We’re about two weeks away from the YMA’s so it’s the perfect time to highlight some books that are flying under the awards radar. Both of the titles I’m looking at today have excellent character writing and deal with themes of violence and what people do in extreme circumstances. Neither book quite has what it takes for the Printz, but I was surprised that they didn’t show up on more best of the year lists. Thankfully, both are BFYA nominees so while I keep my fingers crossed, read on for why I think they deserve some kind of recognition.
Last year, we had a lot of great conversation about Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, which ended up with a silver medal. This year, we have its companion title, Rose Under Fire. With two starred reviews, will this title go the distance? I’m not so sure; I’ve gone through at least three different stages of thinking about this book. I think I’ve settled on “not likely.”
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to enjoy here: The writing is beautiful, and the decision to keep first person diary style benefits this story. It allows for immediate, emotional connection with Rose, and also provides an opportunity to track the changes Rose undergoes through the course of the story. Her change in voice from part one to part two is abrupt and effective; you’re warily drawn in, trying to understand what changes have happened. And the polished writing of the third section gives the book a gorgeous, formal (but still emotional and effective) ending. [Read more...]
Today, I’m talking about two books that are in my personal top 10 of the year. And both revolve around death and love, two primal, powerful pieces of life.
And they’re both fantastic.
Other than that, they’re really different, and I suspect neither of them has much chance at a Printz nod, which is sort of a shame.
Picture Me Gone. It’s earned five stars. It’s on three 2013 best lists*, and it was a National Book Award finalist.
What am I missing?
I’ve read it twice now and my reaction is still just, “meh.” There are no glaringly obvious flaws, but this is the kind of book that just floats out of one’s consciousness the moment you finish the last sentence. Unlike There is No Dog, which I actively loathed (and it didn’t get much love here on the blog), I feel ambivalent toward this book. Part of that feeling is due to that ephemeral quality I mentioned before, but I think it’s also because this is ultimately good but forgettable work.
Another guest post, this time on a book that has been getting a ton of positive press. Guest poster Maureen Eichner is a children’s assistant at a public library in the Indianapolis area. She has excellent taste in fantasy and is a thoughtful careful reader, so after reading and replying to this, do take a moment to check out her other writing: Maureen blogs at By Singing Light (http://bysinginglight.
All the Truth That’s In Me is Julie Berry’s first YA book — she has also published several books for younger readers. It’s garnered some critical kudos, with starred reviews from SLJ, Kirkus, Horn Book, the Bulletin, and PW, as well as a mention on the SLJ and Kirkus Best of 2013 lists. In some ways, it’s easy to see why it’s gotten this acclaim. But of course, stars or lack thereof don’t necessarily bear on the Printz.
I’ve already gone on record saying that this is my personal frontrunner this year. It’s the book, above all other books, that worked for me as a reader and that I can support as a critic. If I were on the RealPrintz committee this year, I would have nominated this and I’d be passionately and loudly singing its praises in hopes that everyone could be convinced.
But in order to convince everyone, I need to marshal my arguments.
So here goes.
Short stories aren’t always my favorite – collections can be so uneven sometimes; I’d rather spend time in a big long novel. But Margo Lanagan seems to be trying to convince me that I – even I! – can love a collection of short stories. Yellowcake is everything you’d expect – a generally strong collection of stories full of beautiful writing; disturbing images; colliding, twining themes. It’s s strong contender, although I’m not totally convinced it will take a medal in the end.
Let’s talk about what’s good here first. The language, of course (“Styx water is sharp and bites inside your nose.”): effective, unexpected, powerful. Her carefully crafted dialogue provides clues and insights into her characters (Gallantine’s very few, studiedly casual, deceptively mild lines gave me chills, for instance). Lanagan is an amazing writer, and she does her usual awesome job here, too. [Read more...]
Another guest post — it took a while for anyone to take us up on the offer, but when it rains, it pours! Maggot Moon is a fascinating book, one I admired greatly, and here to talk about its Printzly qualities is Barbara Moon. [Read more...]
It is perhaps the most polarizing title of the year. Love, hate, and debate about audience have all bubbled up around Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away. A National Book Award finalist, the novel also has five starred reviews and has made four of the year’s best lists; clearly, there is a lot of love for this book. But whenever I discuss Far Far Away with someone who didn’t like it, they don’t just dislike the book, it’s more like disdain.
I’m not one of those people but I’m not quite on the side of adoration either. McNeal’s most prominent theme is story—its power and our lives as stories are two variations that we see in the novel. McNeal’s use of storytelling (specifically, fairy tales) as a major theme is done well enough, but when analyzed with other elements of the novel such as voice, style, and characters, Far Far Away is a book made up of discrete notes that, when played together, make a dissonant sound.