Following careful consideration, our incredible judging panels chose the 2016 INSPYs award winners in our seven respective categories. Following months of reading (by the Advisory Board and later, our judging panels), planning, author interviews and emails in access, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2016 INSPY Award Winners.
Below are the seven winning novels in their respective categories and a statement from our judges on the reason why they felt it was worth the award…
CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE / ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer: In a category full of wonderful contemporary romances, we had a tough choice to make! Ultimately though, The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer stood out from the rest with its character growth and true-to-life issues as well as the author’s expressive way with words. Each character in the story was intriguing – from Gin and her daughter Raine, to firefighter Dan and Raine’s boyfriend Cody, to Dan’s big crazy family, Cody’s mom Evie, and even Gin’s coworkers. The romance between Dan and Gin was sweet and built slowly (but not too slowly), and the obstacles between them felt genuine, rather than just thrown in to create conflict. The relationship between Cody and Raine also felt real and sincere. Throughout this novel, Springer deftly dealt with true-to-life issues like single parenthood, teen pregnancy, poverty, and judgment within the church, showing how God can work through the hard things in life to bring healing and beauty. Really, that “realness” is what makes The Dandelion Field a perfect expression of the Inspy Awards’ mission statement, and it’s why we chose it for the 2016 award for Contemporary Romance.
Jaded by Varina Denman: Representing the best in debut fiction, Varina Denman’s Jaded is a complex contemporary novel that goes against the security most in its genre exhibit. The faith issues it wrestles with, the efficient snapshot of small-town living, and the quiet yet meaningful prose collide to create a story with depth. The romance is refreshing, not because of the opposition it presents, but because of the characters. Its heroine, Ruthie is a beautifully flawed and relatable character, whose fall from grace makes the lessons of forgiveness impacting, a theme that will stay with the reader long after the final page.
Our panel chose Secrets She Kept as winner of the General Fiction INSPY award for its deep emotional impact and for the subtly powerful way its theme of forgiveness is threaded into the story. We loved the way the dual timelines interwove and built on each other as secrets from the past were gradually revealed to modern day characters and to readers. Gohlke’s vivid storytelling and close attention to historical detail immersed us in the historical time period with Lieselotte, even as we discovered with Hannah just how profound an impact the past can have on the present. We found the lead characters endearing, and gladly cheered them on – Hannah toward self-discovery and a better understanding of her mother, and Lieselotte in her perseverance in following her conscience despite danger, betrayal, and hardship. The story as a whole impressed us all, and we are delighted to give the INSPY to this title.
Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin: Through Waters Deep was an inspiring story about two individuals who learn that they’re stronger together while trusting in God than they are going it alone. Loveable characters, some suspense and danger, an historical setting the comes alive, sweet inspirational moments, and a romance that builds from friendship, all combine to make a masterly woven story that is engaging from beginning to end. Perfect for Historical Christian Romance readers!
LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS
An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund: An Uncertain Choice stands out with a breathlessly tangible medieval setting, vividly described characters that are constructed in such a way that invites readers to know them better with every page. The writing, the characters, and the romance; every nook and cranny of An Uncertain Choice was flawless! Every page is a masterpiece of relatable storytelling as expressed through its impactful POV. Beyond its beautiful prose, An Uncertain Choice boasts a delicious romance, with three dreamy and chivalrous knights (!).The novel has everything and more any reader could want in the YA historical, or any fictional world, genre!
MYSTERY / THRILLER
The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks: We chose The Bones Will Speak because it draws readers in from the very beginning. Opening a suspense novel should involve a riveting and twisting plot that will hold reader’s attention until the final page. The Bones Will Speak provided just that. Its suspense is top notch, but the main character Gwen Marcey is what keeps us flipping the pages. The nail-biting suspense keeps readers engaged and the shroud of mystery surrounding the real culprit keeps the whodunit a guessing game. Fine writing, complex characterization and a great story make this book a winner.
The Shock of Night by Patrick Carr: This novel seamlessly combined the best of fantasy and mystery to create a unique story all its own. The complex tale described a world very much like our own: a nation grown complacent in its undeserved blessings, flawed characters who sometimes failed despite their good intentions, and yet, also, the redemptive work of God through his servants. The protagonist is a man mired by doubts and fears but unbroken by the darkness around and within him. Instead, he pours his heart out in honest, broken prayer, and takes the example of his Lord to heart by striving against the odds to bring good into a world that often does not recognize it. Engulfing twists, delightful wit, and authentic discussions of tough moral quandaries make The Shock of the Night a book not to be missed.
We’d like to thank our judges for their hard work and careful consideration of each title.
Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors!