2021 Cybils Winners

The 2021 Cybils Awards winners (Children’s and Young Adults Bloggers’ Literary Awards) were announced on February 14.

The Cybils Awards aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal. If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussels sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.

Here are the results from the speculative fiction categories. The complete winners list is here.


Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera (HarperCollins)

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is a stunning story of a brave and determined girl desperate to save her older sister, captured by the powerful dark criatura El Sombrerón. Though she must enter into the world of the dark magic of the brujas, sending the criaturas under her control to fight in the bruja’s arena, she never loses her kind heart and empathy. This is what helps her win through her challenges, while making her a character to love. The book, with a strong and captivating cultural background was inspired by stories the author’s abuelo told her growing up. With its vivid Southwest setting, inclusion of Mexican folklore, the fascinating magic of the criaturas, and beautiful themes of family, love, friendship, sacrifice and the importance of kindness, this is a story that will instantly capture the reader’s heart, and stay there.


Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson (Margaret K. McElderry)

Vespertine is a swift-moving novel with intriguing worldbuilding that revolves around different levels of spirits with a variety of powers and the people known as vessels who are possessed by those spirits. There is a fascinating dance of power between the interplay of people living with the Sight and the spirits themselves. The judges loved Artemisia as a main character, an antiheroine with a nontypical way of interacting with the world and with the complex sort of childhood trauma that impacts the rest of her life. Faced with one hard decision after another in which she could have chosen violence and retribution, Artemisia instead chooses mercy and empathy while still being badass when it’s required. Her relationship with the revenant is a highlight of the narrative—the push and pull of control and capability echoes the internal contradictions we all face in tough morally challenging situations.