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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

All American Boys

All American Boys coverAll American Boys, Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, September 2015
Reviewed from final copy

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.”

[Read more…]

Two Books That Have Absolutely Nothing in Common*

The Dead I Know coverDime coverAs previously mentioned, time is short and books are many.

So for today, two books that don’t actually belong in a joint post, brought to you by the color red and the letter D: The Dead I Know and Dime.

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The Boy in the Black Suit

The Boy in the Black Suit coverThe Boy in the Black Suit, Jason Reynolds
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, January 2015
Reviewed from final copy

Sometimes people who are grieving can find comfort in structured routines. Matt Miller, the titular boy of The Boy in the Black Suit, doesn’t just adopt a routine; he gets a job at a local funeral home where he will witness other people’s grief every day. Quietly sitting in on the services and observing the mourners helps Matt feel like the pain he’s felt following the death of his mother is the same as everyone else’s. It gives him a sense of normalcy when everything in his life has changed. He’s a regular fixture at the funeral home where he meets, of course, someone who challenges everything he thinks he knows about mourning, and that someone is a girl who will change his life.

[Read more…]

Sex and girls and stuff

We’ve got another round up here and this time, it’s all about the complexities and frustrations and amazing moments related to gender, sex, identity, hook ups, heartbreak, and true love. And who couldn’t use a little love at this time of year, amirite? Well, to be honest, these three books aren’t all about wuv (twue wuv); they are more about all the messy parts — the hook ups and doomed romances, the figuring yourself out, and the murder mysteries you might find yourself investigating from your family’s vintage record store. Although I’m not convinced that these titles are in the running for Printz medals,  I’m excited to share these books here; they have some really great moments. [Read more…]


Noggin, John Corey Whaley
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 2014
Reviewed from ARC

I need to be up front about something. I loved Where Things Come Back. I know it wasn’t a favorite ’round these parts, but I was impressed with the nuance and ambition in its debut author’s writing. John Corey Whaley’s Printz-winning novel made me think and feel and had me excited to read more from him.

Enter Noggin.

The high-concept plot (cryogenically frozen heads!) and the teenage angst (he’s back from the dead wants his girlfriend back too!), oh, how they intrigued and beguiled me. And oh, how I kept waiting for Noggin to deliver on the promise of its authorship. [Read more…]

Message or Masterpiece (Or, Does the Problem Novel Still Exist?)

Today we’re running a roundup of books that we think are worth discussing because they are in the top, say, 100 of the year. But they aren’t quite there, and we don’t think they’ll go the distance. And to make the post about more than just a series of short reviews, we’ve limited today’s roundup to books that have a lot to offer but seem to lose out on Printzliness in the name of message or purpose. Every time we discuss these books, we find ourselves focused on a central issue not of writing but of the world: an issue discussed in the books at hand but not really of them.

And as we discussed this, we found ourselves comparing these books to the problem novels of yesteryear, because like them, what the books are about seems to weigh more heavily then how they are written, even if the how is light years beyond the old chestnuts. And really, these books offer so much more than just the issues at their hearts — but we were struck by the ways that the social issue at the heart of the text stuck in our heads the longest, outweighing the literary elements. Is this about our own biases, seeing and holding on to the part that feels like a news soundbite — and therefore, easy to remember and the sort of thing that we are reminded of by the outside world on a sadly too frequent basis — or is it an issue in the writing?

Let’s see! [Read more…]