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Checking In: What Have You Read So Far?

CC-licensed image by Flickr user Kristin Roach

So, maybe it’s just that we haven’t had a lot worth saying, or maybe it’s just that the seriously chatty readers (hi, Elizabeth!) are muzzling themselves for various reasons. But comments have been pretty mellow, and we’re thinking there might be a readership question.

Also data is cool and we’re curious what the general readership is of these critically acclaimed titles.

So won’t you take 3 minutes (maybe 3.5, depending on whether you need to cross reference with a reading journal of some sort) and fill out this Google Form about readership? (It refused to embed, so apologies for the redirect.) We’ll post results in a week or so for anyone who’s interested.

And then come back tomorrow for the first of the Q2 posts!

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, as long as all the things are books. 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.


  1. I just filled out the poll, but wanted to say that I’m still enjoying reading the posts about books I haven’t read yet. I might not get around to much more in the way of YA this year (I’m on a Cybils panel) but it helps me prioritize what I DO want to read – so thanks!

  2. Just wanted to say that I’ve been enjoying all the reviews you’ve been posting, even of those books that I didn’t bother to finish or generally had no interest in (and there were many this year). This year is, in my eyes, is lacking truly outstanding YA.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      Tatiana, I’m so surprised by this opinion– the consensus I keep hearing is about how rich this year is in YA, and the volume of starred reviews seems to support that as a critical consensus as well. Can you share some of your DNF books that others seem to be loving?

  3. In my neck of woods the opinion is that the choice of very outstanding YA books is pretty poor this year (I think we discussed this issue on this blog some time in summer?). Even more, I would say that it is quite shocking that so many books with very little merit received multiple stars this year. Books like “Grave Mercy,” “After the Snow,” “Bitterblue,” “The Disenchantments,” “Chopsticks,” “Cinder.” I would go as far as say that “The Fault in Our Stars” is way overpraised. That, of course, is only my humble opinion.

    Among the popular ones that I personally couldn’t finish – “Grave Mercy,” “Code Name Verity,” “The Disenchantments,” “Every Day,” “The Difference Between You and Me,” “Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone,” “The Diviners” and many more. The reasons for these DNFs range from poor quality (definitely “Grave Mercy”), to too preachy approach to storytelling ( “Every Day,” “The Difference Between You and Me,”) to general disinterest (“The Disenchantments,””Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone”).

  4. Here is a link to the post I mentioned above

    Months later my feelings are kind of the same.

  5. I’m with Karyn on this one — there are always overpraised books but I can’t get over the volume of truly stunning YA books this year. I have something like 15 or 20 books that I’d like to see fit into the 5 Printz spots. Usually I’m hard pressed to come up with 6 or 7.

  6. Hope Baugh says:

    I took the survey and dear me, I have only read seven from the whole list and six of those are from the third quarter! I am certainly not proving myself Real Committee-worthy this year, am I. (lol) Ah, well. Like others, I am enjoying reading all of the posts and comments here, whether I have read the books or not.

    Seraphina is still my favorite – both as a Printz contender and as my own fav of the year – but I just finished The Brides of Rollrock Island yesterday and loved that, too. Such a rich, believable exploration of selkie legends!

    I agree with Tatiana about the preachiness of Every Day – I felt like throwing the book across the room when the narrator inhabited a fat person’s body – but I was intrigued by it anyway and I look forward to that discussion.

    I loved The Diviners because it was Sca-Hair-Ree(!) and for many other reasons as well, but maybe it was too much of a first-in-a-series for me to want it to win the Printz. Anyway, I’m looking forward to that discussion, too.

    I loved Monstrous Beauty but a couple little bits were confusing to me and that knocked it from my top spot. However, I may have read it too quickly. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I look forward to that discussion, too!

  7. We don’t by any means have to have this conversation right now, but I just wanted to mention that I find it strange that people keep referring to THE DIVINERS as suffering for being the first in a series. I felt like it was an entirely self-sufficient book and it was only on the last couple of pages that I even realized that Bray intended there to be sequels. Even then, I thought the hints towards the sequels would work perfectly in the context of the novel even if she were not to write more.

  8. I’m surious about the survey results–especially as I’d already made myself a Contenda spreadsheet for my own reading–but I agree with those who say the posts are interesting, even for books we ourselves haven’t read.

    As for DNFs–I abandoned THE DIVINERS 70 pages in. Found the characters stereotypical, trite, uninteresting, and annoying. And the plot hadn’t even started to happen. Very frustrating, and I just couldn’t care enough to keep reading. (Obviously if it makes the pyrite shortlist I’ll slog through it–and yes, may end up loving it–but as just “one of the starred books this year”? not worth it, in my humble opinion.)

    The Book of Blood and Shadow isn’t on the Contenda list, but was much-buzzed early in the year, I thought, and was also a DNF for me–you start out with the blood and then you spend fifty pages being ponderous and portentious and not getting to the blood yet?

    Cinder is also not on the Contenda list, but Tatiana mentioned it as overhyped–and while I (respectfully) disagree with her stance on several others, I do agree on that one–predictable and bland.

    Of course, I also HATED Where Things Come Back, which I made myself read after its win last year… oh opinion, you are a fickle goddess.

  9. I’m with Tatiana on this. I’ve only read about a third of the contender list but of those books only five or six really stand out to me (though two of those standouts were TFiOS and There Is No Dog, and I think I’m the only one here!). It’s not that I think most of this year’s YA is bad, necessarily, but very little of it has really excited me. My reaction upon finishing The Disenchantments, The Diviners, Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone, Seraphina, and lots of others was to give them a B in my head and immediately forget about them. It’s especially disappointing because I loved pretty much all of last year’s contenders.

  10. Oh, right, Seraphina! I’d forgotten until Tess mentioned it!

    …which pretty much sums up my reaction to the book. I read it pre-pub, quite liked-but-wasn’t-blown-away-by the first half, and felt it kind of fizzled in the second half. And then I was gobsmacked by its boatload of stars! I didn’t resent the read, but it wasn’t anything special to me.

  11. Karyn Silverman says:

    I actually don’t think this year is as rich as common opinion (or stars) would indicate. My constant cranky not-a-contender reviews probably bear that out pretty clearly. But I think it’s a pretty great year for genre, which might mean nothing in Printz term, as we’ve discussed, as genre so often gets short shrift, as does nonfiction, the other breakout group this year (so I hear; reading Titanic this week people. I promise).
    It’s also a good year for commercial fiction that is also well written. Grave Mercy might not be a serious contender for the Printz, but it’s a great romp and I didn’t think it was badly written, just not super literary, which I could say about a solid dozen other books at least.
    HOWEVER – Seraphina rocks.

  12. I may have to reread Seraphina before we discuss it in November, so I can either come around on it or be prepared to defend my meh reaction. But there are so many I haven’t read for the *first* time!

    Also, meh is usually the hardest reaction to explain or justify. I can tell you why I hate a book or why I love it (usually), but meh?

  13. Oh, are the rest of the National Book Award finalists going to be added to the Contendas list? I haven’t read any, but Endangered and Out of Reach look YA. Goblin Secrets does look too young for the Printz, though.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      @Miriam, the NBA nod means we pretty much have to add them, because I’m sure the RealCommittee is reading them now if they hadn’t already. More for the ever-growing pile!

  14. I don’t expect to sway Tatiana or Miriam since they’ve both stated they didn’t care for THE DIVINERS, but for me the quality of the year is evident in how many former Printz honorees have outdone themselves (in my opinion):

    BRIDES OF ROLLROCK – definitely better than BLACK JUICE, closing in on TENDER MORSELS
    DROWNED CITIES – I liked it better than SHIPBREAKER, but this one is close
    CHILDREN AND THE WOLVES – every bit as good as PUNKZILLA
    DIVINERS – better than anything Bray has written, with the possilbe exception of BEAUTY QUEENS

  15. Speaking of former Printz honorees and winners. Does the fact that an author has already won factor in the committee’s discussions at all? I am curious because, IMO, Drowned Cities IS in fact a better book than Ship Breaker. But they are in the same series. Does it matter?

  16. Tatiana–Sophie covered the rules about series in this post, and I quote: “The book should be self-contained, not dependent on other media for its meaning or pleasure. The book should not be considered in terms of other works by the author but as complete in itself.” Thus if Drowned Cities stands alone, it’s a contender.

    But if you’re talking about personal bias (whether a previous win makes it more likely that an author’s work will be taken more seriously)–which is a question that interests me a lot–I feel like we touched a bit on it in, but I can’t quite find the post now. This is the closest I can find, where Karyn asks whether knowing an author personally creates bias (a post that she ironically wrote because of meeting Paolo B.). One sort of “baggage” we all bring to our own reading is an awareness of an author’s body of work or past award wins–in other words, a “positive prejudice.” But I assume the RealCommittee tries hard to avoid this.

    This article at The Hub by Sharon Rawlins has a nice analysis of the quality of subsequent books written by Printz-winning authors, and Mark and Sarah Flowers have touched on the topic of ranking the books in an author’s body of work in this post on Crossreferencing.

  17. I remember reading about the rules. What interests me more is if the committee ever questions if it’s fair to award one type of writing over and over again, or they are supposed to keep looking for something different each year.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      Tatiana– I think it must come up, because it’s one of those things we all think, and really, how do you avoid wondering about fairness? But it’s not something that the Printz committee is permitted to consider, based on the Policies and Procedures, so even if it came up officially, in dialogue with committee members at the table (as opposed to the secret second thoughts kind of wondering), the chair would remind the committee that fairness and balance are irrelevant; that each year’s committee is tasked with looking at only that year and putting aside biases or assumptions about fairness or who deserves recognition that would result in a comment like “John Doe has already won/honored, so let’s recognize Joe Doe instead.”

      That said, we’re all only human, so are there times someone has looked at two books at the moment of voting and thought “all other things being equal, faced with two excellent books, do I vote for the known or the unknown”? I imagine there are; I don’t imagine, however, that anyone has ever said “I’ll choose the good book by debut author X over the great book by previous winner Y.”

      I also think previous winners/honorees have expectations placed upon them that actually have people looking at their books MORE closely — Mark called this positive bias, but I think it often has negative outcomes for those authors.

  18. Obviously that consideration doesn’t bother the Man Booker committee! 🙂

  19. Thanks. It’s an interesting issue to ponder on. It came to my mind after reading an article about a SF A. Clark award which questioned – what does it say about an award if the same author (in that specific case – China Miéville) gets recognized over and over again. And like Elizabeth just mentioned, same goes for Booker and Hilary Mantel. I personally need to think on it some more.

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