It all began Oct. 12 when National Book Foundation announced its choices for the shortlist for the Young People’s Literature award in a live radio broadcast in front of an audience in Oregon. Judges read the list of nominees to the NBF staff over the phone. Customarily, five novels make the category, so the book world was surprised when the book “Chime” by Franny Billingsley was announced as the sixth contender.
The foundation later said that there had been a mistake, and that was why “Chime” had been added on.
“There was a miscommunication,” National Book Foundation executive director Harold Augenbraum said about the extra nominee. It’s been suggested that the fact that “Chime” and “Shine,” the title of Myracle’s novel, sound similar accounted for the mistake.
Augenbraum said that staff had realized they made a mistake and, rather than take one book off the list, had decided to simply include “Chime” as well.
“We could have taken one of the books away to keep it five, but we decided that it was better to add a sixth one as an exception, because they're all good books,” he said soon after the initial announcement.
But then last Friday, the NBF called Myracle and asked her to withdraw, according to The New York Times. Myracle agreed.
“I was over the moon last week after receiving the call telling me that ‘Shine’ was a finalist for the award,” Myracle said in a statement. “I was later informed that ‘Shine’ had been included in error, but would remain on the list based on its merits. However, on Friday I was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work, and I have agreed to do so.”
Augenbram told the New York Times that he couldn’t comment on why the NBF had decided to reverse its original decision, but that the mistake would never happen again.
“The whole thing is a regrettable incident and I wish it hadn’t happened,” he said. “I feel terrible personally, and I feel terrible for Lauren.”
The NBF stated that at Myracle’s request, it would donate $5,000 to the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “Shine” explores the story of a hate crime committed against a gay teenager.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.