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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Haunted by the past

We’ve got two solid contenders up next, both realistic fiction, both with characters haunted by the past. It’s not entirely fair to pair titles up like this, and it’s not really how RC talks about books at the table — they are trying to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each title individually, after all. But we have a blog schedule to keep and a lot of books to cover, so while it’s not exactly legit, this is done in the spirit of “make it work,” and thus we get these two books and two haunted characters, working through past violence and trauma.

And while I keep using this word, haunted, I want to be clear: these are realistic titles and not in any way supernatural. But they both depict people shaped by, tortured by, painful pasts. They’re both first person narration, and they’re both thematically ambitious titles, talking about major social issues through the lens of their protagonists’ experiences. [Read more…]

Retold Epics, Part 2: Bull

Bull coverFull disclosure: Yvain and Bull were meant to be one post, only then Sarah had a LOT to say about Yvain, which meant it got its own post, leaving poor Bull all alone. Like Yvain, it’s a retelling that plays with form. Unlike Yvain, it’s a straight up critical darling — 5 stars! Sarah argues that Yvain should be a contender. Should Bull?

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Retold Epics, Part One

Today is part one of retold epics. We will hear more, soon, from Karyn, and it absolutely will be epic. Today is my day to talk about lovely knights and raging ladies, about feats of strength, about reclaiming honor. 

yvain

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson and Andrea Offerman
Candlewick, March 2017
Reviewed from an ARC

There is a lot that I loved about this retelling. A lot! And I don’t think it’s all/entirely because I have a super nerdy, entirely genuine love for King Arthur and his wackily, entertainingly, accidentally dysfunctional court. (That is probably some of it, though.) You may have to talk me down in the comments; this is the first write up of the year giving me even a hint of wobbly, giddy, contender-type feelings.

And maybe these hints are too faint to take seriously. I would love some conversation to help me make up my mind!  [Read more…]

Unexpected Mysteries

We’ve been calling this post “unexpected mysteries” which is an intriguing title that I quite enjoy. I wonder if it’s more accurately, “slow, detail-laden, explorative mysteries,” though. Mysteries aren’t always the big movers and shakers in YA fiction, although there are quite a few to be found in the middle grade realm. While one of the titles does skew younger for audience, these two titles share main characters living on the fringes of society, and meticulous scrutiny of the past. [Read more…]

We Are Okay

We Are OkayWe Are Okay, Nina LaCour
Dutton Books for Young Readers, February 2017
Reviewed from ARC
Four stars

I almost didn’t finish We Are Okay. Not because it’s bad–in fact, it’s quite beautiful–but because reading it required a lot of emotional labor. When fiction pokes at pieces of your heart that you thought you had protected and hidden away, it requires strength and stamina to push through when all you actually want to do is bury the book at the bottom of your to-read pile.

All of this is to say that I had a deeply emotional experience reading Nina LaCour’s novel. Critics, myself included, tend to separate heart from head in their professional reviews. Here though, LaCour’s ability to access and communicate so many raw and complicated feelings is extraordinary and so relevant to any discussion of this book. I couldn’t have cried through the last 40 pages of We Are Okay without LaCour’s precise and detailed sentence-level writing. This is a small book densely packed with complicated people, feelings, unimaginable loss, heartbreak, and so much love.

Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t read the book (and you really should) consider yourself warned.

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The Careful Undressing of Love

The Careful Undressing of Love, cover image

This book. THIS BOOK.

 

Sometimes you pick up a book because you should; it got some stars (or, in this case, failed to get some stars), some people liked the authors other books, you’re sitting around portioning out the books and it’s your turn to take something off the pile. I read a lot of should books — that’s being a youth services librarian, basically — and mostly I am glad, because it makes me better at my job, and mostly the books are good, because lots of books are good, if you give them chance, but mostly they aren’t great.

And then, every now and again, you read a should book and it knocks your socks off. Like, across town lines off. You’ll never see those socks again, and you don’t care, because you’ve just fallen a little bit in love and that’s all that matters.

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Goodbye Days

GoodbyeDays

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
Crown Books for Young Readers, March 2017
Reviewed from an ARC

And now it’s somehow time to speculate about Printz? How can that be?? Ready or not, though, here we are, and it’s time to read, review, debate, and decide! (I am sure many of you are far more ready than me, so I hope you’ll jump right in!)

First up on my list is Zentner’s sophomore title. It’s got two stars — which of course means nothing for Printz, but is something we consider when building our initial list —  and with his Morris win last year, odds are RealCommittee is giving this book a thorough and thoughtful read (and re-read). Like his previous effort, this is an ambitious novel that asks big questions, has relatable characters, sharp dialogue, and a story that gives All The Feels. They’ll have a lot to discuss. [Read more…]

At the Edge of the Universe

At the Edge of the UniverseAt the Edge of the Universe, Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse, February 2017
Reviewed from ARC
Two stars

2017 is zipping along at a brisk pace and it’s hard to believe that it’s already time to talk Printz. This time last year, I was reviewing Shaun David Hutchinson’s We Are the Ants. Hutchinson’s latest, At the Edge of the Universe is a spiritual twin to his previous novel and today we’ll see if it has what it takes to be a Printz contender.

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A List of Cages

Before I dive into the first review of the year, a few housekeeping notes.

We are, as we have been doing, plan to review in roughly chronological order. So for the next month, we’ll focus on Q1 books, those published between January and March 2017. We’re not going to be super strict about this — sometimes we’ll bump a book up or hold it, for example if we think it goes well with something else, or if we have’t read it and end up circling back to it. But we’re hoping this will make it more likely that people who don’t have amazing ARC/galley access will have read books we discuss by the time we discuss them.

In the past, we’ve always shared a list — more recently, an abbreviated list of 25 titles. It’s always sort of arbitrary (although I could tell you already the 10 books I am pulling for hardest). We’re tempted to skip it this year — but we’ll defer to reader opinion. Let us know.

And of course, as always, we are reviewing specifically for Printz speculation, which means we’re mostly looking for what’s wrong with books — because in the end it’s an elimination game, and being a great book isn’t enough.

Now, on to the first review of the year.

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The Reader

The ReaderThe Reader by Traci Chee
Putnam, August 2016
Reviewed from an ARC

This is a book I’ve been saving the whole season, saving until the end because I knew I’d love it and I wanted to savor it. I’m not alone in loving it — it has four stars, it’s on the SLJ Mothership’s year end list, and it’s fantasy, and there’s action, and there are pirates, and it’s atmospheric and beautiful, and there are magical reading powers, and that cover is so wow, and and AND! What can I say? Sometimes you feel like possibly a book was designed, down to a molecular level, to be a You Book. This is one of those times for me. But now that I’ve actually read it, and sat with it for a bit, I’m going to do my best and try to have a balanced take for our Printzly purposes.

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