I shared a little about the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award when the semifinalists were announced a few weeks ago. Today the three finalists were chosen: No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel, When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man by Nick Dybek and Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman.
Though I finished several of the semifinalists, the only finalist I’ve read is Girlchild. I’ve heard great things about all three novels, but Girlchild was one of my top five books of 2012, so I’m thrilled to see it getting more attention.
For some readers, Girlchild will have a few strikes against it from the get go. Emotionally, it’s an incredibly difficult story to get through. Rory Hendrix is easy to fall in love with, clutching her tattered library card and Girl Scout dreams. But Rory is living in a world unable to value books or achievement over survival, so her story is quick to break hearts. Girlchild also takes a unique form, more of a scrapbook of diary entries, edited memories, police records, conversations, social worker reports and school assignments than a traditional narrative.
What some will inevitably see as negative, apparent by looking through some GoodReads reviews, is exactly what I think makes Tupelo Hassman a bold, brave first novelist deserving of recognition.
Have you read any or all of the finalists? Who do you think should win?