Karyn started out the week gushing about what a banner year for fantasy it is. I’m a little closer to Joy’s wavelength because I’ve got some (historical) realistic fiction to cover in this post. Joy also talked about SIGNIFICANCE (well, MESSAGE) in her post. I think that Quintero’s offering, while SIGNIFICANT, elegantly unites a specific setting and time period with a powerful coming of age story. Is that enough of a merit to name it as a contender, though? [Read more…]
My high school students will find that this novel hits very close to home. As residents of New York City, many of them joined and organized protests when grand juries decided not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. They staged a die-in. They educated their peers about what it feels like to be repeatedly stopped and frisked. For other young readers who have lived the reality of this novel, this may be a difficult read but it may also provide them the opportunity to discuss these problems through the lens of fictional characters in a fictional situation. All American Boys is a safe space for conversation about police brutality and racism in America. Its three stars are no surprise and well-deserved for this raw and emotionally honest book.
All that being said, as Karyn put so well in her review of All the Rage, I’m trying to resolve “the tension between what matters about this book and what matters for award season.”
For the reader, like me, who prefers fantasy to reality, at least in books, this has been a pretty knockout year. We seem to finally be fully beyond the various waves (paranormal romance, dystopias, love triangles) that have dominated YA fantasy and science fiction for the past decade. This has been a slow creep, and this year marks the first year where I don’t see any dominant trends. Microtrends, sure — the Arabian Nights and djinn tales have been increasing each year, series fiction is still quite common, and really we’ll never entirely be done with dystopic fiction (that usually isn’t technically set in a dystopia).
(Having said all that, someone will probably point out some trend I am willfully ignoring. I still say this is a banner year.)
So rather than an army of same old same old, this year has brought us a legion of fresh, original genre fiction — I’ve already talked about The Archivist Wasp and Razorhurst, and we’ve all admired Bone Gap and Shadowshaper (and yes, I KNOW we need to review those already. We haven’t forgotten). Joy had a lot of admiration for More Happy Than Not; The Walls Around Us is a tour de force, really, that I am still thinking about. Even genre books we haven’t 100% adored and/or may not be covering here (The Game of Love and Death, Walk on Earth a Stranger, Newt’s Emerald) are distinctly their own books and don’t fit into any easy boxes.
In short, I’m calling this the year fantasy finally moved on from blockbusters and into its own (magical) pride of place.
And today I’ve got not one but TWO fabulous genre books to add to the list of books we say nice things about.
So way back a few weeks ago, Karyn mentioned that she found Tightrope Walkers too dark and oppressive to really sit with. I immediately began to wonder, what did I miss? Why didn’t the darkness affect me? Was I fooled by the book, to find hints of hope throughout, and find moments of compelling beauty in the darkness?
I’m pretty sure I found the book that answers my question. Did I miss too much? Nah, I’m good. This is a dark book. This is a book that pushes and prods and then slaps you around. It’s oppressive, it’s unrelenting, it’s brutal, and then it ends in despair. What I’m saying is, Tightrope Walkers was a walk on a riverbank in the springtime with birds chirping and woodland creatures frolicking, and this is…sure not. [Read more…]
Black Dove, White Raven, Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion, March 2015
Reviewed from final copy
Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go, Laura Rose Wagner
Amulet Books, January 2015
Reviewed from final e-book
It’s a midweek roundup of books with commas in their titles. Okay, these two books are also about countries in the midst of crisis. Black Dove, White Raven is set in the years leading up to Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go presents more recent history—the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010.
A few thoughts.
One: I planned to cover two books tonight, linked by the fact that they both feature girls who have been harmed by their worlds but who won’t go down without a fight, and who both, through perseverance and pain, succeed. But it diminished both texts and I especially didn’t want to risk obscuring All the Rage, which is an important and powerful book.
Two: Sometimes the worst thing about reading with the kind of critical lens required for the Printz is that that level of scrutiny often ends up meaning we read books more than once. Admittedly, there are times when this is a gift. Rereading can be a luxury, allowing us to read for craft and detail rather than just to booktalk, and often a second read reveals new layers. On the flip side, there are also times when a close second read means we need to confront the things that are less than perfect about a book, taking a top book down a few pegs or leaving us (me) torn between a critical/blog charge and a personal and/or professional desire to promote powerful, meaningful books.
I’ve read All the Rage twice now, and I’m still struggling with the tension between what matters about this book and what matters for award season. [Read more…]
Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, May 2015
Reviewed from final copy
We’ve got two nonfiction reads. They’re both short, they’ve both received a lot of stars, and they’re both bringing new material to teen collections (IE, they’re full of SIGNIFICANCE, which may not be Printzly, but is still exciting and interesting to talk about). Will either one go the distance? [Read more…]
This is the kind of book that can’t be discussed deeply without spoiling it. Big spoilers ahead; watch out.
If you could forget the most painful memories of your life, would you? Maybe you’ve seen this scenario play out in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but Adam Silvera’s debut novel asks much harder questions than Charlie Kaufman’s 2004 film. Personality is largely shaped by the collection of memories we carry around. If you forget certain parts of your life, will you change and will you be happier? Equally heartbreaking and fascinating, More Happy Than Not explores how forgetting can change people, and how the loss of key memories would affect a teen who was still in the process of identity formation. Given the critical praise it’s received, this is a book that would have landed on our list anyway, but the buzz before it was even published was strongly positive and mostly centered on Adam Silvera as a unique new voice in YA lit. We all know that hype can really deflate one’s experience of a book, but that was not the case here.
It’s still exciting. And full of surprises! And books I haven’t read, which is always a concern. Why are there so many books? Why must we all have to pick and choose? Why can’t we read instead of sleep?
(These are the questions I ask every year, so at least in that respect, some things are exactly as expected.)