So, I think I made it pretty clear last year that I really like Alaya Dawn Johnson’s style. She’s smart and she writes books that appeal to me as a reader. But if you dismiss this as just another fangirl review, you’ll be missing out, because despite the flaws (and there are flaws — fannish and blind are not synonyms) this is one seriously notable book.
Is the subject too niche? Are readers putting all their support behind Eleanor & Park?
I lurve E&P. You know I do. But Fangirl is the stronger book. It’s richer thematically, has better characterizations, a more complex story, and a fascinating structure. If only one of Rowell’s novels is recognized by the Real Committee this year, it should be Fangirl.
Time for a true confession: of the five 2014 Morris Award nominated titles, I’ve read only one. All of the books had been on my to-read list before becoming Morris finalists, but we all know what happens with to-read lists and then you’ve only read one of the books. Fortunately for me, that book was Carrie Mesrobian’s Sex & Violence. It’s challenging and smart work from a promising writer—truly deserving of the Morris nod (and I really regret not being able to judge it against the rest of the field).
Mesrobian has a clear thesis in Sex & Violence; it’s mostly there in the title, but she’s also interested in how an already emotionally detached young person copes with PTSD. The latter is really the meat of the book and what makes it work: after a violent attack in his boarding school’s shower leaves him without a spleen, Evan begins to question his sexual history and actions which led to the assault. Mesrobian puts the reader directly in his head by writing in first person, but Evan is never entirely honest with himself, making him an impenetrable narrator. It’s only in his letters to Collette where he reveals anything true about himself, because it’s as he writes these letters that he begins to understand who he is. Evan’s voice is consistent and pitch perfect; this kind of assured writing is worth the price of admission.
I’ve already gone on record saying that this is my personal frontrunner this year. It’s the book, above all other books, that worked for me as a reader and that I can support as a critic. If I were on the RealPrintz committee this year, I would have nominated this and I’d be passionately and loudly singing its praises in hopes that everyone could be convinced.
But in order to convince everyone, I need to marshal my arguments.
So here goes.
We put out a call asking for interested parties to take a shot at making the case for their top book of the year, and today, occasional guest poster Clair Segal is back to do just that. Or sort of that, because she’s taken on a challenge: talking about a second book in a series.
See, the thing no one told me about going to your first Annual is that it makes you act crazy.
Totally crazy. Librarian!crazy. (Which is frankly the best kind of crazy because all things in life are better when prefaced with “Librarian!”)
But crazy is crazy, and I acted the book-obsessed-fool in Chicago. I stumbled over my tongue telling Holly Black how “amazering” Coldest Girl was. I tried to show Emily Danforth that I was awesome and hip, and great best-friend material. I waited in an insanely long line to profess to an indifferent Tamora Pierce that she had changed my life forever at the tender age of nine. (“Hmm,” my childhood idol offered, nodding politely and sliding over a signed book as her handler motioned me on.)
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves made me beg a stranger for pity.
We’re at the time of year when every day seems to bring us a new list — the past 24 hours alone saw Horn Book’s Fanfare, NPR’s (new! fun!) Book Concierge, and the Morris Award shortlist.
And while I’m not a data junkie, I like lists. I like cross-referencing, comparing, seeing how the end-of-year lists stack up against our longlist and my own personal favorites, and looking for weird correlations, like the way Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly are often on the same page.
So read on for what my quick and dirty look through a pile of lists tells me about the books of 2013, as always through our narrow lens of Printz speculation.
I love this book so very very much. I put it on our initial long list based on one read, and I knew there were some flaws in the pacing, but there was so much good — the world, the utterly unusual heroine, even the messed up but utterly inevitable romance.
(I don’t even like most romance these days — too many bad literary love triangles — but Canny and Ghislain made so much sense in the weird and wonderful context of the book that my anti-love bias was put to rest.)
I really really want to spend the rest of the post telling you all the reasons why this one deserves a Printz…
But I can’t.
I had hoped to post this before the NBA was announced, but fate (and also one very lively 6-year-old) intervened, and then intervened some more.
Regardless, here’s a verbatim transcript of my thinking when I finished Boxers & Saints:
I read the two volumes back to back in the intended order, and I’m looking at them together in this post — but of course, that’s the crux of the question: I can go ahead and tell you all the reasons Boxers & Saints, as a single entity, deserves recognition as one of the year’s absolute bests, and I might be 100% right — but those arguments mean nothing if the RealCommittee considers them as two individual texts.
Hopefully you’ve already voted for the Pyrite Printz* (if you haven’t, do so!), but maybe you had some Printz picks that didn’t make that shortlist?
Well, so do we. So we thought we’d fill these final hours before the Pyrite polling closes by talking about our top 5s.
And as we talked through our lists, a very interesting dichotomy came up: were we going to discuss our top 5 books from the heart? Or from the head?
Because there were differences, although they aren’t mutually exclusive lists. So we decided we’d give you both!
Note that these are not predictions — we’re going to make our best guesses as to what the RealCommittee will choose (and doubtless be completely wrong!) on Sunday, at the very 11th hour. No, these are hopes, and dreams, and books we can’t let go of.
Anyway, read on for Sarah and Karyn’s Top 5 Heart and Top 5 Head YA Books of 2012. With annotations, sort of. Alphabetized by title, not ranked.
The Kirkus list posted yesterday, and it’s a whopper: a full 100 books.
Happily, since we’re talking 100, I can do some statistical analysis!
We had 42% of the books on the Kirkus list on our own contender list from the beginning — that’s not yet half, but more than a third, which is not a bad overlap.
(I’m not listing all 42 titles, though.)
An additional 7% of the list are on our unofficial list of books we will cover if we can get them read in time — two for their Morris nods (Wonder Show and Love and Other Perishable Items), one for multiple Pyrite write-ins (In Darkness), and four because we’ve been hearing things (See You at Harry’s, Enchanted, although I started that and felt a bit meh, The Broken Lands, and Vessel).
We’re also adding two more to our unofficial list now, since Kirkus marks the second year-end recognition for Drama (also on the PW list) and My Name is Parvana (also on the SLJ list).
A further 11% of the list are books that one or more of us have already read and didn’t think rated a post. We don’t disagree that that these are (or at least could be argued as being) in the top 100 of the year, but we felt these were not close enough to the top of the pile to merit the extra time. That said, they might find their way into a post eventually, time permitting.
Of the remaining 38%, I see a fair number of series books, many of them books with a strong fan base but which no one is reading except as part of the larger body of work and which, statistically speaking, are such Printz longshots that they aren’t worth covering here. We’ll call the rest dark horses, and see if we see them again or if they are just outliers.