We’re at the time of year when every day seems to bring us a new list — the past 24 hours alone saw Horn Book’s Fanfare, NPR’s (new! fun!) Book Concierge, and the Morris Award shortlist.
And while I’m not a data junkie, I like lists. I like cross-referencing, comparing, seeing how the end-of-year lists stack up against our longlist and my own personal favorites, and looking for weird correlations, like the way Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly are often on the same page.
So read on for what my quick and dirty look through a pile of lists tells me about the books of 2013, as always through our narrow lens of Printz speculation.
I looked at the following lists: The NBA longlist, The New York Times Notable Children’s Books (I love that the Times STILL doesn’t recognize YA as its own category), NPR’s not-a-list of great books from 2013, the Morris Award Finalists, and the four professional review journal lists released thus far: Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and The Horn Book.
Of our own longlist, which had 31 titles, 7 didn’t make any of the end-of-year lists I looked at — 17 & Gone, The Different Girl, The Midnight Dress, Mortal Fire, The Waking Dark, Wild Awake, and Yellowcake.
I’m not surprised about 17 & Gone or The Waking Dark. I had thought Wild Awake had a stab at a Morris nod but I never predict the Morris list accurately, and it’s been a pretty good year for contemporary realistic fiction so maybe Wild Awake just doesn’t stand out enough. But I’m definitely surprised about the other four; Lanagan’s strange short prose usually captivates as much as it baffles, and the other three are all in my own top 10 for the year. I’ve already gone on at length about the merits of Mortal Fire and The Different Girl and I think both deserve to make any list of the year’s best; I need to reread The Midnight Dress but I’d definitely rank it above some of the books that did get nods.
Of the remaining 24 titles on our longlist, 9 made three or more end of year lists.
The top critical darlings — and these didn’t surprise anyone, I’m sure — are Boxers & Saints and Eleanor & Park (it’s the year of the ampersand!) and also, despite the lack of ampersand, Rose Under Fire. Both Boxers & Saints and Eleanor & Park made all four trade journals; E&P also showed up on the NPR list while B&S swept the lists, making the NBA shortlist and nods from NPR and the NY Times. Rose Under Fire, on the other hand, didn’t make The Horn Book Fanfare but received shoutouts from NPR and the NY Times
Running just behind E&P and Rose, Far Far Away made the HB, SLJ, and PW lists as well as the NBA longlist, while A Corner of White made the HB, Kirkus, and SLJ lists as well as NPR’s not-a-list.
Not quite as beloved but still pretty impressive: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (Kirkus, SLJ, NPR), The Summer Prince (Kirkus, NPR, NBL longlist), Reality Boy (Kirkus, SLJ, PW), and Picture Me Gone (PW, NYT, NBA) each made three the lists, which seems to confirm that they are likely RealPrintz contenders and certainly worth speculating about.
As usual, Kirkus won for most eclectic outliers, including a few books I hadn’t heard of at all. The Kirkus list also has a rich selection of genre fiction (and the correlation between books I’ve overlooked and genre books in the sf and paranormal categories is striking). The HB list, on the other hand, has only one book that isn’t on at least two other lists (Invasion, by Walter Dean Myers, another book we had completely missed), so they win for most agreeable.
Now, my favorite part of my list studies: books that were recognized in more than one source that we had either missed in our initial list compilation or dismissed as not a real contender.
All the Truth that’s In Me, Julie Berry (HB, Kirkus, SLJ): I have zero objectivity on this one, as I was lucky enough to meet Julie when I moderated a panel at last Spring’s Day of Dialog. I adore her, and I totally get all the love for All the Truth (despite having some issues with the setting). But with three of the four trades out thus far including this (even the super selective Horn Book), it’s clearly one that should be in the mix as a serious contender. So I’m making Joy read it, unless anyone wants to write a guest post?
March, Book 1, John Lewis et al (HB, Kirkus, SLJ): Joy’s on it, if the copy we ordered ever arrives. This one is really hard to get in hand, per our experiences. Maybe all this recognition will help with that?
Sex & Violence, Carrie Mesrobian (Kirkus, PW, Morris finalist): This had already made it on to our super secret longer list. Ok, it’s not super secret, just a spreadsheet where we keep track of everything. Plus, ampersand, so that alone means it’s probably going places.
Delilah Dirk & the Turkish Lieutenant, Tony Cliff (Kirkus, PW): There might have been fisticuffs when this arrived. It’s fabulously fun, although we didn’t think it had the chops to be a contender, so we weren’t planning to write about it other than in a roundup; we might do something a bit more in depth given the two shoutouts thus far. Also, ANOTHER ampersand. I’m telling you. 2013: the year the ampersand made it big.
Dark Triumph, Robin LaFevers (Kirkus, SLJ): second in a series, and — like last year’s Grave Mercy — a great read but not a serious contender. Anyone disagree strongly enough to make it worth picking this one apart?
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, Meg Medina (Kirkus, SLJ): Already in my ever diminishing to-read pile, now moved to the top.
Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, Evan Roskos (Kirkus, Morris finalist): See above.
The War Within these Walls, Aline Sax (Kirkus, PW): review coming; like Sex & Violence it had already made the spreadsheet as a to-be-added.
The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater (Kirkus, SLJ): Even better than the first volume, and in my top books of the year. It’s amazing. Also it’s a clear middle book; it’s brilliant in the context of the first book but nonsensical without it. Still, we have a guest post volunteer who wants to gush even if it’s hard to really make a case for this as a serious contender.
Hostage 3, Nick Lake (SLJ, PW): I spoke a little in last year about my discomfort with In Darkness and exploitative writing, and my discomfort has grown as time has gone by. I know this is a different book, but it keeps falling to the bottom of the to-read pile because of my feelings about In Darkness. If you’ve read this one and think it has contender potential, please shout out in the comments and motivate me to move this one up.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds, Cat Winters (SLJ, Morris finalist): Whoops! Read half of this, skimmed, read the ending, and put it aside. My Goodreads review concluded “I have a laundry list of reasons it’s not a best book from a literary POV, and I liked it but wasn’t so absorbed that I wanted to read it to the exclusion of doing anything else, so I’m moving on.”
So there you have it, other than the dozens of titles that only made one list. What’s on your to-read pile now, thanks to all these lists? What dark horse(s) were you glad to see recognized? And what didn’t make any lists (so far!) that really really should have?