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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

100 Sideways Miles

100 Sideways Miles, Andrew Smith
Simon & Schuster, September 2014
Reviewed from final copy

If you were a teenager who spent at least one long night with friends discussing the future, destiny, and the fear that you can’t control the course of your life, 100 Sideways Miles probably reminded you of those moments. Finn Easton, the novel’s narrator, is a teen deeply concerned about his place in the universe and whether or not he has any say in his fate. Some of the themes Andrew Smith is thinking about in Grasshopper Jungle recur here—specifically connection and friendship; however, while Grasshopper Jungle takes quite a cynical view of human nature, 100 Sideways Miles has the kind of hopeful ending that feels like a beginning.

I have a feeling that this book’s optimism is a factor in why Andrew Smith’s second novel of 2014 has five stars to its predecessor’s three. (And just for reference, last year’s Winger was a three star book in addition to being a BFYA top ten pick.) [Read more…]

Picture Books for … Teens?

It’s rare that there are true all-ages picture books.

This year, we have two of note.

Both are beautiful, thought-provoking, unusual, and skew way up. All the way to adolescence and beyond.

I’ll eat my hat if either receives a silver from the RealCommittee. Hell, I’ll eat all y’all’s hats. BUT. These are gorgeous books with appeal for older readers, so here’s me shining a bit of light on them.

[Read more…]

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

coverThe Unfinished Life of Addison Stone, Adele Griffin
Soho Teen, August 2014
Reviewed from final copy

A few weeks ago, I reviewed How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. It’s not immediately obvious, but that title shares remarkable similarities with Adele Griffin’s faux-nonfiction novel, The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone. Both books focus on dead teens, using multiple voices to reconstruct the story of how they died. It’s an interesting structure for the examination of a single teenager and the multitudes an individual can contain.
[Read more…]

Egg & Spoon

Egg & Spoon, Gregory Maguire
Candlewick Press, September 2014
Reviewed from final copy

What an ingenious little (okay, big) book this is.

Maguire is at his best when he’s being sly and subverting tropes and expectations; he did it to genius effect in Wicked, which remains one of my favorite novels, and while his overall body of work is uneven, when his writing shines it’s positively lustrous.

This is him at his best.

[Read more…]

She Is Not Invisible

coverShe Is Not Invisible, Marcus Sedgwick
Roaring Brook Press, April 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Marcus Sedgwick has literary chops. Here’s an author who knows his way around a sentence. Last year, Karyn and I predicted that Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood would get a shiny sticker, despite our reservations about the novel’s ability to hold up under close scrutiny. We agreed that Sedgwick’s beautiful use of language and the book’s complicated structure would be enough to put it in the winners’ circle, so neither of us were surprised when Midwinterblood won Printz gold.

Sedgwick’s followup, She Is Not Invisible, isn’t likely to repeat its predecessor’s success. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s a disappointment. In terms of critical response, it’s on Kirkus‘ best list for 2014 and has received three stars. It’s an interesting and satisfying reading experience, displaying some of the technical skills one expects from Sedgwick. Compared to the rest of 2014’s contenders though, it falls just below the best work of the year.

[Read more…]

Althea and Oliver

Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho
Viking, October 2014
Reviewed from final copy

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…]

How It Went Down

coverHow It Went Down, Kekla Magoon
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), October 2014
Reviewed from final copy

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?
[Read more…]

Drugged by Love?

Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson
Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, September 2014
Reviewed from ARC

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.

[Read more…]

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King
Little, Brown, October 2014
Reviewed from an ARC

OK, can I confess something? When I’ve tried to describe Glory O’Brien, I’ve started to feel like maybe I’m Stefon because there’s a lot going on here. A LOT: bat drinking, dystopias, politics, graduation, a dead mom, warring families, reclusive fathers, feminism, slutshaming, art, hippies, and STDs. Like, where are the Furbies and the screaming babies in Mozart wigs?

Which is not to say I’m not taking this review seriously (Stefon is always deadly serious anyway, right?) — with six starred reviews, with three placements on year’s best lists, A.S. King’s newest is getting a lot of love. Only, while I loved the wild ride of this read at first pass, as I’m writing this review now, it’s not entirely working. The things I loved are still there, but I have some problems and questions that are making me think twice as I write.  [Read more…]

I’ll Give You the Sun

coverI’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson
Dial Books for Young Readers, September 2014
Reviewed from digital galley and final copy

A lot of things make me cry. A great book, a sad movie, and occasionally, a really moving commercial*. I have a long list and I’m really honest about being particularly susceptible. But I’m also really honest when I know I’m being manipulated in a cheap or shallow way.

The last lines of I’ll Give You the Sun made me ugly cry and it was glorious catharsis. No tricks or unearned tears here. I won’t spoil the direct quote because you really should experience it in context, but I will say that in those sentences Jandy Nelson pulls all of the book’s themes together; those last words contain the entire novel.
[Read more…]