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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Our 2016 Picks and Predictions

Before ALA, before the YMAs, before the temptation to Monday morning quarterback, let’s all take a moment to say thank you to the RealCommittee. The 9 members of the RealCommittee have worked tirelessly and read endlessly. Whatever choice they make is the right choice, and I for one can’t wait to find out what it is.

And in anticipation of Monday’s announcements, let’s acknowledge something else. It’s not a competition, because the RealCommittee is always right, but we know we’re keeping score: how well do we, both as individuals and as a Pyrite collective in cahoots with all you you, do at predicting the winners?

For the record, and based on a very quick look at just the last two years: In 2014, Joy and Karyn both predicted that the RC would recognize Midwinterblood, and Joy had Eleanor & Park on her personal picks. In 2015, Karyn predicted that the RC would recognize This One Summer and Grasshopper Jungle; Joy accurately predicted I’ll Give You the Sun and Grasshopper Jungle; and Sarah predicted I’ll Give You the Sun and This One Summer. (Of course, we also all featured How I Discovered Poetry as a personal pick or prediction, or both, and we were all wrong on that one, so we’re still not exactly batting a thousand.) But overall either we improved or the RealCommittee was more predictable.

Speaking of more predictable, in 2014 the Pyrite only had one title match to the RealCommittee’s selections (Eleanor and Park with an honor); in 2015, on the other hand, we were incredibly prescient; the Pyrite winner and the RealCommittee winner were the same, and we also voted for two honor books in the Pyrite that the RealCommittee recognized. Upward trend or statistical anomaly? Only this year’s results will tell.

Regardless of our accuracy, going on record about our personal favorites and also our predictions definitely ranks as one of our favorite posts to write each year. Read on for both our personal picks — books we can support and love love love — and our predictions, which are the books we think are most likely to be recognized, even if we don’t necessarily love them.

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Pyrite: Fun with numbers!

pyrite-postI have to say, running the Pyrite this early in the new year is weird. That being said, many of you took a few moments during the last days of 2015 to vote for the books you think deserve a (fake) honor.

As we’ve seen in the past, there’s not a lot of surprise in this honor slate if you were paying attention to the vote for gold. (And by paying attention I mean studying that graph in the post, because I’m sure you all get as fired up about spreadsheets and charts as much as I do.) The real excitement with this honor vote was in the neck and neck races between the front runners.

Let’s get to the list, the ones that almost made it, and some more fun with numbers.
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National Book Award, Part Deux: The SHORT List!

NBA shortlistI didn’t want to hijack Sarah’s review of The Game of Love and Death, so this is a few days after the fact, meaning you’ve probably all seen the short list already.

Surprises? Delights?

Me, I’m surprised by the lack of X, and a little about Symphony for the City of the Dead, but two nonfiction would have been even more surprising; the list cut in half and lost half across the board (one of the younger titles, one of the nonfiction, three of the YA fiction).

In terms of housekeeping here, this pulls Nimona from the should we/shouldn’t we give it a post list to the definitely getting a post pile. I haven’t read The Thing About Jellyfish or (surprise!) Most Dangerous; does either fall enough into the 12-18 territory to be worth a look for our narrow purposes?

And finally, let’s rejoice, because this is an excellent NBA pool! I can’t wait to see what they choose. My money is on Challenger Deep.

 

Challenger Deep

challenger1Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
HarperCollins, April 2015
Reviewed from a final copy

Six starred reviews. One of the titles on the NBA longlist. This is a deeply personal story, one that has authenticity and hope. Although I’m still frantically reading 2015 titles, this is the book that has me excited at this point in the year. Challenger Deep has a lot of critical love, obviously, but it’s got a lot of general buzz as well — and a combination like that can be powerful at the table. 

The biggest challenge: it takes a certain amount of patience to push through the initial confusion of the beginning. The way Caden’s worlds collide and mix up with his dreams, you need to put the work in at the start in order to make it to the end. But this is a read that rewards patience and tenacity because the way the stories intertwine enrich the reading experience as a whole. The split worlds actually are (for me) the greatest strength of the novel; they comment on each other, reflect and refract each other, eventually coming to a merging point.

Shusterman’s language in moving between these worlds, too, is masterful. At crucial points in the text, Caden’s first person narration switches to second person, pulling us in as readers, binding us even more tightly to Caden. Shusterman is using his story not just to talk about a character who is mentally ill; he’s showing us, he’s bringing us along for the ride. We are next to Caden, addressed directly by Caden — the reader is subtly but powerfully tied to Caden’s story and to Caden’s perspective.

As a narrator, Caden is funny and charming despite his unreliability. (Hmmm. That’s not the perfect word, but I can’t think of a better one, so I’m going to leave it there. Maybe you all have a suggestion?) On his family’s trip, he describes his car sickness: “One step short of vomiting. Which, I suppose, makes me like everyone else in Vegas.” Heh. Sounds like a wry teenage boy right there. His voice is what can pull readers through the initial confusion of the split worlds. His utter relatability allows us as readers to go along for the ride, navigating his symptoms; we can’t help but actively try to connect with him.

The other characters don’t stand out quite as much; this is most definitely Caden’s story. His parents take up a parental amount of space (they are humanized and interesting, certainly sympathetic, but are not really the focus; this is YA, after all). The figures on the boat in the trench are well balanced; they start out seeming larger than life (and seem in some ways to be extensions of Caden himself), and end up corresponding to people in Caden’s hospital world. Even with these multiple roles, though, Caden voice and experiences dominate the story.

The writing is really beautiful, full of details and descriptions. “I push past the stars into that dark light, and you can’t imagine how it feels. Velvet and licorice caressing every sense; it melts into a liquid you plunge through; it evaporates into air that you breath.” There’s specificity and sensuality in it. It’s quotable and clear, both moving the story along and helping readers appreciate Caden and Caden’s perspective.

The text includes line drawings. They work to illuminate particular moments in the story, and add movement and emotion. The swirling, disconnected lines can be intense. They’re a fantastic way to see inside Caden’s head — another way to connect with our central figure.

But the big question we’re supposed to be figuring out here: do we think this will take a medal? I think it could. In a way, I almost wonder if coming up against the titles Joy reviewed a while ago could be to its advantage. I’ve certainly got more to read before my year is over, but this is one strong contender. What do you all say?