Technopathic runaway Shal is the perfect lens for a story filled with interesting characters and subtle humor. Monastra has a confident writing style that invites you to sit back and enjoy the superheroic drama. And the cliffhanger chapter endings are wonderful!

3rd Place: I Probably Won’t Live to See 1986, by Liberty Cousineau

SYNOPSIS

When during World War II, Otto Solomon created a compound to preserve his life after death, he vowed to take his revenge on the world for the cruelties it dealt him in life.

In the year 1985, Otto chooses a carrier for his death-defying compound, a hapless ghost hunter by the name of Leif Plover.

Leif, now tasked with finding a way to destroy the compound before Otto returns must make a choice to end it all: will he sacrifice himself to protect everyone he loves?

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A fun premise and fascinating world-building added to my natural delight (and dismay) at revisiting the year 1986, which I remember all too well. The premise is charming and the character relationships are heartfelt and rewarding. This is another story that executes chapter endings well.

Finalist: The Witch of Endor, by Alva Walsh

SYNOPSIS

Orileah Hexen does not know what it is like to live a normal life. Her six brothers are either dead or mad, her mother will not let her out of her sight, her father is never at home… and now she is a Magisk.

But even as one of the mysterious, magic-wielding elite of the North, things aren’t right. Her very great grandfather Samuel is less dead than expected. Saul, the only fatherly figure in her life, is not what he seemed at first. And, with the return of the ravens which the Fjendor thought they had banished beyond the mountains, she is plunged into an adventure through many Worlds, with many lies and betrayals.

Unable to escape with her life, she must at least escape with her soul… but even that has been taken from her.

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Orileah Hexen doesn’t know what it’s like to live a normal life, and Alva Walsh has a delightful way of conveying this fact. Kudos for excellent narrative choices and memorable characterization.

Finalist: Monsters Cold and Crooked, by Felicity C. Edwards

SYNOPSIS

For months, the land of Summerlea sank further into a magical winter caused by a vengeful assassin sorceress known as the Ice Queen.

Kallyn, prince of Summerlea, had kept the rare powers he was born with a secret most of his life, but after his sister dies from the Ice Queen’s magic, he’s determined to end the winter. To do so, he must complete an impossible task set by the Ice Queen which she will accept as payment for the lives of his people. If he fails, his land and his life will be forfeit.

With her brother desperately sick and no money for medicine, Briar Fairchild readily accepts a talking wolf’s mysterious request for her to sew a funerary shroud over 101 days in return for a large sum of money. Taken to live in a sentient House where monsters roam the halls at night,
she soon begins to realise that the wolf has secrets of his own.

Struggling to untangle the web of lies they’ve woven around each other, the two must complete the challenge and end the Ice Queen’s winter. But nothing and no one are as they first appear, and perhaps the coldest and most crooked monsters are the ones they call friends.

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Strong prose and vivid details combine with consistently great pacing to make this novel a very fun read. Edwards has a strong instinct for leading readers to the hard questions. Well done!

Finalist: Blood Sins, by Leyone Jones

SYNOPSIS

Mycroft Holmes just wants a normal life–or as normal a life as someone named after a character in a mystery novel can have. And he has that life all lined up–good grades, a maybe-girlfriend, a steady job. But when he’s told his father is in jail as a serial murderer, and he’s now the legal guardian of his two younger siblings, ‘normal’ goes down the drain.

Sherlock Holmes knows his father’s innocent and will do anything to prove it, even if it means destroying his own family.

Ashlyn Holmes just wants to keep her brothers alive, but they’re all being hunted. Their father’s past is catching up with them, and she doesn’t know if she can stop it.

Together, they can do anything.

Apart? They fall apart.

Read on the Student Forum »

The title of this entry captures the flavor of both its prose and characters. Its lighthearted surface hints at an undercurrent of serious observations about life.

2020

1st Place: The Weeping Forest – Grace Willson – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Red Herring for Hire – Abigail Haagen – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: The King’s Brother – Sarabeth Schuck – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Not My Duty – Emily Martin – Read on the Student Forum »
Dragonmantles & Goldfish Crackers
– Lauryn Trimmer – Read on the Student Forum »
Isbjørn
– Rachel North – Read on the Student Forum »

2019

1st Place: I Am Nightrunner – Victoria Shanks – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Frostlighter – Seraphina West – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: Message Carrier – Emily Schaeffer – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Outlaw – Miriam Crews – Read on the Student Forum »
The Traitor’s Sunstone – Felicity Edwards – Not available to read, by author’s request

2018

1st Place: Say Uncle – Rosey Mucklestone – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Hearthfoot – Victoria Shanks – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: Forgotten Flame – Michal Garner – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Chasing Phantoms – Abby Anderson – Read on the Student Forum »
The Questers – Nicole DeBenon – Read on the Student Forum »

2017

1st Place: R.E.M. – Ashley Schaller – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: To Kidnap DNA – Lydia DeGisi – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: The Stonecrest Existential Crisis Club – Sam Cooper – Not available to read

Finalists (not ranked)

Agram Awakens – Aidan Bender – Read on the Student Forum »
Evik – Emily Schaeffer – Read on the Student Forum »
Starless Nights – M. R. Shupp – Not available to read

2016

1st Place: Chromeheads – Jake Buller – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Ten of Hearts – Joy Audens – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: Hattie – Elisabeth Newton – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Show Me the Way – Meredith Lundell – Not available to read
Silhouettes: The Un-Telling of Peter Pan – Jamie Dougall – Read on the Student Forum »
Small Hands’ Flight – Charlotte Anderson – Read on the Student Forum »

2015

1st Place: Factory Rats – Catsi Eceer – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: The Monster Upstairs – Elisabeth Newton – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: The Reverse Road – Sam Cooper – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Of Lavron – Ellie Gardiner – Read on the Student Forum »
Somnia – Amy Nickelsen – Read on the Student Forum »
Wings of Dust – Charlotte Anderson – Read on the Student Forum »

2014 

1st Place: The Witch’s Cat – Miguel Flores – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Under the Weather – Sam Cooper – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: Children of Ashes – Justin Ferguson – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Pitch Black Stars – Catsi Eceer – Read on the Student Forum »
When the Stars Are Singing – Meredith West – Read on the Student Forum »

2013

1st Place: Blue Sky Burnt – Erynn Besse – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Redemption – Annika Lee – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: Broken Glass King – Abby Walsh – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalist (not ranked)

Dangerous Games – Emily Haan – Read on the Student Forum »
Flightless – Bethany Ingham – Read on the Student Forum »
Indumentum Oris – Verity Rising – Read on the Student Forum »

2012

1st Place: Bitter Magic – Collin Anne Suttle – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Hosanna House – Hannah Mills – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: Quintessence – Rachel Garner – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Heirborne – Braden Russell – Read on the Student Forum »
Survivor One – Richard LaRue – Read on the Student Forum »
Shining Stars – Wynter Croix – Read on the Student Forum »
Chatoyant – Sarah Seifert – Not available to read

2011

1st Place: Snapshots – Matthew Lauser – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Project Theta – Kyle de Waal – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: Deep Six – Collin Anne Suttle – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Archipelago – Sophia Debusschere – Read on the Student Forum »
Forewarned – Rebekah Swank – Read on the Student Forum »
My Lady – Grace Debusschere – Read on the Student Forum »
Sightless – Miguel Flores – Read on the Student Forum »
Speak Aloud, Scream Alone – Read on the Student Forum »

2010

1st Place: Recollections – Janae Leeke – Read on Student Forum »
2nd Place: Becoming Human – Jared Schmitz – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: My Father’s Dream – Sarah Wacker – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Sacrifice – Collin Anne Suttle – Read on the Student Forum »
The Fly by Night – Kyle de Waal – Read on the Student Forum »
Out of Darkness – Sarah Noé – Read on the Student Forum »
Of Princesses and Dragons – Grace Garner – Read on the Student Forum »
Offset – Matthew Lauser – Read on the Student Forum »

2009

1st Place: Kytt’s Tale – Carlie Gernhart – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Of Self and Sacrifice – Elizabeth Lobach – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: Allemande – Lydia DeWolf – Read on the Student Forum »

Finalists (not ranked)

Forest of Lies – Rachel Garner – Read on the Student Forum »
Knights in Red Coats – Jane Johnson – Read on the Student Forum »
Child of Darkness, Child of Light – Rachel Werner – Read on the Student Forum »
Prince of Thertine – Grace Garner – Read on the Student Forum »

2008

1st Place: Averill – Lydia DeWolf – Read on the Student Forum »
2nd Place: Fable Weaver – Carlie Gernhart – Read on the Student Forum »
3rd Place: Betsy Flowain – Rachel Garner – Read on the Student Forum »

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