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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The Serpent King

serpent-kingThe Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
March 2016, Random House
Reviewed from an ARC

This is a three star title, and had some conversation in the comments of our initial list post. Of course, I’m unable to say definitively whether or not it’s at the table for RealCommittee, but I’m always intrigued by religious themed (or even slightly religious flavored) fiction for teens. I ought to specify here, this isn’t inspirational fiction, or really even Christian fiction, although it is partially fiction about one Christian’s experience; it’s more a contemplative study about living with religion (at least as far as Dill is concerned). In addition, this is a snapshot of teens living in a small town setting (hey, since I also reviewed Exit, is this an official trend? j/k) which is not always something that makes it into my reading pile. So I’m pretty pumped to talk about this title, and I wonder how far it will go at the table. [Read more…]

Essential Maps for the Lost

Essential Maps for the Lost, Deb Caletti
Simon Pulse, April 2016
Reviewed from ARC

Girl meets boy. Boy loves girl.

Well actually, girl finds the boy’s dead mother in a lake first.

This isn’t your typical love story with a slice of grief. Deb Caletti hits all the targets for a melancholy teen romance without being redundant. Depression? Yup, but it’s done convincingly and without damaging inaccuracies. Secrets? Oh yeah. Big ones. Internal and external obstacles in our couple’s way? The aforementioned deceased mother.

Essential Maps does all the things that this kind of novel should do well with aplomb and style. For this, Caletti has earned three starred reviews. Every year I beat the drum for straight-up romance to be taken seriously when it comes to awards (and occasionally, I get my wish). Although I probably won’t set my cap at this “prince” for the Printz, it has many praise- and noteworthy qualities.
[Read more…]

Symptoms of Being Human, Take 2

Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin
Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), February 2016
Reviewed from final e-book

Despite the title, this is probably more like take 4. This is somehow a hard review to write. I keep slipping away from the book itself and into all the things that surround this book: the importance of representation and mirrors in YA lit; the long history of binary systems in human thought and the way interstitial anything creates anxiety (there may be a thesis in my past about cross-dressing in Shakespeare and Marlowe and how actually social transgressions are usually more condemned than sexual transgressions, and as a result of that thesis I may have read a lot about binaries and sexuality and gender at various points in my life). The earlier draft went into #weneeddiversebooks and gatekeepers, collection development, the fact that the author of this book is a cis-het white male, and a host of other things.

But none of that is really getting at the purpose here, which is to assess a book as a literary object. Which is not to say that none of it has bearing — but when I hit 1,000 words and was still on the issues around the text, I decided to start over. So here we go again: Symptoms of Being Human — Printz worthy or not? [Read more…]

Burn Baby Burn

burn-baby-burnBurn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
Candlewick, March 2016
Reviewed from an ARC

Can I rave for a minute? What a title! And what a cover, too. Medina manages to blend a lot of elements beautifully and smoothly. With four stars and a place on the NBA longlist, this read has a lot going for it. And a lot of people rooting for it — there’s a lot of love from all of us here; it was mentioned as an early frontrunner in the comments. But the sparkles of a disco ball can be very forgiving; in the harsh light of the Printz criteria, how well does it stand up to all the love? [Read more…]

When previously awarded writers tell other tales

When we start to compile our list of books to cover, authors who have a previous Printz win or honor are automatically added to the list. We also give serious consideration to writers with wins or honors from other important ALA Youth Media Awards. Of course, the logic is that a previous winner has a good chance of continuing to create work at a high level.

Today’s contenders come to us in slightly different form than the author’s previous work. Unlike her Printz and Caledcott honor book, This One Summer, Mariko Tamaki’s Saving Montgomery Sole is a prose novel. The Great American Whatever is Tim Federle’s first YA novel—his middle grade series, Better Nate Than Ever has earned him a Stonewall and Odyssey nomination as well as a Lambda literary award. Both Tamaki and Federle use themes present in their other books, but do they also use the qualities that earned them praise?
[Read more…]

More questions than answers here

Like Joy, I’ve got a double feature: two titles with strong reviews (My Name is Not Friday has three stars; The Bitter Side of Sweet has four), good writing, and memorable characterization. These two titles are both important reads. But are they Printz contenders? [Read more…]

Salt to the Sea

salt-to-the-sea-coverSalt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys
Philomel, February 2016
Reviewed from ARC

When we compiled our list of 25 contenders, we skipped Salt to the Sea. But not because we hadn’t read it: I read it back in late 2016, and even gave it four stars on Goodreads.

However, the longer I get from reading this one, the more I tend to feel an eye roll coming on when I consider its merits. This is maybe just me, though, because this was one of two titles mentioned repeatedly in the comments on the list, it’s a bestseller, and it received three starred reviews. [Read more…]

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

exitExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Dutton, March 2016
Reviewed from a final copy

I’m not for sure where I’m landing in this review, so I guess I’ll have to write it and see where I end up. Ha, I guess I’m flying right now, and I’m hoping this review (or you all, in the comments) will catch me. I definitely loved this book, and feel like it’s continuing my tough lady reading streak this year. With four starred reviews, I know I’m not alone in that love. Johnston is a past Morris honoree, too, so I have no doubt RealCommittee is taking a careful look at this title. Exit is emotional and compelling, it has strong characters, often funny dialogue, and as a story it balances uncertainty and resolution very delicately and deftly. [Read more…]

The Memory of Light

Memory of Light, coverThe Memory of Light, Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books, January 2016
Reviewed from ARC

How can I assess The Memory of Light in the context of the Printz Award?

In some ways, it’s too real, too honest, and too close-to-home. It’s also surprisingly uninteresting and predictable. I struggled with these contradictory reactions throughout the novel.

When I read YA books that romanticize depression or mental illness, I want to tear down the Internet with my frustration. Yet this novel, which is so accurate in portraying the complexity of depression, does not inspire me to erect monuments. I don’t mean to be facetious, but this book made me feel nothing at all.

[Read more…]

We Are the Ants

We Are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse, January 2016
Reviewed from final copy

Have aliens been abducting Henry Denton since he was thirteen? Or has he been suffering from mental illness? Some days I believe the former; other days, the latter. But does it really matter?

Probably not.

We Are the Ants is about much more than the end of the world (although those doomsday scenarios were highly entertaining). Shaun David Hutchinson uses science fiction elements to get at themes that are highly realistic: grief, guilt, love, nihilism… actually, this book is packed with ideas and Hutchinson weaves them through a story in which the protagonist is largely passive.
[Read more…]