Karyn just posted an impressive roundup of last minute reading, so I’m chiming in with some more. With Monday morning’s announcement looming large, it seems like everyone is trying to sprint through their last minute reads in order to feel prepared. [Read more...]
Ok, not all the books, but a whole cluster of the titles that we wanted to cover and hadn’t gotten to yet, tidily rounded up in one post for your perusal.
In the last two weeks, I’ve read two more from the original contenda list (Pinned and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe), one Morris shortlist title (Love & Other Perishable Items) and two dark horse candidates that were brought to our attention by readers (In Darkness and Various Positions).
Sarah will be sharing a few more titles tomorrow, but sadly, neither of us managed to read Andrew Smith’s Passenger, a late addition auto-contender. It is, however, beyond a long shot for the RealPrintz — book 2 of a series, and, based on the first chapter and some student feedback, impenetrable without having read the first book.
(But if you never read the first book, The Marbury Lens, and want a really disturbing, stark, and very well-written book to read next, pick it up, because it really is a powerful read.)
We’re also sad to say that two buzz titles recommended by readers never made it onto either of our piles — Monument 14, recommended by Jen Hubert of Reading Rants, and The Opposite of Hallelujah, recommended by Kelly of Stacked. These are two well-read critics, and Jen definitely has a nose for Printz winners, so do check out their respective reviews. Whether or not either of these titles are named on Monday, they are definitely worth seeking out.
Okay, enough housekeeping! Onto the last of my 2012 reading.
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.
So, I should start this post by disclosing that I have a personal connection with this book and its author. I want to acknowledge my personal baggage (a topic that has been addressed particularly well in the comments to the most recent post about The Fault in Our Stars), which is:
- I know Matthew Quick, and have followed his career with interest, because he was my sister’s favorite and most influential high school teacher,
- I’ve had coffee and exchanged some tweets with him,
- And he signed a copy of his first YA title, Sorta Like a Rock Star for my high school library’s collection.
All of which is to say, I have a great deal of affection for Quick, and for his books, and now that I’ve said all that, I think I can set it aside for the purposes of this review, in which I’ll make the case that his most recent YA title, Boy21, is a possible contender for a Printz Honor.
Another (and last for the year) guest post from pinch-hitter Joy Piedmont. This time, Joy raves about a book that made the contenda list with three stars but mostly deserves recognition as a serious buzz book. I’m a long time fan of Adele Griffin’s, and this is, I think, a stronger candidate than her last few YA titles when it comes to award chat. But I’ll let Joy explain why…
All You Never Wanted: it’s a gem of a title, isn’t it? It’s a warning, a temptation, and a promise written directly at you, pulling you in.
And Adele Griffin’s latest has more than a great title. It’s an engaging study of two teenage sisters told from their alternating perspectives. Attention-seeking Thea and anxiety-stricken Alex seem to be direct descendants of Edith Wharton’s characters. (It’s no surprise that in a recent online Q&A, Griffin revealed that she went through a Wharton phase, and discussed how that may have influenced AYNW). Like Wharton’s, Griffin’s characters are complex and fully realized in an exploration of wealth, privilege, class, desire, jealousy, and anxiety.
In the end, it’s a gorgeous little TARDIS of a novel.
(Bigger on the inside, for you non-Whovians).
In November, Karyn found a lot to say about Seraphina. In addition to being like tasty, delicious soup (that made sense in Karyn’s post, really), Hartman’s debut novel improves on reread. After her third go around with the text, Karyn raved about the complicated mystery that pulls the reader along (first read’s joy); the impeccable, detailed world building that serves to better illuminate the characters (second read’s joy); the nuance in the writing that brings unexpected layers and levels to the characters (third read’s joy). With six starred reviews and more love in the comments, Karyn was clearly not alone.
There were a few minor flaws pointed out. Per the comments, a few people mentioned a couple of awkward moments in the writing, a weak dream world, and an unnecessary love interest.
It’s on our Pyrite* list, it’s a Morris finalist, and now we have a chance to re-discuss. What do you guys think?
*The Pyrite Printz, or Pyrite, is the Someday My Printz Will Come mock Printz deliberation, and should not in any way be confused with YALSA’s Michael L. Printz Award, often referred to here as the RealPrintz or Printz. Our predictions, conversations, and speculation about potential RealPrintz contenders and winners reflect only our own best guesses and are not affiliated with YALSA or the RealPrintz committee. You probably figured that out on your own, but we like to make it clear!
Karyn wrote about the long slog of winter break reading just before a conference/blog deadline. I understand her image, but I think I spend winter break/early January more like a muppet: waving my arms around in a flurry of indecision (and, sometimes, stress because I’ve put off so much committee reading. Blerg!); now’s the time when we’re supposed to be firming up our thoughts on books and able to talk intelligibly about the year as a whole and how any given title fits into it. (Uh, but no pressure, right?)
I actually spent a good portion of my own break trying to catch up, at last, on the nonfiction books on our contenda list. I got to read about deadly diseases (well, one), certain death in the Arctic (well, practically certain!), and a young woman’s experience of the civil rights movement. These are all strong books — engaging reads, beautifully designed (I think; I actually read two of these titles as ebooks, so I’m making a few assumptions based on what I saw on my phone screen and what other people have said), important and enduring subjects — so if the Printz process is about winnowing down, I definitely have my work cut out for me! [Read more...]
In November, Sarah reviewed Drowned Cities, from her admittedly biased perspective.
At the time, she praised the thematic depth: “It … explores what it means to be human, our inescapable need to create packs — and why we have to leave them. Bacigalupi scrutinizes humanity’s tendency to act monstrously, our insistence that we are civilized even when the evidence shows otherwise… Our identities are stories we tell ourselves to explain the situations we find ourselves in.”
She also praised the characterization and world building — although at least one comment raised the question of whether the world building here stands up without prior knowledge of the world (which Sarah’s repeated reads of Ship Breaker would have provided) — the powerful metaphors that work themselves into the narrative, and the careful pacing.
She mentioned a few issues with the book: some less than perfect characterization/weak dialog and weak moments in the plot. And, per the comments, an ending that is too hopeful.
A couple months have passed (and the book has been out since May), so we’ve all had a little time to sit with it. Since it’s a title on our Pyrite* short list, we need to consider: do these flaws knock Drowned Cities out of contention? Or will its strengths carry it through? Questions, questions. Let’s start answering them in the comments!
*The Pyrite Printz, or Pyrite, is the Someday My Printz Will Come mock Printz deliberation, and should not in any way be confused with YALSA’s Michael L. Printz Award, often referred to here as the RealPrintz or Printz. Our predictions, conversations, and speculation about potential RealPrintz contenders and winners reflect only our own best guesses and are not affiliated with YALSA or the RealPrintz committee.
Back in September, Sarah reviewed The Fault in Our Stars.
At the time, she said, “When you add the serious subject matter, the thoughtful treatment of said subject matter, the memorable characters, and the five-hanky tear-jerker of a plot, you know there’s a lot to talk about in terms of Printz-worthiness.”
She went on to say, “But the decision to bring Van Hauten back makes this book suddenly feel like A Cancer Book — full of lessons and realizations and Important Character Growth. It’s cliche and I believe it severely weakens the integrity of the book.”
Four months have passed (and 12 since the book came out). It’s on the Pyrite* list, and came in second in the poll that determined the Pyrite shortlist. Was this just because it’s the one book everyone has read? Has it stood the test of time? Does it have what it takes to go the distance? Discuss!
One of the things that no one believes when I say it is that I read less on winter break than any other time. There’s just no time — my kid stays up too late, we’re always visiting family or being visited, and if I manage to finish a book it’s a miracle.
And actually, my kid staying up late and visitors? Those are just excuses. Because really what happens is that I burn out. For 7 out of the past 10 years, my reading life has centered on a late January deadline, and my reading selection has been dictated not by my own whims and tastes but by the necessities and vagaries of nomination lists, whether official YALSA lists or our own contender list.
And when late December comes, and all my colleagues and friends talk about all the books they plan to read over break, I feel sad. Because what I have left to read at this point is a pile of books I’m just not that excited to read — that’s how they ended up at the bottom of the pile, after all. A few late additions to the list of must-reads might spark my interest, but my reading at this point is so purpose driven that I don’t feel like I can take the time to finish anything I can’t defend as a necessary read — these days, that means anything that falls below the top 20 or so books I’ve read this year feels like gross indulgence when there are other books clamoring to be read before the YMA announcements. This year, I’d really like to have read the winner and any honor books before they are the winner or honor books!
Mind you, I’m not complaining — all those committees were AMAZING experiences, and Someday is a dream come true. But everyone I know who has served on a selection or award committee has felt this burnout. And it probably colors how I read books that I come to for the first time this late in the award season, and certainly is one of the hazards of committee work.