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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The Impossible Knife of Memory

18079527 The Impossible Knife of MemoryThe Impossible Knife of Memory, Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking, January 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Addiction, depression, PTSD; these weighty problems are the main focus of Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory, recently longlisted for the National Book Award. There’s definitely some great writing here that is worth talking about; Anderson’s ability to sustain an intense narrative in one character’s voice is admirable. But that’s just one element out of many criteria that the RealCommittee will look at if this book is up for discussion. Any book with four stars by a former Printz honor winner is certainly going to have some attention but ultimately I found this book moving, yet flawed.
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Zac + Mia

9780544331648 Zac + MiaZac & Mia, A.J. Betts
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Remember when teens with terminal illnesses were the stuff of Lurlene McDaniels and also the Wakefield twins’ brother’s girlfriend? And not literary fodder.

Oh for the days of yore.

But the cancer book seems here to stay, and this one puts some spin on the tropes of the genre.

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NBA Longlist

I know, I know, it’s already old news — but it would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the NBA longlist in Young People’s Literature.

There are a few surprises, as always, a few “of course” books, and a side of “wait, really?”

There’s also a slant towards a type of book. Social conscience seems to be on the table as a criteria, or at least a bias. Greenglass House and 100 Sideways Miles maybe don’t fit that mold (I haven’t read either yet and descriptions don’t make it clear), but the rest do — even Noggin, which takes on ethics and identity as issues.

But because we are really narrowly focused here, what I am mostly interested in is how this list compares to our own list.

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Little Blue Lies

little blue lies 9781442440081 lg Little Blue LiesLittle Blue Lies, Chris Lynch
Simon & Schuster, January 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Printz Honor Book author Chris Lynch’s latest novel is a brief, quirky tale of two teens who aren’t meant to be together. No, they’re not star-crossed lovers, rather Oliver and Junie’s relationship is too glib and shallow to ever have been the foundation for something meaningful. Despite this, Oliver spends most of the novel chasing June (literally and figuratively).

Full disclosure: I read this book in January for the SLJ review section. I enjoyed reading this book. It’s offbeat, reads quickly, and speaks to that real anxiety about the future that all teens experience at some point. Possibly the most important factor in my enjoyment was that I read it in the midst of a lot of Printz blog reading and reviewing and immediately after finishing Zadie Smith’s bleak and challenging (in a good way) NWIt hit me at the right time.

Over eight months later, it’s harder and harder to remember anything extraordinary about Little Blue Lies.

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How I Discovered Poetry

How I Discovered Poetry cover 198x300 How I Discovered PoetryHow I Discovered Poetry, Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Dial Books, January 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Marilyn Nelson, author of the 2006 Printz honor book A Wreath for Emmett Till, is responsible for what may be this year’s most unique contender, pairing two genres only occasionally spotted in the YA world — memoir and poetry — to make a whole that is notable and worth recognizing. [Read more...]

This One Summer

summer 353x500 This One SummerThis One Summer, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
First, Second, May 2014
Reviewed from final copy

In my head, as I’ve written this post, it’s mostly been a series of exclamation points and the word “squeeeeeeee” interspersed with pictures from the book’s pages. I mean, that’s legit Printz discussion, no? With 6 starred reviews, gorgeous art, a meditative story line, it really seems like my work here is done and I’m only 57 words along in this review. But perhaps you need convincing? Or are just in the mood for a good gush? In the name of due diligence, let’s explore what’s making me go squee. We’ve got beautiful art, strong characterization and an emotional, summer-wandering plot with complicated themes adding texture and weight…I’m pretty much squeeing over the whole package of this spare-but-profound graphic novel. [Read more...]

Everything Leads to You

18667779 Everything Leads to YouEverything Leads to You, Nina LaCour
Dutton Books, May 2014
Reviewed from Final Copy

Everything Leads to You has all the elements you would want in a YA summer book: love, glamour, and mystery all in the warm, sunny climate of Southern California. And that’s just the trailer. Nina LaCour’s latest novel is also a tender story that beautifully captures what it’s like to be a young dreamer on the edge of adulthood.

There are a couple of pertinent details that are left out from these descriptions though. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t know that Emi, the protagonist, is a teen lesbian with African-American heritage (from her grandfather on her mother’s side); a glance at the cover or the flap copy won’t reveal any hint of these key facts. The book seems deliberately presented as white hetero-normative. So, I’ve thought about this almost as much as I’ve thought about the content of the novel and I’m still not sure how I feel. However, while I continue to let my ideas simmer, let’s talk about the meat.

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We Were Liars

we were liars We Were LiarsWe Were Liars, E. Lockhart
Delacorte, May 2014
Reviewed from ARC

For the first formal writeup of the season, I thought I’d tackle the first likely contender I read (I read this one in late 2013, so I was early).

Also, I know lots of people are itching to talk about it.

First, pedigree: this one made our longlist in a whopping 4 categories. Buzz (although some of that was manufactured by the smart marketing people who knew they had something worth pushing); previous winner (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, 2009 Printz Honor book); stars (five of them); and interest (Frankie was one of my committee’s picks, and I also love love love Lockhart’s smart, sly Ruby Oliver books, which seem fluffy on the outside and are actually protein and pathos packed when you dig in.)

Now, I like intricately plotted books that work seamlessly when I read them but leave me thinking about the author’s skill in putting all the bits together once I’ve finished reading. I also like mysteries and unreliable narrators.

In other words, We Were Liars was made for me — but that’s not what  makes it a worthy contender.

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The (Very Long) List

I Love Spreadsheets1 247x300 The (Very Long) ListWe’ve got a list. We’ve checked it twice.

(I want to make a naughty or nice joke, but really, naughty books just don’t make it on Printz contender speculation lists.)

We’ve considered buzz, that strange ephemeral thing that happens on Goodreads and Twitter, we’ve looked at stars (shoutouts, ever and always, to Jen and her amazing list, without which we would have no accurate data on stars and books), and finally we’ve gone over the list of previous winners and honorees to see who has new books out this year.

Whew!

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What Is This Quality Thing, Anyway?

Blowing Questions photo by Flickr user Brian Yap 224x300 What Is This Quality Thing, Anyway?

What is a Printz-worthy book? How do we gauge merit? Is great literature a definable thing?

There are so many questions and so few answers, but if we’re going to analyze all these books in light of the Printz award, it’s probably a good idea to think about what it is we’re hoping to see recognized come February 2. [Read more...]