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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

What We’ve Been Reading (Not Much)

lego1 1024x682 What Weve Been Reading (Not Much)

These Lego Guys have been busy talking, not reading. Much like us. CC-licensed image from flickr user Dan A. Nachtnebel.

Karyn:
So, I’ve been hearing from a lot of folks about how this is a GREAT year, and with so many excellent books, how will the committees ever narrow it down.

I’m… not sure I agree.

I mean, there are lots of really good books out this year, but not a lot that I’m feeling I could really defend as  genuine, go-the-distance contendas. Currently, my did-not-finish list is almost as long as my finished list, which is never good. Of course, I’ve only barely scratched the surface of 2012 books at this point, so maybe I’ve just been reading the wrong stuff? Let us know what you’ve already read that rocks, please, so we can find some more titles to champion.

That said, here are a few I think bear a closer look:

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, the only non-genre title I’m mentioning this time around, lived up to the hype. I’ve got some reservations about the narrative voice—there’s a weird near omniscient element even when we are firmly within the narrator’s head—but despite that I think is a look-again book. The language soars and the meditation on growing up is quite nuanced.

The Drowned Cities is a given. Sophie mentioned it in the last roundup as well. It’s by an already-recognized author, it’s powerful and maybe a bit grim, and really tightly written. We’ll definitely be coming back to this one, although I’m not sure it measures up to Ship Breaker (which I realize is not a Printzly comment to make, as we’re only able to look at 2012).

Speaking of former Printz winners, I was lucky enough to already read Libba Bray’s upcoming The Diviners, and I loved it. It’s epic and the scary bits are really truly scary. I might be a bit biased, because I am lucky enough to know Libba personally (and I think she might still have some of my library’s books about the 1920s hiding in her desk!), but this is certainly one you won’t want to miss.

And speaking of people we know (check out these masterful transitions I’m working, oh yeah) … Elizabeth Fama, we’re going to have to talk about it sooner or later.

For those who don’t know Elizabeth, she’s practically a fourth blogger around these parts. She’s also a damn fine author (even Megan Cox Gurdon had almost nice things to say!). Monstrous Beauty is good stuff, people, and I’d say that even if I didn’t know the author was reading this. Seriously, this is one of those books that rises head and shoulders above, although the paranormal romance trappings may mean BFYA top ten is a more likely landing place than Printz. On the other hand, you could argue that it’s more horror than paranormal, and then it’s a different—although still genre—story.

Finally, one more genre title: Dust Girl, by Sarah Zettel. In the tradition of Charles DeLint, we’ve got old world fairies hanging about the American west during the Dust Bowl era. The closest thing we’ve seen to this in YA is probably Wrede’s alternate history, but this is a closer soulmate to Emma Bull’s Territory or Midori Snyder’s The Flight of Michael McBride, both pubbed adult and both out of print. Dust Girl boasts excellent writing, great research, and lots of originality; it’s also first in a series and I have some qualms about that, but I’ll save that for the series/standalone posts we’ll be doing soon.

Currently I’m reading Long Lankin, and I hope it’s going to be worth a serious second read, although the tiny chapters and the abrupt ending are a bit jarring. Still, the sense of place is incredible, as well as the sense of growing menace. I’m torn between skipping to the end and reading super slowly to savor every moment.

Next up: Radiant Days, by Elizabeth Hand, because Illyria is the best book no one is reading, and I’m hoping this is equally excellent.

Sophie:
Karyn, I am so, so glad you said what you did about your DNF pile & this year so far feeling a little thin, because that’s how I’m feeling, too. By this time last year, I’d already read and fallen for the book that was our winner, and I don’t think we’ve seen the 2013 winner yet (everyone please make a note of the date and time I guaranteed egg facials for us all in January). Then again, last year was probably the single most intense year of reading and analysis I’ve ever experienced, and I’ll happily cop to this year being Very Different in terms of how broadly I’ve been reading.

First of all, I totally underestimated my need for a palate-cleansing period. I was so excited about Pyrite Printzing it up with you and Sarah that I dove right back into the deep end of the awesome YA pool and the last month or so, I’ve needed a bit of a break from it, to clear my head and return refreshed to the task at hand. So I re-read Persuasion for the umpteenth time and savored many essays from the wonderful Life Stories New Yorker anthology (the Johnny Carson profile was particularly timely, given his recent Masters treatment on PBS, and John McPhee’s profile of a Georgia naturalist named Carol Ruckdeschel was a revelation), and lo, it was good.

Secondly—and for the sake of my poor husband’s sanity and the security of our marriage, I hasten to add that This is A Good Thing—I’m just not seeing as many books as I did last year. I was totally spoiled by the endless flow of ARCs into my house. It made my work as a committee member so much easier and the first-hand exposure to likely contendas that I didn’t have to share with anyone else is something no amount of avid review-scouring can replace. So it’s entirely possible that my shruggy “eh” feelings are due in no small part to not spending some one or two hours each week going through recently-delivered ARCs to find possible nominees.

Now, you, Sarah, and our dear readers may well be thinking, “Boy, Sophie, you sure are exposition-y this week. What gives?” Well, what gives is, I have exactly one (count it, ONE!) relevant reading contribution to offer to this post.

Last week, I read Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, which Karyn had already decided to nominate, and even though we won’t need a second, you can consider it very much seconded by me. I fairly sobbed my way through the second half of the book, and knew enough about it going in that I knew to be on the lookout for how Wein put the book together, and oh, my. My, oh, MY! This book rivals Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series for masterful plot construction, clues dropped like so many tissues and I was not kidding when I tweeted about starting to re-read it almost immediately after finishing it. I love a book that surprises me, and especially a book that yields MORE on re-read–more insights, more surprises, more development of theme and character—and this is surely one.

I plan to circle back to The Drowned Cities (a casualty of my palate-cleansing detour) and can’t wait to snarf up The Diviners, but I think my next read will be Personal Effects, a debut novel by E.M. Kokie about a boy who’s trying to make sense of his brother’s death in combat in Iraq.

Sarah:

Hoo, boy, I am going to go with a great, big “ditto” over here. Lots of unfinished books sitting around me. Maybe it’s something in the air? Because there are so many deliciously pretty books waiting to be read, and yet every time I pick one up, I find myself looking for other things to do. Bad blogger! Bad behavior!

I have to admit, Code Name Verity, for me, has been a read that I had no problem at all putting down. And not picking back up. Which feels like heresy to admit here (sorry, KS! sorry, SB!), but honesty compels me to say so. It seems like a book that you need to devote some time to get into and thus far, the only attention I’ve managed to give it has been in fits and starts. I think I will just restart it next week and maybe I’ll feel more committed to it then. I really want to like it; you guys have hyped it up for me.

I did manage to finish Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. I’m not totally sold on it as a contenda, but it plays so nicely with the source material that I’d consider giving it a second look. I am, needless to say, having quite a few Feelings about it, too, so it could end up being a good discussion piece at some point in the distant future.

I’ve also got Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. It’s been sitting on my coffee table for weeks and weeks and I just—really just—finished it. I loved the art, and the characters. I thought Hicks did such a nice job of showing what it’s like to have chaotic, rambling brothers and her depiction of life in high school is right on. The supernatural element seemed like an uneasy fit to me at first, but I ended up enjoying the direction she took it.

As for what I’ll be looking at next…well, of course there’s Code Name Verity (can we just go with CNV around these parts? For ease of typing and general convenience?). And The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell. Hmmm, and A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers is waiting for me as well.

But what about you? What are your stand out reads? Help us end on a positive note with all the things you’ve been hungrily devouring, because there must be more contendas out there!

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Comments

  1. Maureen E says:

    I am so glad–SO GLAD–it’s not just me! I’m in the love CNV till I die please let it win something or else I will start sobbing boat, so obviously it’s not that there’s NOTHING good out there. It’s just that there are way too many of those books that need a little extra something to get them into contenda territory rather than just, “Oh, it was good. I guess.” The Drowned Cities was good, but it lacked that breath-taking swoop that ShipBreaker (almost said ShipBuilder–oops!) had. Haven’t read any of the others mentioned here, though I’ll definitely keep my eye out.

    We’ll see–there’s lots of year to come, obviously, but I wish I didn’t have to keep putting books down.

  2. Kelly says:

    I’m an odd lady out in thinking Code Name Verity was so slow and uninteresting. That said, I think it is one of the more literary, more Printz contender books this year. But I’m kind of in your camp, Karyn and Sophie, in thinking there hasn’t been a whole lot of stand out books this year so far. I’ve read a number of great commercial titles, but little that’s really stood out to me as Printz material. Your comment on Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone stood out to me because that book is very much in the Imaginary Girls camp in my mind. Though they don’t necessarily cover the same terrain, the writing has such a similar quality and eeriness to it. I’m going to look forward to any discussion you do here on Long Lankin, too; as was pointed out to me some time ago, the book doesn’t technically contain any teen characters (Cora is maybe 13).

    A few titles that have stood out to me this year — ones sitting in my potential Printz-y mindset — are Adam Rapp’s The Children and the Wolves, Blythe Woolston’s Catch & Release, Ilsa J Bick’s Drowning Instinct, and maybe Erin Saldin’s The Girls of No Return (if this one isn’t going to get a lot of Printz attention, I definitely think it’ll see some talk around the Morris committee). I could see some talk around SD Crockett’s After the Snow, too, though I found that book to have a lot of problems with it, none of them having to do with the dialect in which it’s written.

    I finished Karen Hesse’s Safekeeping this weekend. It reads like the sort of book that would have potential Newbery consideration (if that makes sense) but because it is a YA title and it treads some interesting territory in terms of storytelling and in format, I wonder whether or not it might be a Printz considered title, too.

  3. Paul says:

    Love the blog, I run a mock printz group at my school and it really helps see what others are reading. Two I didn’t see mentioned:

    Bitterblue- I was shocked at how strong this was. So many themes that are really developed, great, witty dialogue that I never wanted to end, and a heartbreaking yet totally believable ending.

    The Wicked and the Just- Great historical fiction. Really drops you right in the setting and forces you to acclimate to it. Two great characters and a roller coaster of change and development.

  4. Emily says:

    The only two things I don’t see mentioned here that’s think are contenders are The Fault in Our Stars (I know you’ve already talked about that, though, and since John Green is a Printz regular, I think it’s pretty much guaranteed to be part of the conversation) and The Mis-Education of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth. It’s probably my favorite of the year – so beautiful written with an evocative sense of time and place. If none of you have read it, I highly recommend that you check it out. It’s also a potential Morris contender, but I think it deserves a place in the Printz conversation for sure.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      Whoops! I think we didn’t make it 100% clear that this roundup of what we’ve been reading is an addendum to the first post about what we’d been reading. So a few titles that we’ve already noted as books we foresee digging into deeply come September and beyond (like The Fault in Our Stars) didn’t get mentioned here, but that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten them.

      The Wicked and the Just, Catch and Release, and Mis-Education are all on my summer reading pile, among dozens of other titles–the new Aidan Chambers and David Levithan titles are there too. But keep the titles coming– I’d missed Graffitti Moon thus far, so thanks for that, Miss Print!

      @Paul, Thanks! I’d love to hear details on your Mock Printz group. I’m not sure I agree with you about Bitterblue, but more than that I think it suffers from all the things that we need to bring to it about the previous books; I’m not sure that read on its own it does everything as effectively as it could. Sophie is going to post this week about stand alone v series, which is one of those endless debates every committee needs to work through, and you’ll see that I have some strong feelings. But if I’m not giving Bitterblue a fair shake because of a series prejudice, I’m sure someone will call me on it at some point.

      @Kelly, I was thinking of Imaginary Girls with every page of Amelia Anne! And as with IG, I wonder if it’s entirely successful, but even if it isn’t, I do find myself thinking about it again and again.

      Looking forward to seeing what else lands on my list thanks to you all. Was anyone at BEA? Any tantalizing titles in those piles?

  5. I SO agree about the shortage of outstanding books this year so far. The only standouts for me were “The Drowned Cities” (which I thought was better than “Ship Breaker”), “The Wicked and the Just” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” My DNF pile is sky high too.

  6. Jess says:

    I’ll second Paul’s suggestion of The Wicked and the Just – I didn’t love love love it, but it was a strong piece of writing and worth a look. Same thing goes for Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

    My #1 choice is still Code Name Verity. All the way.

  7. Miss Print says:

    I absolutely loved Being Friends with Boys too! It was definitely one of my favorite reads this year by far.

    I was also dazzled by Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon although no one is talking about it anywhere which makes me sad.

  8. Ah! Good recommendations are rolling in. I’m going to read THE WICKED AND THE JUST and CATCH AND RELEASE next. (Plus maybe KEEPING THE CASTLE for fun.) I wasted Printz reading time on THE SONG OF ACHILLES, incorrectly thinking it had been released as YA in the U.S., but it was awesome, so, drat, too bad it’s not YA. It’s a shoe-in for an Alex.

    Thanks for your kind words about MONSTROUS BEAUTY, Karyn. I hope everyone knows that thoughtful criticism of the book from anyone at any time in these discussions will not wound me. And, agreed, paranormal anything is a long shot for a Printz, even when the author thinks the paranormal is in service of deeper, literary themes!

  9. Joy Piedmont says:

    Okay, I think “Code Name Verity” needs to be the next book I read.

    It took me a while to warm up to “The Diviners” but now, a few weeks after I read it, I think I took for granted a lot of what makes it a great read. Not sure if it will hold up to closer scrutiny, but it’s still an impressive work.

    Kelly- I’m curious to know what you mean when you say that “Safekeeping” reads like a book with potential Newberry consideration. I thought “Safekeeping” read very strongly as YA and a possible Printz contender.

    Elizabeth- DO read “Keeping the Castle.” It is delightful!

  10. Joy Piedmont says:

    Okay, I think “Code Name Verity” needs to be the next book I read.

    It took me a while to warm up to “The Diviners” but now, a few weeks after I read it, I think I took for granted a lot of what makes it a great read. Not sure if it will hold up to closer scrutiny, but it’s still an impressive work.

    Kelly- I’m curious to know what you mean when you say that “Safekeeping” reads like a book with potential Newberry consideration. I thought “Safekeeping” read very strongly as YA and a possible Printz contender.

    Elizabeth- DO read “Keeping the Castle.” It is delightful!

  11. Emily H. says:

    Code Name Verity is wonderful. I want to give it this year’s Printz and last year’s Printz and next year’s Printz, all together.

    “Keeping the Castle” is the next one I really want to read.

    I just finished “Radiant Days” and it’s hard for anything to burn as brightly in my imagination as Code Name Verity, but I will be happy if it gets serious awards consideration. The prose is luscious, it evokes both the France of Rimbaud’s time and the art world of the 1970s vividly, and the whole book burns with beauty and hunger.

  12. Doret says:

    The Wicked and the Just was a DNF for me. Two more strong contenders to go along with Code Name Verity are

    Froi of the Exiles by Marchetta,
    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe bySaenz

  13. So Leila Roy flipped over THE STORYTELLER, by Antonia Michaelis. But since I can never be bothered to read the Printz rules, someone has to tell me whether we can consider 2012 translations of books that were published in 2011 overseas.

  14. Jen B. says:

    If I remember correctly, The Returning (last year’s honor by Hinwood) was previously pubbed in Australia, but made it’s US debut last year and was still eligible. So I would think The Storyteller would also be eligible, but would wait to hear from someone who actually has served on the committee and knows the rules forward and back.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      I’m not going to go so far as to say I know the rules forward and back, but eligibility is based on the year of first US publication/release. Hence all the imports. The Storyteller is indeed eligible for this year and is on my pile at home; Tiger’s Moon, her first book pubbed here, was wonderful, so I do have high hopes, although translated work is always funny to discuss in the context of the Printz.

  15. TeenReader says:

    Hi I’m new to the Printz discussion and love this blog!
    I just finished “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and I felt very… conflicted. I loved the voice and thought some of the comedy was flat-out brilliant, but was anyone else put off by the ending? I thought Andrews wrote himself into a corner by trying to stay emotionally distant, and the last 50 pages seemed all over the place.
    I loved “The Fault in Our Stars” with a few reservations, found “The Final Four” to be solid but not fantastic, and thought “Beneath a Meth Moon” was compelling, but the jumpy narrative left out a lot of elements of character and motivations that really would have improved the story.
    I plan on reading “The Drowned Cities”, “Code Name Verity”, and “Grave Mercy” next. I’m so behind trying to follow the Newbery as well! Thanks for the great work!

  16. Joy Millam says:

    I loved Code Name Verity– I haven’t enjoyed historical fiction like this in 20 years! I positively despised and did not finish Adam Rapp’s The Children and the Wolves. Vile topic and characters. The author succeeded in creating all too real characters that I absolutely loathed.

  17. Granted it’s very early in this game, but so far CATCH & RELEASE and CODE NAME VERITY are at the top of my list.

  18. I think I know what you mean about translated work. I was noticing cliches in DEPARTURE TIME by Truus Matti (Bachelder Award winner)–I don’t have the book anymore so I can’t give you specific examples–and I found myself wondering whether the translator had introduced them or was faithfully thinking up English equivalents, in order to keep the same tone as the original.

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