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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

A List of Cages

Before I dive into the first review of the year, a few housekeeping notes.

We are, as we have been doing, plan to review in roughly chronological order. So for the next month, we’ll focus on Q1 books, those published between January and March 2017. We’re not going to be super strict about this — sometimes we’ll bump a book up or hold it, for example if we think it goes well with something else, or if we have’t read it and end up circling back to it. But we’re hoping this will make it more likely that people who don’t have amazing ARC/galley access will have read books we discuss by the time we discuss them.

In the past, we’ve always shared a list — more recently, an abbreviated list of 25 titles. It’s always sort of arbitrary (although I could tell you already the 10 books I am pulling for hardest). We’re tempted to skip it this year — but we’ll defer to reader opinion. Let us know.

And of course, as always, we are reviewing specifically for Printz speculation, which means we’re mostly looking for what’s wrong with books — because in the end it’s an elimination game, and being a great book isn’t enough.

Now, on to the first review of the year.

A List of Cages, Robin Roe
Hyperion, January 2017
Reviewed from ARC

I totally avoided this one for months, because sometimes I just can’t do depressing, and I had a feeling this was going to be a rough read. But we still use three stars as a cutoff for books we take the time to read, and A List of Cages has four, which meant I couldn’t put it off forever.

So I read it. And yeah, it was a tough read. Lots of ugly tears — and a moment at the end when I actually had to flip forward and make sure someone wasn’t dead, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t breathing for a solid 20 second there. Emotionally, I was all in on this.

But of course, ugly tears, while an important marker of a book’s emotional effectiveness, are not in the Printz criteria.

There are strong notes of The Perks of Being a Wallflower here — we have a younger and immature student stuck in a secretly abusive situation and befriended by immensely cool older students — but the details are so different that it doesn’t come across as less original for the resonance. There’s significant evidence that Roe knows her stuff; Julian’s behavior and the terrible situation with his uncle feel uncomfortably possible, and Julian and Adam both have distinct, believable voices that sound like teens, even if Adam is a little too good to be true.

Indeed, looking at the criteria, this has a lot going for it — voice, story, plot are all excellent and characterization is strong despite the Mary Sue-ishness of Adam.

So does it have what it takes? In this case, I think it’s not about what this book does wrong but about whether this is good enough to be the very very top of the heap. And for me, it’s good — but not quite as good as at least five other books I can name. What do you think?

 

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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.

Comments

  1. Gosh, it has been months since I read this book and it hasn’t weathered well in my mind. I remember wondering what all the fuss was about when I did read it because I didn’t like it. I know that isn’t very specific. But if a book is unmemorable it shouldn’t be an award candidate, in my mind.

    Welcome back!

  2. When I first read it, I found this book was an emotional gut punch and a possible contender. But as time passed and other titles came along, I found this book sliding further on the list. Like you said, it pushes all the right buttons, but it does seem to lack that certain “something” that lingers with you.

  3. AmandaPerkins says:

    A lot of wonderful books came out this year, and A List of Cages is actually in my top three. It might be my favorite overall.

  4. I initially liked the book and the growing relationship between Julian and Adam. But then it went way dark for my comfort level and it became torture porn. I finished it none-the-less because I needed to know how it ended, but the whole thing made me feel a little icky.

  5. It took me forever to get through this and I didn’t feel the love others felt. One thing that really drove me nuts, aside from what a syrupy character Adam was, was one, the job he had (really?) and then two, the absolute violation of Julian’s privacy/ commission of malpractice on the part of the counselor.

  6. I definitely hope you share your list with us! It gives me a reading direction, as well as helps to refresh my mind of books that I may have missed or meant to read but never quite got around to yet.

    I’m excited to read your thoughts on this year’s Printz prospects!

  7. I absolutely loved A List of Cages. The writing was beautiful, and the story is so important. I’m looking forward to hearing what your top picks are!

  8. Karyn Silverman says:

    So, this was interesting to me — last week, I had the opportunity to booktalk to my 10th graders, which never happens. Having just reread a fair portion of Cages to write it up for the blog, it seemed like a perfect candidate, and the booktalk was, I think, a good one, delivered well. I also booktalked 3-4 other titles per section. I saw two (of four) sections last week, and this is the one book of the pile I had that I brought to both sections and had no takers. Of course, appeal is desirable but not an actual bulleted criteria point in the P&P, but I am still turning over in my head the fact that no one even wanted to read the back flap copy on Cages.

    I think we’ll share a list next week, since a few of you asked so nicely, probably in the 25-30 book range again.

    And hi! It’s nice to BE back.

  9. Please share your list with us. I help organize a Mock Printz event and I like to look at what you’re considering.

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