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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The Shadow Hero

The Shadow Hero, story by Gene Luen Yang & art by Sonny Liew
First Second, July 2014
Reviewed from final copy

I don’t review graphic novels here that often, although I read most of them, because I always worry that I don’t know enough about art. But I know enough to know that this is fantastic as a novel and as a work of graphica.

[Read more...]

Belzhar

Belzhar cover 192x300 BelzharBelzhar, Meg Wolitzer
Dutton, September 2014
Reviewed from ARC

There’s always some weird dance of anticipation and dread when an author you respect as an author for adult readers dips into the YA world. Happily, Meg Wolitzer is very clear eyed about YA and about why she writes YA — it’s not to jump on the glory train (and isn’t it funny that YA is the glory train? That never stops being strange to me), and it’s not to say something to teens, although of course things are said. No, it’s about the feelings, and about capturing them on the page so that the rest of us can revisit those heady emotions.

And Belzhar is a perfect tempest of teen emotion, even if it’s not always a perfect piece of writing. [Read more...]

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling

Two Girls 232x300 Two Girls Staring at the CeilingTwo 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. [Read more...]

Poisoned Apples

Poisoned Apples 210x300 Poisoned ApplesPoisoned Apples, Christine Heppermann
Greenwillow, October 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Gosh, it’s a good year for poetry, at least from a publishing perspective.

And unlike Nelson’s gorgeous memoir that I will be hard pressed to sell to actual real live teen readers, Poisoned Apples has appeal in spades.

This was a later addition to our list, thanks to buzz and three stars five stars, and I’m glad we didn’t miss it; it’s a small collection of woman-centric fairy-tale poems that recast the action in the schools and streets and bedrooms and bathrooms of today’s world. Sort of Anne Sexton lite, maybe — which, frankly, is pretty much everything wrong with this collection in a nutshell. [Read more...]

Kirkus Prize Finalists

In case you missed the news when it was first announced, or the recent news of the finalists, Kirkus Reviews now offers a really excellent writing award — it’s monetary, to the tune of $50,000, which for many authors probably represents a lot more time to write.

The nominee list — all the star reviews published between November 2013 to October 2014 — are listed here, and it’s quite a list (we’ve talked before about the Kirkus star, which is meaningful but not stingy). Much more exciting, though, is the Kirkus Prize finalist list, which was released yesterday.

Read on for the list, with my insights — spoiler warning, though: I haven’t read any of them yet. There are just too many good books!

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The Winner’s Curse

9780374384678 The Winners CurseThe Winner’s Curse, Marie Rutkoski
Macmillan, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Not gonna lie. I loved this book. I loved from the pretty dress cover — I know! But I’m a sucker — to the thoroughly unexpected world. I loved the lack of easy answers and the fact that there is more to come. I loved Kestrel’s brilliance and her stupidity, and Arin’s conflicting desires for freedom and to be a good man, in a world where both are not an option. So much love, really.

But my love does not literary merit confer, sadly, so let’s see if there’s a case to be made.

[Read more...]

Zac + Mia

9780544331648 Zac + MiaZac & Mia, A.J. Betts
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Remember when teens with terminal illnesses were the stuff of Lurlene McDaniels and also the Wakefield twins’ brother’s girlfriend? And not literary fodder.

Oh for the days of yore.

But the cancer book seems here to stay, and this one puts some spin on the tropes of the genre.

[Read more...]

NBA Longlist

I know, I know, it’s already old news — but it would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the NBA longlist in Young People’s Literature.

There are a few surprises, as always, a few “of course” books, and a side of “wait, really?”

There’s also a slant towards a type of book. Social conscience seems to be on the table as a criteria, or at least a bias. Greenglass House and 100 Sideways Miles maybe don’t fit that mold (I haven’t read either yet and descriptions don’t make it clear), but the rest do — even Noggin, which takes on ethics and identity as issues.

But because we are really narrowly focused here, what I am mostly interested in is how this list compares to our own list.

[Read more...]

How I Discovered Poetry

How I Discovered Poetry cover 198x300 How I Discovered PoetryHow I Discovered Poetry, Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Dial Books, January 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Marilyn Nelson, author of the 2006 Printz honor book A Wreath for Emmett Till, is responsible for what may be this year’s most unique contender, pairing two genres only occasionally spotted in the YA world — memoir and poetry — to make a whole that is notable and worth recognizing. [Read more...]

We Were Liars

we were liars We Were LiarsWe Were Liars, E. Lockhart
Delacorte, May 2014
Reviewed from ARC

For the first formal writeup of the season, I thought I’d tackle the first likely contender I read (I read this one in late 2013, so I was early).

Also, I know lots of people are itching to talk about it.

First, pedigree: this one made our longlist in a whopping 4 categories. Buzz (although some of that was manufactured by the smart marketing people who knew they had something worth pushing); previous winner (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, 2009 Printz Honor book); stars (five of them); and interest (Frankie was one of my committee’s picks, and I also love love love Lockhart’s smart, sly Ruby Oliver books, which seem fluffy on the outside and are actually protein and pathos packed when you dig in.)

Now, I like intricately plotted books that work seamlessly when I read them but leave me thinking about the author’s skill in putting all the bits together once I’ve finished reading. I also like mysteries and unreliable narrators.

In other words, We Were Liars was made for me — but that’s not what  makes it a worthy contender.

[Read more...]