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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

18166936 The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton
Candlewick Press, March 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Here’s some magic realism by way of fairy tales with writing that’s often achingly beautiful. Some books engage your intellect and others grab your heart; some books, however, immerse you in a sensory experience. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is this third kind of book. In a densely packed narrative that spans generations, Leslye Walton writes about love, obsession, regret, innocence, identity, freedom, and a lot more, aided by descriptive writing that emphasizes the five senses.
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The Shadow Hero

The Shadow Hero, story by Gene Luen Yang & art by Sonny Liew
First Second, July 2014
Reviewed from final copy

I don’t review graphic novels here that often, although I read most of them, because I always worry that I don’t know enough about art. But I know enough to know that this is fantastic as a novel and as a work of graphica.

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Through the Woods

woodscarroll Through the Woods

Through the Woods, Emily Carroll
McElderry Books, July 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Just yesterday, we had our annual visit from an NYPL teen librarian to get students public library cards and do a bunch of booktalks. The book that got the strongest reaction? Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods. Both classes had teens verbally enjoying the spooky pictures (and one class had a quick debate about the appropriate audience. “Picture books can be for all ages,” said one very wise teen). With 3 stars, blurbs from Kate Beaton and Lucy Knisley, and beautiful art and writing, these five short stories will suck you in. [Read more...]

Belzhar

Belzhar cover 192x300 BelzharBelzhar, Meg Wolitzer
Dutton, September 2014
Reviewed from ARC

There’s always some weird dance of anticipation and dread when an author you respect as an author for adult readers dips into the YA world. Happily, Meg Wolitzer is very clear eyed about YA and about why she writes YA — it’s not to jump on the glory train (and isn’t it funny that YA is the glory train? That never stops being strange to me), and it’s not to say something to teens, although of course things are said. No, it’s about the feelings, and about capturing them on the page so that the rest of us can revisit those heady emotions.

And Belzhar is a perfect tempest of teen emotion, even if it’s not always a perfect piece of writing. [Read more...]

Tin Stars and Clear Days

Nostalgia and the Printz process don’t really go hand-in-hand. But those old school feelings really can color reading experiences. We have to do a lot of work to recognize them and move past them in order to assess a book more objectively. The first time you read someone, you might have been a young, impressionable librarian (Karyn is not the only one dating herself this week, ahem). Or an author’s earlier work could have defined an entire field and, you know, won the very first Printz award. What I’m saying is your (OK, be honest: my) baggage might make it hard to realize that the particular book you’re holding isn’t what you’re expecting. But, as always in Printz discussion, it’s important to focus on the book in hand, not previous works.  [Read more...]

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling

Two Girls 232x300 Two Girls Staring at the CeilingTwo Girls Staring at the Ceiling, Lucy Frank
Schwartz & Wade, August 2014
Reviewed from final copy

I’m old.

This year, it has really come home to me that I have been doing this for a while, with the following exchanges:

Me: Oooh, a new one from Cecil Castellucci!
Joy: You mean the LA Review of Books editor?

Me: Oh! David Almond has two books out this year? We need to read those.
Joy: …I’ve heard of him.

Me: There’s a new Lucy Frank! I loved I Am An Artichoke!
Joy: <<Blank face>>

Ok, so I’m maybe exaggerating a bit, but Lucy Frank, whose name is impressed upon me as a YA author, whose early books I booktalked quite often in my salad days at New York Public Library, is one of many authors who elicit a sort of Pavlovian “I should read that” response, because I was reading their work in my formative years vis á vis YA literature.

Be wary of nostalgia reading, friends. It can lead you in the wrong direction. [Read more...]

A Creature of Moonlight

creature A Creature of Moonlight

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2014
Reviewed from ARC

This is a book that, I’m pretty sure, was written just for me. I love fantasy, I love courtly politics, I love dragons and willful ladies. Somehow, though, even though my review is due, I have to confess that I’m only about half way through. (Sometimes, reading in short bursts on the subway is not my friend, even though it makes for nice visuals.) [Read more...]

Noggin

Noggin18051349 Noggin, John Corey Whaley
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 2014
Reviewed from ARC

I need to be up front about something. I loved Where Things Come Back. I know it wasn’t a favorite ’round these parts, but I was impressed with the nuance and ambition in its debut author’s writing. John Corey Whaley’s Printz-winning novel made me think and feel and had me excited to read more from him.

Enter Noggin.

The high-concept plot (cryogenically frozen heads!) and the teenage angst (he’s back from the dead wants his girlfriend back too!), oh, how they intrigued and beguiled me. And oh, how I kept waiting for Noggin to deliver on the promise of its authorship. [Read more...]

Children of the King

cotk Children of the King

Children of the King, Sonya Hartnett
Candlewick, March 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Luxuriant prose, complicated and resonant themes, contemplative characters — Hartnett’s historical fiction is actually a bit of a genre-blender with thin fantasy elements woven in. Traditionally, the Printz committee rewards books that mix genres — but RealCommittee choices also tend to skew older, and Children of the King has been pegged by publisher and reviewers as a middle grade title. It’s happened before — David Almond comes immediately to mind; Hartnett’s rich descriptions and haunting strains of magic woven into the plot invite that comparison. [Read more...]

The Undertaking of Lily Chen

17934370 The Undertaking of Lily ChenThe Undertaking of Lily Chen, Danica Novgorodoff
First Second, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy

I almost didn’t write this review. Not for a lack of quality in Danica Novgorodoff’s graphic novel–it has quality bursting out of the pages. No, I almost abandoned this one because of that pesky eligibility question. It’s an issue I raised last year when I reviewed Lucy Knisley’s Relishanother book that was technically an adult pub. But, there was enough ambiguity in the publisher-defined age-range that I thought it was worth a discussion. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I think the same principle applies for the delightfully morbid love story that is The Undertaking of Lily Chen. Yeah, technically it’s an adult pub, but if I ran the world (or, at the very least, the Printz committee) I would put this book forward for discussion.
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