Ok, I confess: the title of this post is mostly clickbait. I’m too much of a libra (and librarian) to be able to call these books anything as absolute as “bad.” The less clickbait, more classic title could be: In which the reader is disappointed in not one but two four-star books, by authors she has previously loved, and is left wondering if the fault is hers or the authors’.
Despite the title, this is probably more like take 4. This is somehow a hard review to write. I keep slipping away from the book itself and into all the things that surround this book: the importance of representation and mirrors in YA lit; the long history of binary systems in human thought and the way interstitial anything creates anxiety (there may be a thesis in my past about cross-dressing in Shakespeare and Marlowe and how actually social transgressions are usually more condemned than sexual transgressions, and as a result of that thesis I may have read a lot about binaries and sexuality and gender at various points in my life). The earlier draft went into #weneeddiversebooks and gatekeepers, collection development, the fact that the author of this book is a cis-het white male, and a host of other things.
But none of that is really getting at the purpose here, which is to assess a book as a literary object. Which is not to say that none of it has bearing — but when I hit 1,000 words and was still on the issues around the text, I decided to start over. So here we go again: Symptoms of Being Human — Printz worthy or not? [Read more…]
I’m going to tip my hand right at the outset: this is a fantastic slow burn of a novel that is also the first in a series, so let’s face it: award recognition here probably goes beyond long shot and right into impossible. But sometimes you sit down to write up the book you meant to write up and you find yourself thinking “Wait! I WANT to say something about this other book, because it’s GOOD.” So I’m saying something.
When we compiled our list of 25 contenders, we skipped Salt to the Sea. But not because we hadn’t read it: I read it back in late 2016, and even gave it four stars on Goodreads.
However, the longer I get from reading this one, the more I tend to feel an eye roll coming on when I consider its merits. This is maybe just me, though, because this was one of two titles mentioned repeatedly in the comments on the list, it’s a bestseller, and it received three starred reviews. [Read more…]
I mentioned last week that each of us has to assess excellence for ourselves, as well as coming to consensus when it comes time to pick a winner (or, for us, Pyrite winner).
For me, excellence is deeply tied to language. I was an English major; I’ve been know to read poetry for fun. I love puns. It doesn’t have to be highfalutin’, but show me real skill manipulating language and I’m likely to be lined up reaching for that book with both hands.
So no surprise, my second book this season once again is one that hits it out of the park when it comes to pure old-fashioned word-smithing.
Anna and the Swallow Man, Gavriel Savit
Knopf, January 2016
Reviewed from ARC
For the first posted coverage of the season, I thought I’d start with one of the earliest publication dates on our list. Anna and the Swallow Man came out in January. It had huge pre-publication push; we received at least 4 copies just to the school Joy and I work at, at least one of which was in a lovely paper slip cover. And it picked up three stars out of the gate (HB, The Bulletin, and PW): not a bad opening to the year. So does it live up to the hype or the buzz?
Traditionally, we’ve launched the season with our massive (like, 90 titles long) reading list, but when we open with the big list, we always end up regretting approximately one-third of the titles.
So this year, we’re going to share a shorter, not even slightly exhaustive list. Here are our top 25 titles, included either because we’ve already read them or because they’ve gotten all the stars (by which I mean 4 or more, marked with an asterisk) or because the author or description have us thinking these are likely to be worth the conversation.
Obviously, we won’t be reviewing only 25 books this season, and we have plenty of books we’ve read that probably won’t go the distance but are certainly worth a conversation and therefore a post. But here’s the 25 we’re most excited to talk about, aphabetized by title because that’s how we’ve been discussing them.
American Girls, Alison Umminger
As I Descended, Robin Talley
The Bitter Side of Sweet*, Tara Sullivan
Blood Red, Snow White, Marcus Sedgwick
Burn Baby Burn*, Meg Medina
Character, Driven*, David Lubar
Every Exquisite Thing, Matthew Quick
Exit, Pursued by a Bear*, E.K. Johnston
Golden Boys*, Sonya Hartnett
The Head of the Saint, Socorro Acioli
Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley
The Lie Tree*, Frances Hardinge
The Memory of Light*, Francisco X. Stork
My Lady Jane, Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows
The Passion of Dolssa*, Julie Berry
Railhead, Philip Reeve
The Reader*, Traci Chee
Samurai Rising*, Pamela S. Turner
The Serpent King, Jeff Zentner
The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan
Spontaneous, Aaron Starmer
Still Life with Tornado, A.S. King
Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin
Unbecoming*, Jenny Downham
We Are the Ants*, Shaun Davis Hutchinson
What would you add? Remove? Actually, let’s play this committee style: these are our nominations thus far. What are yours?
We’ll be back Monday with our first review. Catch you then!
Hello! Howdy! Greetings!
Once upon a time, a couple of former Printz committee members were invited to start a blog for SLJ, a YA counterpoint to the always provocative and wonderful Heavy Medal. And thus Someday My Printz, a Printz speculation blog, was born. Five years later, and here we are back again (now with three regular contributors), ready for another season of reading, guessing, opining, and conversing.
As always, we like to start the season by looking back at the official criteria and eligibility guidelines. We’ve discussed these in some depth before — here and here and here and here, and also here, because apparently we had a lot to say. I don’t want to belabor the point, but it’s always worth noting that the official criteria is a loosely written document seemingly designed to allow growth and change in how the Printz Committee defines excellence. (For our part, we each come at our idea of excellence little differently, and we’d love to hear how you all gauge it.)
One of the most wonderful aspects of committee-based awards is that they grow from a constant dialogue about excellence and from a place of mutual respect. The book I champion won’t necessarily be the one any of you, or Joy, or Sarah, champions. And yet from conversations about each of the nominees, and from close reading and rereading, the committee comes to a consensus each year. And while we (YA librarians, not just the bloggers at Someday) may not always be happy with the decision, the one thing I know from having had the privilege of being in that room for a year is that the decision is always right, even if a different committee could have gotten to a different slate.
So what we do here is not second guessing the amazing, dedicated librarians on the RealCommittee; instead, we try to have a shadow committee, made up of anyone who wants to talk about YA literature and literary excellence, making transparent the kind of in-depth, thoughtful reading the RealCommittee has been engaged in for months already.
Each week we’ll talk about some of this year’s eligible titles, or the conversations around those titles, or other related topics. We’ll do our best to approach the standards of the RealCommittee: close reading, listening to others, considering myriad factors and not relying on emotional responses (although those have a place too). Hopefully, you’ll join the conversation!
So that’s it, the story of where we came from and what we’re doing. Welcome to Someday my Printz Will Come, Year 5! As always, we invite you to join us as we kiss—I mean read!—all the frogs in the pond.
Good morning! Read on for my liveblog reactions to this morning’s YMAs! Content runs from bottom to top and ends after the Printz.
Edited to add: The comments are open for debriefing and post award conversation, but please keep in mind the hard work of the RealCommittee and be respectful of their work and process.
And we’re back with even more more books, in part 2 of our mega roundup of all (not really all) the books.