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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

White Crow

Ideally, if I were really on the Printz Committee, I’d be done reading all the contendas by this point. Actually, if we’re going for ideal, I’d have been done for a couple of weeks. At this point in the year, it’s time for very serious rereading: really going through the contendas in detail, weighing various elements, moving past first impressions into a firmer opinion of each title.

And, you guys, that would be super helpful because I could do with a reread of this title. (I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately.) But let’s get started. [Read more…]

Stuck, Part 2

CC-licensed image by minicooper93402

You wanted to know, didn’t you?

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Stuck

CC-licensed image by Hellojenuine.

For the past few months, I’ve been circling around and back to two books.* I start reading. I stop reading. I start again, from the beginning. I get a little further. I accidentally leave these books at home instead of carrying them to read on the train; when I do have them in my bag, I somehow leave them on my desk instead of carrying them home again.

In between, I’ve read many other books, but for whatever reason, I am just spinning my wheels with these two.

As a result of all this (and possibly as an additional procrastination method) I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between writing a blog and being an actual committee member. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about the sacrifices committee members make, and the amazing effort they put out to create a wonderful list of books each year.

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Definitions

Me: Ugh, I have to define Young Adult Literature for this blog post.

My husband: Huh. Is that why you’re making To/From gift tags by hand?

Me: Maaaaaaybe?

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How to Save a Life

The year is winding down, my cold has returned with a vengeance, and I’m all out of witty titles.

But there are still books to read! Books that are getting lots of lauds and lots of love and require discussion here.

Because these are the books that might wear the crown come January 23!

Or they might not.

Last week I took the time to read one our late additions to the contenda list, Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life. It’s gotten four stars; notably, these are the most consistent reviews I’ve read in a long time. It also made both the PW and SLJ best lists. That’s a lot of love, and there’s no question that this is a compelling book: two broken teens who come together thanks to a rather unusual chain of events that has everything to do with the ways in which they are broken, and find that maybe they each have what the other needs.

But it’s also a little after-school special. And possibly too crowded: teen pregnancy, grief, and sexual abuse on the Issues front, and then dozens of smaller lowercase-i issues too.

So what’s the sweet spot between the poles of moving and messaging, powerful and PSA?

[Read more…]

Between Shades of Gray

Karyn’s already talked about historical fiction. And a lot of people have been talking about this book (four starred reviews, nominated for Best Fiction and a big ol’ Newbery discussion at Heavy Medal), especially in light of the Morris shortlist recognition. Karyn’s also already talked about Morris and Printz — where the two awards overlap, and where they don’t.

So that pretty much covers the background. I thought it could be interesting to look at Between Shades of Gray with Printz glasses firmly in place. [Read more…]

Burning Bleeding Brilliance

A big thank you to all who encouraged me to take a second, closer look at The Girl of Fire and Thorns, which I did last week, just before the Morris Shortlist came out.

It’s really pretty marvelous. It’s full on fantasy—no urban or paranormal modifiers needed, no fairy tale retellings or alternate history to be seen. In fact, examined closely, there are tiny hints that this is a Pern sort of fantasy with a science fiction underpinning (this is a new world, one not meant for humans).

So, it’s straight up fantasy (aside from that tantalizing hint about the unknown backstory), but it avoids almost all the tropes: Elisa is not a spunky girl or a badass princess or a typical damsel in distress; she’s smart but lazy; destined for greatness but full of doubts—although also with enough backbone to push through them. She’s lousy at being a princess but she might just be an amazing queen, and the journey she takes from one pole to the other makes for some great reading. It’s also, from the characterization angle, difficult writing: a first person narrator, who needs to tell us all the ways she’s kind of a mess and all the ways she’s becoming fierce and fearsome, without become so telly that it becomes plodding and didactic is no small task to write.

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New Kids on the Block

I doubt this is news to anyone, but the Morris shortlist was released the other day.

Three of the five were on our original contenda list (although we’ve only discussed two so far), and a fourth was a late addition thanks to reader response when we first discussed (and almost dismissed) it (we will definitely be revisiting it now).

(The fifth was on the books that made a best of year list but that we had oops! missed pile, so NOW it’s on our list, twice over.)

This kind of recognition automatically puts a book higher in the public estimation. But does it actually affect or correlate with Printz recognition?

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Historical Fictions

CC-licensed image by Jessamyn West

Historical fiction is tough.

Too often the fiction takes a back seat to the history, and readers are drowned in detail or left feeling vaguely cheated by secondary characters who flesh out the story but whose experiences seem to cover a laundry list of additional details.

This is not to say that historical fiction can’t make for a darn good read, but the gap between a darn good read for an hour (or five) and a book you want to raise above all others with a shiny sticker is actually a pretty big one.

[Read more…]

Stay With Me

Stay With Me got, by my count, four starred reviews, and I’m sure it will be (well, is already, since it’s out!) a hit with teen readers, too. I think it earned those stars, and I believe it will circulate well and be well-loved by lots and lots of teens.

It’s a Way 3 read for me (though I’ll admit, I’m not totally wild about it personally, it’s more that I cannot wait to hand it off to teens and would love to hear their thoughts). This is a book that doesn’t quite stand up to the close scrutiny of Printz-magnifying glasses, I think.  [Read more…]