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SLJ’s Best Books 2017

What a reading pile might look like, if sloppily staged

What a reading pile might look like, if sloppily staged

It’s nearing the end of the year, and all the year’s best lists are going to drop…soon! In fact, this year is so far along that the NBA will be announcing winners this evening (can you belieeeeeeve it?). It’s fun to take notes and make sure our reading lists are as complete as possible as we head to ALA countdown time. We’ve seen what PW had to say; now it’s the Mother Ship’s turn. SLJ released their year-end list earlier this morning, with 71 titles for kids and teens included. Click for more thoughts! [Read more…]

Saints and Misfits

saints and misfits

We are pretty random when we divide up our reading each year — sometimes there are books that we latch on to because “that seems like a Sarah/Karyn/Joy type book,” but that’s fairly rare. More often, it’s just an up-in-the-air kind of thing…and it generally works out. For whatever reason, I am pretty sure I am getting all the exciting and fabulous debuts this year. (Just my perception, of course, my fellow bloggers might disagree!) I don’t envy the Morris Committee their work at all, because this time around some of the reads I’ve been most excited about have been debuts. And guess what? We have another one today! This particular debut got three stars, and is one that I relished. [Read more…]

Funny Girls

Covers

Today is going to be one of those ALL THE BOOKS posts, loosely linked by being by and about women and featuring humor. Which is a pretty loose thread, but let’s roll with it. As is often the case with these roundups, we don’t think any of these are books that are likely to go the distance — but all are books we could see someone else championing, and that could easily be on the table for the RealCommittee, which means the conversation is open and a strong advocate might be all that’s needed. Perhaps one of you will champion one of these in the comments and be that advocate? We’re getting close to Pyrite nomination time, so now is definitely the moment to make a case.

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Fish out of water

A lot of young adult literature is about teens in unfamiliar situations and places. Sometimes the differences they experience are socio-economic, sometimes they’re cultural, and sometimes they’re magical. Fish out of water tales are usually easily relatable, regardless of the specificity, because most people can remember how they felt the first time they encountered something that was wholly outside of their lived experience up to that point.

Two February books—American Street and Piecing Me Together—have black teen girls narrating their lives in first person. Both have received lots of critical praise with five and four stars, respectively. More significantly, and the reason why they’re paired together, both books are by black women writing deeply emotional stories that their voices imbue with authenticity and integrity.

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On the Day of the Dead when the Year too Dies (PW List)

I mean, not that Susan Cooper is really relevant here, but it’s almost Halloween and the first best of list for 2017 has dropped, and that says the year is ready to come to a close…

Ok, so that first list, as always, is PW.

Here’s the link to the complete list; jump below the fold to see my scattershot response.

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Haunted Places

haunted placesWe are working on getting through books in the maximally efficient way, which sometimes means more fanciful pairings, and other times means groups that play with each other in interesting ways as we discuss them. Today we have the second option, a trio of books that mingle together in engaging ways as we consider the set. We have three books that are on the young side, and all involve a heavy sense of place, where the characters are as much shaped by their surroundings as they are by their own histories. Hence, haunted places.

(As always, this is not really how RealCommittee approaches their discussions, since they try to talk about each book individually.) [Read more…]

We Need Diverse Books: Romance Edition

We’re in the mood for love today so we’ve got two reviews of YA romance for you. Both books feature couples who aren’t usually seen in mainstream romantic narratives, so regardless of their chances for the Printz (we’ll get to that in the reviews) they’re important contributions to the continuing effort to bring diverse representation to all kinds of stories which makes them worth checking out. But how about those other qualities that the RealCommittee will scrutinize at the table? Will either of these even be in the conversation?

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Strange the Dreamer

Strange the DreamerDo I start with why this is not going to win an award, or with why it should?

Let’s start with the issues: it’s fantasy. It’s the start of a series. We’ve all heard this song before, and I don’t have faith that this is the book that will change the tune – but man, I loved it, and also it’s a sharp piece of writing from an author who just keeps improving – so I’m going to make a case for why it continues to be a travesty that this book (and books like this — quality, serial fantasy) don’t even make the speculation conversation most of the time, because I can’t help thinking this is exactly the kind of fantasy that best exemplifies the genre — no fancy genre-blending or crossover, just full on, gorgeous fantasy — and that we should recognize that even if RealCommittee’s rarely do.

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Double Lives of Artists

Double LifeI’ve been calling this post “double life/art ladies,” which doesn’t quite flow off the tongue as a post title, but does hint at what these two have in common — two intense teenage girls who prefer a hidden or secret life so that they can make their art. And both of these titles have a lot to say about the power of creation, especially for people who might otherwise feel powerless. As luck would have it, though, they’re also pretty different, too — one is magical realism while the other is straight up realistic fiction.
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The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give cover imageIn a fairly rare occurrence, we all three read today’s book BEFORE the scheduled post date, so today’s post has all of us discussing it together, just like a RealCommittee might, if six people were missing.

Sarah: Friends. Friends. Is this the book to beat this year? To be honest, it’s hard to know where to start here. Is it with the critical acclaim? Because SIX STARS! THAT IS THE MOST OF STARS! ONE OF TWO TITLES WITH SO MANY! Or perhaps we should start with the pacey, plotty plot? (Because those types of reads are my favorite.) Is it with the fact that, yes, this book flows and moves, and still takes the time to develop the characters and write the heck out of a first person teen perspective? That voice, voice, voice. It’s immediate, it’s emotional, it’s self aware. It’s possible we could start with the fact that this is absolutely a book about the today and the now, and it’s also filled with universal questions about growing up, about life and death, and about our responsibilities to our communities, to our friends, to our families, and to ourselves.

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