Three stars! Two plots for the price of one! Paranormal romance WITH commentary on the paranormal romance genre! A book for book lovers! Publishing trivia sprinkled throughout! Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld is a door stopper of a book with a lot to say — about the intricacies of publishing, the craft of writing, the art of pulling stories from life, and the strange compulsion that asks people to take on the challenge and stress of sharing your words with total strangers. [Read more...]
Here’s some magic realism by way of fairy tales with writing that’s often achingly beautiful. Some books engage your intellect and others grab your heart; some books, however, immerse you in a sensory experience. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is this third kind of book. In a densely packed narrative that spans generations, Leslye Walton writes about love, obsession, regret, innocence, identity, freedom, and a lot more, aided by descriptive writing that emphasizes the five senses.
The Shadow Hero, story by Gene Luen Yang & art by Sonny Liew
First Second, July 2014
Reviewed from final copy
I don’t review graphic novels here that often, although I read most of them, because I always worry that I don’t know enough about art. But I know enough to know that this is fantastic as a novel and as a work of graphica.
Through the Woods, Emily Carroll
McElderry Books, July 2014
Reviewed from final copy
Just yesterday, we had our annual visit from an NYPL teen librarian to get students public library cards and do a bunch of booktalks. The book that got the strongest reaction? Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods. Both classes had teens verbally enjoying the spooky pictures (and one class had a quick debate about the appropriate audience. “Picture books can be for all ages,” said one very wise teen). With 3 stars, blurbs from Kate Beaton and Lucy Knisley, and beautiful art and writing, these five short stories will suck you in. [Read more...]
It seems like everyone is talking about The Family Romanov*. Let’s set aside those stars though, because a discussion of what it means when a book earns full marks, ahem, stars, should be its own post. (Okay, here’s the TL;DR version: six stars last year were the prelude to Caldecott gold for Brian Floca’s Locomotive but weren’t so predictive for Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints—even though we wanted them to be.)
The more interesting awards discussion surrounding this book is actually about audience. Is Fleming more likely to be in the running for a Newbery or a Printz? And yes, that last sentence assumes that The Family Romanov is a serious contender for one or both, because really, if it isn’t, I’m going to have seriously re-think everything I know about the world. [Read more...]
There’s always some weird dance of anticipation and dread when an author you respect as an author for adult readers dips into the YA world. Happily, Meg Wolitzer is very clear eyed about YA and about why she writes YA — it’s not to jump on the glory train (and isn’t it funny that YA is the glory train? That never stops being strange to me), and it’s not to say something to teens, although of course things are said. No, it’s about the feelings, and about capturing them on the page so that the rest of us can revisit those heady emotions.
And Belzhar is a perfect tempest of teen emotion, even if it’s not always a perfect piece of writing. [Read more...]
Nostalgia and the Printz process don’t really go hand-in-hand. But those old school feelings really can color reading experiences. We have to do a lot of work to recognize them and move past them in order to assess a book more objectively. The first time you read someone, you might have been a young, impressionable librarian (Karyn is not the only one dating herself this week, ahem). Or an author’s earlier work could have defined an entire field and, you know, won the very first Printz award. What I’m saying is your (OK, be honest: my) baggage might make it hard to realize that the particular book you’re holding isn’t what you’re expecting. But, as always in Printz discussion, it’s important to focus on the book in hand, not previous works. [Read more...]
And we have finalists! With yesterday’s announcement of the National Book Award Finalists in the Young People’s Literature category it’s really starting to feel like awards season. Last month, Karyn wrote about the longlist, observing that social conscience seemed to be a common thread among the nominees. Now that we’re down to five titles, her theory’s been reinforced.
Does literary quality mean that a writer has to have a strong authorial presence? I bring this up because Beyond Magenta is a wonderful nonfiction book. It’s easily one of the strongest contenders for this year’s YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction—but will it be a serious Printz contender? [Read more...]
This year, it has really come home to me that I have been doing this for a while, with the following exchanges:
Me: Oooh, a new one from Cecil Castellucci!
Joy: You mean the LA Review of Books editor?
Me: Oh! David Almond has two books out this year? We need to read those.
Joy: …I’ve heard of him.
Me: There’s a new Lucy Frank! I loved I Am An Artichoke!
Joy: <<Blank face>>
Ok, so I’m maybe exaggerating a bit, but Lucy Frank, whose name is impressed upon me as a YA author, whose early books I booktalked quite often in my salad days at New York Public Library, is one of many authors who elicit a sort of Pavlovian “I should read that” response, because I was reading their work in my formative years vis á vis YA literature.
Be wary of nostalgia reading, friends. It can lead you in the wrong direction. [Read more...]