Karyn just posted an impressive roundup of last minute reading, so I’m chiming in with some more. With Monday morning’s announcement looming large, it seems like everyone is trying to sprint through their last minute reads in order to feel prepared.
This debut got one star, and wasn’t on our initial contenda list. But the nod from the Morris committee certainly piqued our interest, and I’m so grateful. This is definitely my favorite of this bunch of last minute reads. The writing is often beautiful, the characterization is strong, and the setting (late 30’s, in a wayward girls’ home and then a carnival) is rich and intense. Some of the short chapters are a place to hear from Portia’s compatriots in the carnival — to tell their stories. Many of these characters, we learn from the author’s note, are loosely based on historical people. These vignettes add texture and dimension to the story. Barnaby’s touch is delicate; she places each chapter very carefully, and also very carefully chooses whether to use first or third person narration.
The ending is rushed, but that’s the biggest flaw I could find at this late stage read. The multiple revelations at the end do feel a little like a pile up, and the carnival members coming to the rescue is sudden. However, the emotional payoff of that moment is powerful, and the growth that we are able to see in Portia is gratifying. There are a lot of strengths to this read: the theme of finding family and love, the exploration of stories as a source of power.
With four starred reviews and an author who won the Printz before, this was a no question auto-contenda in our list. And I can see where those starred reviews came from: this story is immediate and often raw. It’s a quick read that asks big questions, and provides a realistic exploration of psychological pain, and it’s all done with a believably teen-ish voice. It’s possible that, in the smaller CSK pool of potential books, this title could go far.
But there are some flaws that will knock A Certain October out of discussion at the Printz table. There’s a lot going on in this story, and very few pages to get it all across. We don’t get a lot of time with the characters, and as a result, they seem to be collections of details rather than whole, integrated people (Misha has a tattoo and lives with the Aunts; Falcone is gay and his sister is no longer around; Kris is into music.) The story itself feels a little disjointed; it moves around in time, and sometimes the flashbacks sneak up on the reader.
The conclusion to The Giver series, y’all. Lois Lowry. Without even counting the three stars it received, this was another easy auto-contender to spot. We get closure to Jonas’s world by getting Claire’s story. Her journey takes us through the settings of Gathering Blue and The Messenger and ties everything together by the end. Claire’s story is emotionally compelling (the first part is especially strong).
There are some issues that will hold Son back in terms of RealPrintz discussion, however. Other parts of the book are not as smooth and well developed as the first part; the plot lags during Claire’s amnesia episode, and she seems like a different character. The world building for Son is sketchy; it’s interesting reading, but it doesn’t all hang together neatly enough to be cohesive. There are a number of plot holes and convenient twists, too (Claire doesn’t get her pills, as a member of The Community, which is what sets this novel’s action in motion; we don’t see how she reaches the seaside community; the supernatural element of the Trademaster is jarring).
So that’s a quick run through of the reading I’ve been trying to cram in. Do you all have thoughts? Or are you too busy trying to get through your own stacks of books?