What interests me most about the new William C. Morris award for new YA writers is the presentation of a shortlist from which the winner will be chosen. While standard procedure for some children's book awards in other countries and for our own National Book Award, this is a new twist for ALA.
I'm of two minds but mostly I like it. The announcement of contenders allows librarians--and kids--the chance to invest themselves in the process and thus the award. It also allows for two chances of outrage, joining "they didn't even nominate X" to "they picked Y?!," that second chance currently the only one available to Newbery, Printz, etc. watchers. Outrage is good for an award and has kept the Oscars going for decades. (Go see Slumdog Millionaire, by the way.)
On the other hand, I've talked with NBA finalists and winners who hate the whole horse race aspect of the thing, disliking being put into competition with their peers and, frequently, friends. The thinking seems to be that literature is meant for better things and finer feeling. We all know that the Oscars are essentially a sham, driven by politics and money as much as by sincere regard for a film's achievements, and are happy that, whatever their failings, the ALA book awards are largely free from such pressures. (Yup, they are.) The knowledge that one of a certain five books is going to win an award makes the whole publisher's-dinner drama (that's not a post in itself, it's a chapter. Of my memoir.) at ALA more suspect than usual, yes? Luckily, the stakes are small.