I've seen Plain Kate by Erin Bow on book store shelves and in library branches, and while it looked possibly decent I didn't bother picking it up until the Cybils Young Adult Fantasy finalist list made it a challenge book. Once again, I want to thank the Cybils committee for leading me to a good read.
Plain Kate is about loving and losing family, making choices, saving the world even when it hurts, and sometimes saving a little bit of grace as well. It takes its young characters seriously enough to let them suffer damage when the risks they take don't pay off; it respects betrayal and death in ways that many modern texts don't. All this and an awesome talking cat make for a powerful story. I hope I can get my sixth grader to read it; the cover has an appropriate tone but doesn't really have anything to do with the story and won't be a selling point for him. A-
(He wouldn't try it. Humph.) (The Amazon link is for the Cybils committee, I think.)