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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Magical Realism

the-head-of-the-saint-coverA Fierce and Subtle PoisonMagical Realism is hot: It’s the label attached to last year’s Printz winner Bone Gap, and it’s been popping up all over the YA and MG scene for the past few years. This year, again, offers us a handful of books in the genre. I’ve read three so far that deserve to be in the awards speculation pool, and today I’m going to talk about two of them (the last one is a late fall pub so we’ll wait on that).

Magical Realism is realistic literature with fantastical or magical elements, but it’s something more, because that bare bones definition also covers a significant chunk of fantasy. If you extend the definition, two additional points are worth noting: first, the setting; and second, the way the magic is received. The top-billed magical realists are Latin American — Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, Laura Esquivel, Isabel Allende — and their settings are Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Chile. And in their books, the magic is not something apart — compare this to, say, Stiefvater’s Raven Boys quartet, where they all know the magic is strange, and, well, magical. Instead, in magical realist texts, the magic heightens the mundane and becomes an expression of emotion, rather than something characters step back and try to understand.

One of the two titles I’m discussing today reads to me like classic magical realism — no surprise, as it bears a dedication to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and is a Brazilian work, originally published in Portuguese and now translated into English. The second straddles the fantasy/magical realism line, but feels closer in its roots to magical realism than fantasy, so I’m going with the label.

Alright, enough introduction, and on to the books.

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The Steep and Thorny Way

steepandthornyway_cvThe Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
Amulet Books, March 2016
Reviewed from a final copy

Not a roundup, not a Best Of list, not a bird OR a plane, it’s a review! With three stars and a shout out in the comments of our original list, this is historical fiction with a twist — a Hamlet-infused ghosty twist. This is not the only Shakespeare inspired fiction that we’ve looked at this year, and it’s certainly not the only historical fiction. What makes this a standout title? [Read more…]

Checking in with the mothership – SLJ’s Best of 2016

sljWith only six weeks left in 2016—an almost universally recognized dumpster fire of a year—the best of lists will release in a steady stream. We take the lists seriously because they can help us identify books that are beginning to have a strong consensus opinion, as well as books that may become a dark horse.

SLJ editors discussed a selection of favorites from their Best of 2016 list in a fun live stream (which you can view here and on KidLit TV). The full list will go live on SLJ’s website next week but you can download a PDF of all 66 titles now.

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Morris and Turner Contendas

Roundup photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart, CC license BY 2.0

Roundup photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart, CC license BY 2.0

Hello! It’s roundup time, today focused on contendas for awards other than the Printz.

One of these awards is a real actual award, the William C. Morris YA Debut Award; the other is imaginary but no less real in my heart. The Morris you all know about, of course, and we’ve been covering several debut/Morris contenders that we think are also Printz contenders; today I’ll be talking about some early 2016 debuts that I don’t think quite have the chops for the larger pool that is all YA, but are good enough to have been potentially on the table for the Morris committee. The other award I’m speculating about is the  imaginary — but needed! — Meghan Whalen Turner Award for Best Completed Series.

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College Applications

enter_title_final_revealthanks-for-the-trouble-9781481418805_hrJoy just wrote about authenticity and the way a You Read can find you at just the right time and be the book you need. I don’t need to tell you all about that, you already know; that’s why you read blogs about books, and talk about books, and tell other people about books. She also talked about how sometimes a personal reaction to a You Read can make it tricky to really assess a book — it’s like the positive version of baggage. So I have two reads here that have an awful lot in common — they’re both fictional takes on a novel-length college admissions essay, but they go in wildly different directions, feel like totally different reads, and I’m having completely different reactions to them. These differing reactions are (I suspect) a lot more about me than the books. Which is of course the opposite of what Real Committee members are supposed to be doing (or even what we’re supposed to be doing here at the blog).

A small housekeeping note: I’m jumping a little out of line with this post, because we’re working our way chronologically through the year (more or less), and one of these is actually a summer book. Apologies to purists, but they’re too intriguingly similar and dissimilar to not connect. [Read more…]

Every Exquisite Thing

Every Exquisite Thing, Matthew Quick
Little, Brown, May 2016
Reviewed from ARC

Authenticity feels different to every reader. We all do our best to base our judgement against our personal experiences and knowledge, while acknowledging that there’s a whole lot we don’t know. When I think about the emotional accuracy of a novel, I’m usually thinking about authenticity. Did reading that book remind me what it felt like to be a teenager? Did it reflect how I feel as a human? Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing affirmatively does both of these things for me and the novel’s voice and characters are the elements that make this book worth talking about.
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Samurai Rising

bk_samuraiSamurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Gareth Hinds
February 2016, Charlesbridge
Reviewed from a final copy

Here’s my first nonfiction title of the year, coming to us from back in February! We’ve got four stars, some love in the comments of our original list post — and who doesn’t love history? (I mean, maybe not the peasants burninating in the countryside at the time, probably. They might have argued that history sucked.) Turner’s title is an intriguing example of narrative nonfiction. With so few sources, with so little to really go on historically speaking, Turner manages to fill in with a lot of details, related research, and intelligent guesswork. She paints a vivid picture adding in details to set the scene — blacking teeth, Samurai training, armor, and other aspects of life in feudal Japan. [Read more…]

Highly Illogical Behavior

Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley
Dial Books, May 2016
Reviewed from ARC

Humans expect a lot from each other. We like to think that we’re autonomous beings, when in reality, our choices are frequently motivated and influenced by others. In John Corey Whaley’s latest novel, he once again explores the interplay between a teen boy, his parents, and two friends (one guy, one girl). Although the title, with its nod to a certain Vulcan, may suggest science-fiction to some of you nerds out there (and I mean me), Highly Illogical Behavior is firmly grounded in the reality of human relationships; specifically, what happens when the fulfillment of one person’s ambitions or needs means the suppression of another’s.

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Rebel of the Sands

rebel

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Viking, March 2016
Reviewed from a final copy

OK, I’m a day late with this review because, well, I wanted to talk about this book and then I wasn’t sure if I ought to talk about this book, but I just wanted to keep thinking about this book and it was distracting me from the other books I was considering writing up this week. And basically, if we’re going to move past this week and get this review up, we’re just going to have to push our way through this review all together. 

To actually talk about Rebel: this is a title with three stars. We didn’t include it in our original official nomination list. It’s a debut title, and it’s also the start of a new series (and series books and the Printz don’t always work well together, although Morris has had some love for that). All of this may mean I’ll be talking to myself here. But I’ve got things to work out, and a blog, and, uh, I’m all out of bubblegum. Or something. [Read more…]

Draw the Line

Draw the Line, Laurent Linn
Margaret K. McElderry Books, May 2016
Reviewed from ARC

Some books remind me that there is much I don’t know about the world. I’ve been very lucky that my personal life has never been touched by a violent hate crime. In Laurent Linn’s Draw the Line, Adrian Piper is a gay teen who regularly hears homophobic slurs in the hallways of his school. He chooses to keep his sexual orientation hidden from everyone but his closest friends, in the hope that he’ll be invisible to the bullies who routinely harass an openly gay classmate. Accuracy is an important Printz criteria, so early on in my reading of this novel, I spent a lot of time thinking about if and how the plot works as a reflection of real life.
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