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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling, Lucy Frank
Schwartz & Wade, August 2014
Reviewed from final copy

I’m old.

This year, it has really come home to me that I have been doing this for a while, with the following exchanges:

Me: Oooh, a new one from Cecil Castellucci!
Joy: You mean the LA Review of Books editor?

Me: Oh! David Almond has two books out this year? We need to read those.
Joy: …I’ve heard of him.

Me: There’s a new Lucy Frank! I loved I Am An Artichoke!
Joy: <<Blank face>>

Ok, so I’m maybe exaggerating a bit, but Lucy Frank, whose name is impressed upon me as a YA author, whose early books I booktalked quite often in my salad days at New York Public Library, is one of many authors who elicit a sort of Pavlovian “I should read that” response, because I was reading their work in my formative years vis á vis YA literature.

Be wary of nostalgia reading, friends. It can lead you in the wrong direction.

Ok, wrong is pretty strong. And frankly unfair. Two Girls isn’t bad, and I have plenty of readers who will genuinely enjoy it; I had a teary moment or two along the way myself. It’s just not a contender.

Two Girls is a novel in verse about two girls with Crohn’s Disease, an unlikely pairing whose shared hospital experience and common disease generate a friendship. It’s also a novel in verse (I seem to have read all the poetry this year, which wasn’t deliberate but actually makes it easy to see which poetry novels or collections shine and which don’t), with an interesting structure — a line down the page symbolizes the curtain between the hospital beds, with poems sometimes crossing the line just as the girls cross the curtain in their interactions and growing friendship. The poems are free verse — “prose with line breaks,” as David Levithan said when he spoke about Realms of Possibility (I’m going to date myself as much as possible today, clearly) — and they work, they’re good, but they aren’t stellar, barring that innovative structure.

Mostly this is a book that pales by comparison to the seasonal field; for a novel in poetry about a girl facing hardship, I’ll argue that A Time to Dance gets the gold (review to come); for a relationship forged out of shared adversity, Zac & Mia has this beat thanks to the strong voice of Zac. Tellingly, both of those are longer. Perhaps brevity served this one badly; it means there just isn’t that much here to assess, and not enough room for the characters to come fully  to life. And while comparison isn’t exactly what we’re charged with doing when we talk Printz, it is an elimination game. So when another book does the job better, the weaker one tends to fall off the island.

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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, 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.

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