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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean, David Almond
Candlewick, January 2014
Reviewed from finished ebook

David Almond was one of the original Printz court (see my royalty pun there?). Skellig was an honor book in 2000, and then Kit’s Wilderness took the gold in 2001. Almond hasn’t stopped writing; at least in his native England, he seems to have something published and earning accolades nearly every year. So why is no one talking about his latest to cross the pond, the surreal and magnificent The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean?

Maybe it’s just that I had my head still firmly stuck in 2013 books in January, but I almost missed this entirely. Luckily someone put his next book on their to-read list in Goodreads, and when I went to check the US pubdate for that one, I stumbled across this one. It received three starred reviews, so we can be sure three people read it, plus me and one stalwart reader who read it for my discussion group at BookFest @Bank Street last week. I’m wondering if that’s it. (Edited to add: And the smart folks at PW, who put it on their list.) Which is a shame, because while I’m still not sure I liked this one, I think it’s definitely in the running for most ambitious novel of the year. [Read more...]

Oh! Oh! List Season Has Begun!

I love me some year end lists. Sometimes they affirm, sometimes they challenge and sometimes they bring me totally new books that I would have otherwise missed. And that’s even before we get to the comparing lists stage of things.

First up, released this weekend, we have the Publisher’s Weekly lists, which wins for affirming — almost all of these are books we’d put on our longlist — but also has two surprises.

Because one list doesn’t give us enough to start drawing big picture conclusions, I’m going to look at this in the really narrow lens of PW’s YA list vs Someday’s longlist. It’s a surprisingly good match. [Read more...]

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, 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 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, 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!

[Read more...]

The Winner’s Curse

The 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

Zac & 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...]