Next up in our countdown to the Pyrite: a conversation on science fiction, dystopias, big ideas, rancid politics, and the girls who have just about had enough — girls who chart the world’s meltdown. Taking a look at a dirty and distressing near future, we’ve got A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future paired with Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Love is the Drug. [Read more...]
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King
Little, Brown, October 2014
Reviewed from an ARC
OK, can I confess something? When I’ve tried to describe Glory O’Brien, I’ve started to feel like maybe I’m Stefon because there’s a lot going on here. A LOT: bat drinking, dystopias, politics, graduation, a dead mom, warring families, reclusive fathers, feminism, slutshaming, art, hippies, and STDs. Like, where are the Furbies and the screaming babies in Mozart wigs?
Which is not to say I’m not taking this review seriously (Stefon is always deadly serious anyway, right?) — with six starred reviews, with three placements on year’s best lists, A.S. King’s newest is getting a lot of love. Only, while I loved the wild ride of this read at first pass, as I’m writing this review now, it’s not entirely working. The things I loved are still there, but I have some problems and questions that are making me think twice as I write. [Read more...]
A few final books we wanted to squeeze in: Reality Boy, which received some buzz early in the year but seems to have fallen off everyone’s radars despite three year-end Best lists; More Than This, a book that has picked up some traction recently as a buzz book and potential contender; and Black Helicopters, which seems strongly divisive but which no one has forgotten despite having first read it months ago — and staying power matters when it comes to awards.
(As a bonus, we each reviewed one of them so you can try to guess which “I” is which blogger!)
We’ve been bringing the Pyrite* books back up for a second round of discussion, but a number of them were discussed so recently — and with their Pyrite nominations in mind — that it seems silly to post again about each one.
However, we didn’t want anyone to forget what makes these books at the very top of the top of the year, so here are the remaining Pyrite candidates revisited.
When guest blogger Joy reviewed Bomb, she said “With descriptive language and clever plot juggling, Sheinkin creates the atmosphere of life as a wartime spy (or a bomb-building physicist); it’s dangerous and exciting. This effective world building and use of stylistic tools create a book that feels light.” She then went on to list some criticisms, and concluded by wondering if Bomb is more style than substance. However, this is the one nonfiction book that made the Pyrite shortlist and is dearly beloved by many. It’s also gotten a lot of love from the Newbery speculation crowd over at Heavy Medal. Printz pick or pan?
Ask the Passengers swept our live Mock Printz event, and seems to be the book everyone loves, although it lacks the splash of Code Name Verity. Sarah’s review praised almost every aspect of the book, especially the characterization. She also mostly predicted it will place in the RealPrintz when she said “I think this title could go far at the table.” Is she on to something? Is this the one that can win the consensus and take the Pyrite, and maybe even the gold?
Whether or not it gets pyrite, nickel (isn’t that the pyrite equivalent for silver?), gold, or silver, The Brides of Rollrock Island wins the award for most hotly contested title of the year, at least around here. Karyn’s review was a great big waffle. She loved the language and the scope, but was left puzzled by the messages seemingly encoded in the themes and the plot. And the comments were almost equally divided, with no one seeming to be particularly swayed by anyone else’s observations and thoughts. Books we can talk about for hours are good, but when it comes to the Printz, consensus is key and a book this divisive often falls by the wayside. Will that be the fate of Brides?
The Raven Boys is a delicious fantasy and first in a series. And the same goes for The Diviners. Do either of them have what it takes to place despite the series issue? And the genre issue? Or are these heart books that will fall off the list as soon as the voting starts?
So that’s it, the last of the Pyrite Redux posts. Voting will begin today, so consider carefully your top three picks. And feel free to use the comments here as one last chance to sway the other voters. How persuasive can you be?
*The Pyrite Printz, or Pyrite, is the Someday My Printz Will Come mock Printz deliberation, and should not in any way be confused with YALSA’s Michael L. Printz Award, often referred to here as the RealPrintz or Printz. Our predictions, conversations, and speculation about potential RealPrintz contenders and winners reflect only our own best guesses and are not affiliated with YALSA or the RealPrintz committee. You probably figured that out on your own, but we like to make it clear!
A.S. King had an honor book last year (Please Ignore Vera Dietz), so I have been looking forward to reading Everybody Sees the Ants. This second book feels really different from Vera, although it has some elements in common: hints of magical realism and a thoughtful, intellectual center that acts as a unifying backbone to realistic, relatable characters.
The plot: Everyone seems to want to help Lucky Linderman, who came to school authorities’ attention by creating a school-wide survey on suicide his freshman year. He’s not actually considering suicide himself; he is, however, being ruthlessly tormented by Nader McMillan. Guidance counselors, teachers, his parents: all are well-meaning but don’t seem to know how to help or what to tell him. It’s only in his dreams, where Lucky is determined to rescue his grandfather (who is a POW/MIA in Vietnam since 1973), that Lucky attempts to deal with his daily life. But are his dreams only dreams? As Nader’s bullying escalates, and Lucky increasingly resents his distant, powerless father, Lucky starts to see the ants, a Greek Chorus-like group who comment honestly — and sometimes hilariously — on what goes on.
There’s a lot that I loved in this read: Lucky is an engaging narrator, and his tough, hurt, bewildered reactions to things are captivating. The shifts in time between chapters are effective, and the secondary characters are almost all complex and memorable. The ants are a conceit that really worked for me as a reader. The humor they bring to heartbreaking and upsetting situations provides a really nice balance; the funny artfully enhances the sad. I like the various connections that King weaves between bullies and wars, too. There are the public conflicts that we clearly struggle to talk about (still: Vietnam; today: Afghanistan and Iran) and the private conflicts that we can barely acknowledge. We can mostly-sort-of own our ambiguous feelings about sending young people to war but are ill-equipped to talk about the hurtful conflicts that they all experience on a day-to-day basis. (No, really ill-equipped; check out this blog and Op-Ed from danah boyd.) This is a book about hidden and public wars, and it’s thought provoking and emotional and powerful.
But. [Read more...]