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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Preview preview!

Last week was an embarrassment of riches, with not one but two previews.

I didn’t actually get to go to both, and Sarah and Sophie didn’t get to go to either, but happily my amazing colleague Joy pinch hit for us (I think maybe she didn’t mind too much…) and so later this week we’ll run her coverage of preview two. Sadly, none of us, including pinch-hitter Joy, can make this Thursday’s Fall preview at Random House, so if any of you, dear readers, will be there, feel free to leave a rundown in the comments on this post or Joy’s Macmillan post. Otherwise we’ll try to find coverage somewhere to link, and we’ll have some more book buzz post ALA as well.

In the meantime, let me tell you about HarperCollins!*

Well, I’m not going to tell you everything, because it’s a big list and it’s full of must-read books. So I’m going to touch on those that had me particularly excited, and focus mostly on the likely contendas. Apologies in advance to all the books I am glossing over; I’d need an entire catalog to cover them all.

Now, if you don’t already know this about me, given my druthers I’d read a mostly genre diet, maybe sprinkled with an occasional pinch of something else. But by choice, it’s heavy on the fantasy and happy with the scifi (as long as it’s not too technical).

Now, this isn’t to say I can’t find some love for realistic fiction. I do tend to play the genre song pretty loudly, but I’m not really a one note girl. Still, given a pile of shiny new books, I do have a tendency to go for the fantasy first.

And let me tell you, my pile grew quite a bit at Harper! Because what a season for the genre fan, across pretty much all the imprints.

Light science fiction was definitely THE (new) trend, with several imprints bringing out titles that fit that (admittedly pretty darn general) tag. One of the editors said that the hope was that all the dystopia had paved the way for scifi. This seems likely, given that much of what gets tagged “dystopic” is not, technically speaking, dystopic at all and is mostly just light (lite??) sf anyway.

Sangu Mandanna’s The Lost Girl (August) and Kat Zhang’s What’s Left of Me both use science fiction as the tool to explore questions of identity and self-hood; interestingly enough, they also both look at self through a weird kind of twinship. In The Lost Girl, the main character has been raised as a replacement, and when she steps into the original’s life, she finds she no longer really knows who she is. (Side note: I am so curious to get the full premise, because as a parent I am just baffled by this idea that someone has contracted a replacement child just in case the original dies. Um, what?). In What’s Left of Me, we have a world with twinned souls in each body and an assumption that one will fade away, only in this case, she hasn’t, and one body contains two sisters.

And that’s just the two I’m thinking are most likely to have some staying power around here, given the heavy thematic scope; there was also a parallel world story (Through to You by Emily Hainsworth); time travel plus government cover-up (So Close to You by Rachel Carter); AND a straight up dome dystopia (Breathe by Sarah Crossan). You really can’t go wrong with domes.

Fantasy also had a stellar showing (did I mention the Harper list seems tailor made for me? So much win!), ranging from the highly commercial to the likely-to-be-a-contenda.

In the non-contenda pile (I think—but again, this is pre-reviews and without actually, you know, reading any of them yet) you’ll find: Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls, which had a big cover reveal today and sounds quite intriguing, for a dark and demonic version of intriguing; a new series opener from Lesley Livingston (with fencing and Norse gods! And I liked her last series quite a bit); Team Human, Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan’s highly anticipated vampire-mocking friendship-comedy romp with heart; and a readalike for Cashore and Pierce fans with C.J. Redwine’s Defiance.

And that’s just the beginning.

Ned Vizzini’s newest (The Other Normals) has a Dungeons & Dragons riff. He tends to teeter between absurd and really thoughtful, so it will be interesting to see where this falls.

The sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a deeper story than the first, per the editor, and Carson’s doing something really interesting with this world, so this is definitely worth a look.

Then we’ve got Francine Prose delivering her take on The Turn of the Screw with The Turning (see also: Adele Griffin’s underrated Tighter from 2011). Prose’s YA hasn’t impressed me as much as her adult work, but I think she has a deft grasp of writing and this could be something. Books that allude to other books have certainly been crowned before—look at all the references in Looking for Alaska, and the Don Quixote riff in Going Bovine. (And yes, The Turning is more horror than fantasy, but it has ghosts so I’m lumping it here. It’s not like the other fantasy titles have so much in common with each other, either.)

Speaking of riffs on other books, I am madly excited to read Tiger Lily (by Jodi Lynn Anderson). It’s Peter Pan, but not. Told from Tiger Lily’s perspective, it’s a forbidden romance and a reimagining of Neverland, which was creepy anyway; in this version, jolly Smee is apparently a serial killer, and Tinker Bell is the mute witness (and devoted not to Peter but to Tiger Lily). Did I mention that I am really really excited to read this one??

And last but so very much not least in the fantasy pile: Terry Pratchett! Now, I am, perhaps, a bit biased. I’ve read everything Sir Terry has written, most of it multiple times, starting at age 12. In the dark ages before you could buy things on the interwebs, I went to OTHER COUNTRIES to buy his books. Twice. I own lots of the UK-only Discworld ephemera, and it was my RealPrintz year that honored Nation, and I have a framed stamp selection from the Ankh-Morpork postal service.

I’m suddenly wondering if I should be admitting all of this online and in public.

Anyway, the point is that he has a new book. A new non-Discworld book. Like Nation, Dodger is set in the Victorian era, or anyway something quite like the Victorian era. And it’s smart and funny and I’m really excited for it. Also I promised to go to the North American Discworld Convention in 2013 in exchange for an ARC as soon as they become available. Won’t you join me there? I’ll be dressed as the Librarian. Or at least as a librarian. With red hair, so that’s nearly correct.

(If none of that made sense to you, please contact me for a recommended reading list of Discworld novels. Guards! Guards! is a good starting point.)

Now, I’d like to stop here and just leave you all thinking happy Terry thoughts, but actually, there were some books that were NOT genre titles, and it would probably be irresponsible to skip them.

Especially since the frontlisters were the new Terry Trueman—What Happens Next, the sequel to Stuck in Neutral. And Joyce Carol Oates has a new one, Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You, about three friends after one of them has died. My sense is that this is less topical than some of her YA but also that it’s beautiful and moving.

Finally: There was a lovely assortment of paperback originals (remember those??) and sequels, all more likely to be Mary Poppins than Printz’s:

The Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox has dead girls solving mysteries (the title kind of says it all, really); Over You by the authors of The Nanny Diaries is all about getting over the guy; two funny vampire books, Fang Girl and Drain You, turn the standard vamp tales on their heads; Rennison’s second Tallulah novel, A Midsummer Tight’s Dream (yay!) is finally coming (and, yes, she won for Angus, so maybe I should have listed this earlier, but that was when this kind of funny diary thing felt new. Rennison may do madcap Brit girl diary comedy better than anyone else in the YA world, but it’s not new any longer); sequels to lots of hot titles like Variant and Paranormalcy; a technothriller (Don’t Turn Around, Michelle Gagnon) that was compared to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, only for teens; and, in the “why has no one done this before” category, we have Gretchen McNeil’s Ten, a retelling of And Then There Were None.

Whew.

Happy reading! If you’ve read anything off this massive list already, spill. And if you haven’t, where will you start?

(*I have big plans to add in cover art and links to the Harper site for these titles, but I also have a day job and decided I’d rather get this out than take another day doing that. Mea culpa, and apologies for the wall o’ text.)

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About Karyn Silverman

Karyn Silverman is the High School Librarian and Educational Technology Department Chair at LREI, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (say that ten times fast!). Karyn has served on YALSA’s Quick Picks and Best Books committees and was a member of the 2009 Printz committee. She has reviewed for Kirkus and School Library Journal. She has a lot of opinions about almost everything (except current events, because she’s too busy reading YA literature to follow the news). Said opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, YALSA or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @InfoWitch or e-mail her at karynsilverman at gmail dot com.

Comments

  1. You know me (and Jen B., too!)–I’m always wanting the numbers. Give me stats, or give me death.

    Karyn, I thought it was interesting that you gravitate toward genre books, when my impression is that the Printz winners and honors are mostly realistic or contemporary fiction. So I looked them up and got the totals (maybe someone has done this already):

    Printz Gold:
    Realistic or contemporary fiction: 8.5*
    Fantasy: 2
    Memoir or Biography: 1 (this is also the only graphic-novel winner)
    Historical fiction: 0.5*
    Poetry/non-fiction: 0

    Printz Silver:
    Realistic or contemporary fiction: 25**
    Fantasy: 9
    Memoir or Biography: 5***
    Historical Fiction: 5
    Poetry/Non-fiction: 1

    * I’m counting POSTCARDS FROM NO MAN’S LAND as 1/2 contemporary (Jacob’s story), and 1/2 historical (Geertrui’s story).
    ** PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ has a ghost, but I thought it was primarily still realistic (correct me if I’m wrong); SURRENDER is set in an imagined town in an unspecified era, but is still realistic, I think; KEESHA’S HOUSE is told through poems, but the stories are so contemporary, it’s really a novel (again, correct me if I’m wrong!).
    *** Two of these are in verse poetry (A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL and YOUR OWN SYLVIA), and so they could also go in the Poetry/Non-Fic category.

    Obviously, classifications are a bit fluid (for instance, AMERICAN BORN CHINESE has a lot of Monkey King action, and KIT’S WILDERNESS sounds like it might have some magical realism, although I haven’t read it) but the general picture is that realistic fiction nearly sweeps the Printz Winners, and is most prevalent in the Printz Honors, too, with fantasy a weak second place, and historical fiction and memoirs/biography tying for third.

    Finally, my gut instincts were wrong in one way: I thought we might have been in a trend recently toward more fantasy nods, as that genre becomes more accepted. But in the last three years, 2 Winners were realistic and 1 was fantasy (dystopia), and 8 Honors were realistic while only one was fantasy (unless we count VERA DIETZ’s ghost).

    And isn’t it something of a surprise that historical fiction is so under-represented? Historical fiction feels weighty and important (and well written) so often. On the surface that genre should be ripe with opportunity. (Maybe we’ll add to the numbers with CODE NAME VERITY this year.)

  2. Jess says:

    I count 7 historical fiction titles in the Honors (or 6 if you count The Montrumologist as fantasy). But I agree that it does seem under-represented, and I’m a little surprised to see more fantasy than HF (although I love both).

  3. Jess says:

    BTW, here are the historical honor books I counted – plus I realized I left one off:
    Revolver, The Monstrumologist (although I’m happy to count this in the fantasy camp instead), Tales of the Madman Underground, Octavian v. 1, Octavian v.2, The Book Thief, Lizzie Bright, and A Northern Light.

    It also occurred to me that a lot of the realistic/contemporary titles have something else going on, like the ghosts in Vera Dietz or Kit’s Wilderness, the ‘what if this turns into a fantasy?’ elements in The White Darkness, and the way The Returning feels like historical fiction but set in another world. Lots of things that fall between the cracks of traditional genres.

  4. Thanks, Jess! I knew there was a standard error attached to my count (I’m surprised at how many of these I haven’t read; I had to look them up on goodreads). REVOLVER and TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND* both erroneously went into contemporary/realistic fiction, so the count should be 23 for that category. BUT GUESS WHAT?! I didn’t include 2012 at all, by accident. D’OH! So add 1 contemp/realistic Winner, 3 contemp/realistic Honors, and 1 fantasy Honor to the totals! (That does it, I must make some pie charts for Karyn et al.) Which means a net gain for contemp/realistic fiction, with that odd duck of THE RETURNING.

    I agree that categorization is a little slippery. I wonder whether it’s a feature of Printz winners that they’re difficult to classify because by definition great books bend the rules.

    *In my defense, I remember 1973, and it’s hard for me to accept that I’m “historical.”

  5. Sophie Brookover says:

    Elizabeth, are you counting THE RETURNING as realistic fiction? I consider it as Alternate History, which is a wee sub-branch of Fantasy (and one of my favorite genres, going back to my middle school days of loving the Wolves series by Joan Aiken (WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE, BLACK HEARTS IN BATTERSEA, NIGHTBIRDS ON NANTUCKET & more) and MANY WATERS by Madeleine L’Engle). Fantasy is not all wizards, dragons & spells, oh, my! :-)

    As for why genre fiction rarely takes the top honor, I think there are many factors at work, several of which we’ve discussed while looking at other topics. These include:

    1) World building & voice — either you buy what the author is selling, or you don’t. And even a mystery/historical fiction/fantasy/scifi superfan will have to let a book go if there are too many holes in the world the author has built. That goes for any kind of book, not just genre fiction, but it’s easier to spot in genre fiction because it’s setting up a world that is explicitly different from the one we see around us.

    2) Genre bias — I think this is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Genre fiction doesn’t win the gold, therefore it can’t win the gold. Not that this is TRUE, obviously, but we had a very frank conversation on the committee this year about setting aside our personal preferences for and against specific genres, and all made a commitment to hew as closely as humanly possible to the criteria, regardless of genre. Now, obviously, everyone had his or her most & least favorite title(s), and part of that favoritism was natural affinity (or lack thereof) for a particular feature of the book(s), but when it comes to evaluating the books for the Gold & Silver, you set those preferences aside & look at them as coldly as you can (while still being passionate — it’s a tricky balance!).

    3) Committee, Committee, Committee — I feel like all we do anymore is say, “it’s a committee process!” but it’s true: it’s everyone’s job to advocate for the books they feel best embody the criteria for the award, but ultimately, the voting favors consensus. It’s hard for an outlier to win the gold, but easier to earn a silver. Have we talked about the way the numbers have to be crunched at voting time? If not, that’s something we’ll want to cover (or cover again — it’s been 5 months but I could probably use a refresher, myself!).

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