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.
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.
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!