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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Tales from Mother Russia

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-12-56-45-pmWe’re back from a few days of rest, travel, and so much family, with yet another double post — always, as the year draws to a close, the double posts, because the good books just keep piling up. Today’s books in many ways have nothing in common — one historical fiction, absolutely realistic despite some stylistic flourishes that point to fairy tales, and the other contemporary fantasy. One is set in Russia and Sweden and England and a few points in between; the other in only a few square blocks of Brooklyn. One stretches over years, even decades when the framing narrative is considered, and the other takes place over three nights — although they are long nights, it’s true.

So what ties these two — Vassa in the Night and Blood Red Snow White — together? They share a mythologized love of Russia. They grow from Russian fairy tales, in one case because the protagonist has written a collection and in the other because everybody’s favorite wicked witch, Baba Yaga, is running a murderous convenience store that entraps our intrepid heroine.

Neither of these is a portrait of the true Russia, but both of them demonstrate the deep love affair people have with Russia, the fabled Mother Country, regardless of actual Russia, the political and geographic entity making front page news.

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Nonfiction Round Up

nonfictionroundup1OK, this was supposed to be a nonfiction roundup, and it sort of still is, because I am going to talk about a few titles. However it also sort of isn’t because I definitely have one title that I want to focus on. I’m also slightly skipping around in time (through the magic of this blog post and not actually a time machine, or anything) — but in order to fit this all in, I’m writing about two titles from the fall with a mid-year title. Obviously we can focus on any title in the comments — but I’ve got a rave coming on and I wanted to warn you all about that from the start. [Read more…]

Lucy and Linh

 Lucy and Linh, Alice Pung
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, September 2016
4 stars; Reviewed from an ARC

Lucy and Linh, in addition to being a quintessential coming-of-age story, is a novel about power, class, and racial microaggressions. It’s about the hard work of adjusting our sense of self when we land in an unfamiliar environment and it’s about finding peace through that process. Alice Pung delivers these themes in a package of well-paced narrative, lovely descriptive writing, and an earnest (although occasionally sardonic) voice.

If you can’t tell from that intro, Lucy and Linh is one of my favorite books of 2016 and a very strong contender for the Printz.
[Read more…]

The Rest of the Best

I’m a little late to the party, but more lists! More books to read! More surprises, and also more alignment around the standout YA titles of 2016!

We’ve already covered PW and SLJ (AKA the Mothership); now let’s look at Kirkus and The Horn Book from the trade side and NPR’s Book Concierge and The New York Times notable list from the mass media side.

(Obviously there are dozens more lists we could look at, and this is by no means comprehensive. If comprehensive is your thing, I heartily recommend Jen J’s spreadsheet for the trades, once she updates it, and for the list of all lists ever, Largehearted Boy is your guy.)

Alrighty, enough intro. Let’s dig in!

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A romantic rendezvous

romance-roundupActually, this is a romantic roundup, but rendezvous sounded catchier. In the context of Printz reviewing, romance has actually fared well in recent years with both the RealCommittee and the Pyrite Committee (aka: all of us). I’ll Give You the Sun was the Real and Pyrite winner in 2015, and in 2014 Eleanor & Park was a Real and Pyrite honor.

This context is important because it’s proof that professional readers are recognizing straight-up romances that are also literary. Today, Sarah and I are looking at three books that may (or may not) have what it takes to bring love back to the winner’s circle.

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The Lie Tree

The Lie Tree coverOh, The Lie Tree. For so long — since January, in fact, when I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC — I’ve been holding this up as an exemplar of great writing. Along with The Passion of Dolssa this has consistently held top billing in my head. It’s brilliant and unconventional; the writing is excellent; the themes unexpected: religion and science and feminism, oh my, with a lovely side of what it means to grow up.

And look, I still stand by this one as an excellent book. But after re-reading, I find I also have some questions. Let’s dig in!

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Places No One Knows

placesPlaces No One Knows, Brenna Yovanoff
Delacorte Press, May 2016
Reviewed from an ARC

Maybe here is a good time to say, I love Brenna Yovanoff. I love her writing, her dark and delicious fantasies. This fifth title is more along the lines of magical realism than straight out fantasy. The slow and sweet Waverly/Marshall relationship notwithstanding, Yovanoff takes an unflinching look at aggression and dysfunction in high school, and the results are dark — not so much with the creepy factor, but it’s decidedly a dark take on the high school experience. Places has garnered three starred reviews, and it’s easy to lay out why: strong characterization, important themes, and a delicate mix of genres. Does this have staying power once RealCommittee gets to the table, though? [Read more…]

Railhead

railhead_cover_241x361Railhead, Philip Reeve
Switch Press, April 2016
Reviewed from ARC

Philip Reeve is underappreciated in the US. The Mortal Engines quartet was brilliant science fiction — pacy, philosophical, and heart-breaking. And then it was gone, apparently out of print. The prequel trilogy starring the incomparable Fever Crumb also failed to get as much traction as it deserved. Hopefully, the upcoming film of Mortal Engines will signal a rebirth of interest, and hopefully that will mean good things for Reeve’s latest, the unusual Railhead.

[Read more…]

Flannery

flanneryFlannery, by Lisa Moore
Groundwood Press, May 2016
Reviewed from a final copy

Here’s a title with three stars, coming at us from a small press. We’ve got realistic fiction — more Canadian fiction, actually (yeah, OK, I recognize that this is not actually a genre). Moore is an adult novelist visiting the YA landscape for the first time with an emotional, powerful look at love, friendships, family. And magic potions, there are also magic potions here. (Though no actual magic; it’s realistic fiction.)

[Read more…]

Mirrors and Manson: Another Morris Roundup

11-29-16There are some fun parallels between the two novels we’re discussing today. Both are debut novels from Ivy-league educated women with impressive resumes in other careers. Both books came out in June and have narrators who are teenage girls struggling to find their place in the world. They are also both strong contenders for the Morris Award. Compared to some of the current Someday favorites, these two probably won’t emerge as Printz contenders this year but there’s enough potential in each that we may see these authors in the conversation in years to come.

[Read more…]