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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

December Blahs

One of the things I find frustrating about this blogging thing is the December blahs.

At this point in the game, I have a sense of what the year has brought us. I’m not a seer, so I don’t know what books will take the RealPrintz (and judging by last year, don’t listen even if I pretend I DO know), but I know what the top of the pile looks like.

But we’re still reading, and we’re still covering books we listed back in September as contenders. And some days, what we’re tasked with is coming up with a thousand or so words about a book that was quite good, and that doesn’t deserve to be dissected into shards, but that just isn’t a serious contender.

And yes, I acknowledge that sometimes, I say “not a contender” and what I really mean is, “here’s my argument against this one, but your mileage may vary.” This time, I really just mean they’re not contenders.

longlankin 198x300 December Blahs
Long Lankin, Lindsay Barraclough
Candlewick, July 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Take, for instance, Lindsey Barraclough’s Long Lankin.

Long Lankin is wonderfully creepy. It’s probably the best evocation of a place and time I’ve read this year — that small village, the decrepit manor, the lingering days and the growing shadows are MAGNIFICENT.

Want to give someone a super creepy read? Here it is. Want the kidlit answer to Kate Morton, whose House at Riverton is basically Long Lankin‘s grown up sibling? Here it is. Want a Printz winner or honor book? Here it ain’t.

(Although I did really like the ballad-y refrain. And I am looking forward to Barraclough’s next book and totally hope she sticks with this gothic-horror thing.)

The abrupt, too-short chapters, the monster being a little too literal — these are not, honestly, crimes against literature. But they make this delightfully chilly read just not stand up against the best this year has to offer.

Personal Effects 198x300 December Blahs

Personal Effects, E.M. Kokie
Candlewick, September 2012
Reviewed from ARC

I feel much the same way about E.M. Kokie’s powerful Personal Effects. It’s important. It’s moving.

Kokie has written a nuanced, respectful story about the military and about (spoiler, because I had no idea this was coming when I started it) gays in the military, as well as a story about what it means to break free from an oppressive, abusive home life and be your own person.

But the prose is sometimes clunky, the issues a little too much, so that there is an element of message, and the ending is way too easy — Matt faces down his dad and it’s ok? These are problems when we’re talking potential Printz winners. For anything else, it’s a damn fine book.

And I could go on, naming chapter and line of the flawed moments, dancing around trying to discuss why these books aren’t serious shortlisters while not tearing the book apart, because these aren’t books that should be torn apart but I don’t want to omit them from the discussion either. But I won’t. They’re among the top books of the year — just not the top 5, and that’s where I’m going to leave it.

So today I’m giving in to the December blahs and halting my assessment of these two books with that. But the comments are open, so if you think I’m not giving them fair shake, hit me.

(But not literally, because ouch.)

(Also, it wasn’t until I had written the post and edited it and added pictures and FINALLY got around to inserting the pub details that I realized these are both debuts, both pubbed by Candlewick. I think I’ve said this before, but I love how bold Candlewick is — they may not all be winners, but they are definitely publishing some interesting, unexpected voices and for that, big giant kudos.)

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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. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    Long Lankin: I’m not convinced that this isn’t a possibility, because it does such a good job with setting. Too short chapters — I never felt that while I was reading, so I’m not sure that is a flaw in the book. As to the monster being real, that’s part of the horror genre and sometimes a reveal can be disappointing. I still don’t like the reveal in IT, to be honest, but I think despite that it remains one of King’s strongest books. It’s like, say, I AM THE MESSENGER by Zukas — I think the last chapters are problematic but others either disagree or think its not enough to sink the whole book.

    Personally, the stronger question for me for Long Lank is the true age group for this book. Why, other than the publisher’s decision, is this a YA book?

    Also, Candlewick –they blow me away with all the high quality books they have. Love, love, love them.

  2. Hope Baugh says:

    A) This blog is always a remedy for my blahs (December-related or otherwise), so thanks again to all three of you for writing it.

    2) I’ll accept that Long Lankin isn’t going to win the Printz but I am nonetheless delighted to have it discussed here because in terms of readers advisory it is SUCH a good book to know about. The short chapters annoyed me at first, until I decided that they were intentional on the part of the author to add to the breathlessness, and it worked, and was therefore an asset. I’m not sure what to say about Liz’s age group question. Hmm. I agree that Lindsay Barraclough is an author to watch.

    Gamma) I hadn’t thought about Candlewick’s lovability, but yes, now that you mention it, I love them, too. And not just because many, many years ago my then-boss gave me a wooden “story box” that Candlewick had given her to give to new staff.

    IV) I haven’t read Personal Effects yet but it does sound intriguing.

  3. Hope Baugh says:

    PS – There has not yet been a full post here devoted to Ask the Passengers by A. S. King, has there? I finished it last night and am eager to “talk” about it. I’m glad it’s on the Pyrite short list.

  4. Barbara says:

    Personal Effects was a terrific read & one that we recommended to our local GLBT organization for a program on the history of gays & the military. I liked the thoughtful exploration of this period of American history. If you want to give your ears a treat, also try the audio version, read by Nick Podehl. He infuses Matt’s story with nuances that I missed when reading the text version.
    This is definitely on my list of books to recommend & talk about.

  5. Cecilia says:

    I didn’t manage to finish Long Lankin but I loved Personal Effects. It’s definitely in my top 5, but that may also be because the themes and especially Matt’s voice resonated so strongly with me. I can see the point about too much message and too easy an ending but I really wish it had made the Morris shortlist at least.

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