This book really amazed me by being a story that is bigger and harder and rougher and rawer than I thought it would be. It’s been named for two year’s best lists, and garnered three starred reviews, so it’s not just me feeling amazed. Althea and Oliver is a debut book that went far darker than I expected, and did so intelligently and memorably. While it’s not a perfect read, the more I think about this one, the more impressed I am. [Read more...]
Here at Someday, we have a tradition (this is year three) of a Mock Printz which, in a fit of serious humor,* we styled the Pyrite Printz. (Get it? Because Pyrite is like gold but not? Also, alliterative.)
As always, we are still (still!) reviewing serious contenders and reading away madly to catch up with all the surprise books (Carnival at Bray, anyone? No nook version and no copies at, count ‘em, FOUR bricks and mortar stores).
But that’s us, and the Pyrite, my friends, is about you. So it’s time to get it started.
For many, the second half of 2014 will be remembered as the time when police violence against black communities sparked outrage, protest, and calls for change. This is a timely and sorrowful moment for How It Went Down to arrive as a novel about the shooting death of a black teen by a white man. Thankfully, Kekla Magoon handles the plot and characters with delicacy and enough nuance that the book may become a helpful way for some teens to begin to process their frustration and confusion.
It’s important to note though, that How It Went Down is deliberately evocative of the death of Trayvon Martin, even though it’s possible to draw some parallels to Michael Brown’s death. It’s also important to note that Magoon doesn’t just recreate the plot beats of Trayvon Martin death; she’s not interested in a “ripped-from-the-headlines” kind of storytelling. She’s asking a lot of questions. How does a community cope with loss? When that loss is indicative of a larger social justice issue, how does that individual’s life become mythologized and/or demonized? How does tragedy connect and divide the people closest to it?
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.
We’re called “Someday My Printz Will Come” for a reason; we kiss a lot of frogs. Which is necessary if we want to read widely — and we do, because that gives us the best sense of the year. The Printz is, after all, an award for literary excellence in the publication year — wider readership means we are assessing the books against as many of the competition as possible.
We can’t cover every book we collectively read — if you’re interested in seeing those lists, find us on Goodreads — and there are plenty of books we are happy to skip. But we wanted to take a moment to give out a few honorable mentions to some books that aren’t quite frogs, but they aren’t princes, or Printzs, either.
So, in brief, a roundup of some titles we don’t think need a lengthy discussion but did deserve some acknowledgement. The following books fall into one of two categories — either we read them and loved them, but sadly believe they have no chance when it comes to the Printz, OR they landed on our list for reasons of stars (we do our best to lay eyes on everything with three or more stars) or buzz, but we just can’t see them going the distance.
Oh lists, we love you so!
And it’s open season for year end lists — PW’s early entry was followed by SLJ, and then Kirkus, NPR, the New York Times, and The Horn Book all joined the fray. Plus the Morris and YA Excellence in Nonfiction finalists (both YALSA awards, like the Printz) were made public. SO MUCH DATA. It’s amazing. So let’s take a look, crunch some numbers, and revisit what actually seem to be the real (for a purely speculative value of real) contenders of the year.
Some time in the next few days I’ll have a lot to say about the year end lists, and we’ll be going back and making some additional edits to our start of season list in light of time crunches and more data. Today, though, I’m taking a moment away from that madness to reflect on series fiction, a topic near and dear to my heart.
For years in my teens and early twenties, I read chick-lit like it was going out of style. I didn’t mind the label or the candy colored covers or the many many headless women — I was young, and not in love, and these books filled a hunger. I now scorn the love triangle in EVERY. DAMN. BOOK, especially in genre, but I understand why it holds appeal. But I’ve also developed a real appreciation for a different kind of love story, the kind about friendship with no romantic overtones but which is just as rich and deep as any romantic love story.
“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend,” as Elizabeth Wein put it in Code Name Verity.
And in September, two lovely examples of exactly this kind of love story came out.
I initially came across this one on Jen‘s fabulous spreadsheet. Two stars doesn’t make it a must read, but I still haven’t quite recovered from The White Bicycle. It’s one thing to not have read a Printz winner/honoree personally, and a common thing, it seems, for me to disagree with the winner, but for a book to be so far off the radar that I hadn’t heard of it was really surprising and a cause for chagrin. So I try to pay attention to 1 and 2 star titles that are utterly unfamiliar, in hopes of never being that surprised again.
This is one of those unfamiliar 1-2 star books. [Read more...]
A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin
Knopf, April 2014
Reviewed from final copy
JOHN BROWN TAKE THE WHEEL is probably not how you expected this review to start, but let’s embrace the unexpected and just go with it. With four stars and some rave reviews happening, Albert Marrin’s A Volcano Beneath the Snow is definitely getting some love here and there. [Read more...]