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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

exitExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Dutton, March 2016
Reviewed from a final copy

I’m not for sure where I’m landing in this review, so I guess I’ll have to write it and see where I end up. Ha, I guess I’m flying right now, and I’m hoping this review (or you all, in the comments) will catch me. I definitely loved this book, and feel like it’s continuing my tough lady reading streak this year. With four starred reviews, I know I’m not alone in that love. Johnston is a past Morris honoree, too, so I have no doubt RealCommittee is taking a careful look at this title. Exit is emotional and compelling, it has strong characters, often funny dialogue, and as a story it balances uncertainty and resolution very delicately and deftly. [Read more…]

The Radiant Road

The Radiant Road coverThe Radiant Road, Katherine Catmull
Dutton, January 2016
Reviewed from final e-book

I mentioned last week that each of us has to assess excellence for ourselves, as well as coming to consensus when it comes time to pick a winner (or, for us, Pyrite winner).

For me, excellence is deeply tied to language. I was an English major; I’ve been know to read poetry for fun. I love puns. It doesn’t have to be highfalutin’, but show me real skill manipulating language and I’m likely to be lined up reaching for that book with both hands.

So no surprise, my second book this season once again is one that hits it out of the park when it comes to pure old-fashioned word-smithing.

[Read more…]

Life, Life, and Masturbation: The Alex Crow

The Alex CrowThe Alex Crow, Andrew Smith
Dutton, March 2015
Reviewed from ARC and ebook editions

Last year, Andrew Smith wrote a book that had: weird science, boys who talk about masturbation, an incredibly strong voice, and strange animals created by the aforementioned weird science.

Love it or hate it, we couldn’t stop talking about it.

So why is The Alex Crow, which could also be described as a book with weird science, boys who talk about masturbation, an incredibly strong voice, and strange animals created by the aforementioned weird science, making so little ripple?

Backlash against Smith’s problematic writing of women? (It’s not better here, exactly, but used as part of the absurdism and thus ameliorated.) The fact that he JUST received a Printz honor? A less astounding package?

Or does The Alex Crow suffer because it feels like it’s not original, even though the thing that makes it seem less original is the same author’s work?

[Read more…]

Pyrite Redux: We’re All Stories in the End

At last Saturday’s Mock Printz, a Hudson Valley Library Associate book club regular, Susannah Goldstein, aptly called 2014 “the year of storytelling.” It was a dead-on observation that applies to so many 2014 books. Storytelling is certainly a theme that’s resonated with me this year. One major question books like How It Went Down and The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone ask is: who gets to tell your story after your gone? I’ll Give You the Sun and 100 Sideways Miles are both interested in individuals as authors of their own stories. Let’s take a second look at two books that also explore story and storytellers: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith and Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. [Read more…]

Grasshopper Jungle

This book. This book! I loved it. Also I hated it. It has amazing characters, and then it has crimes against female characters. It’s A Tale of Two Cities for me on this one — this book contains multitudes and also contradictions galore. It probably deserves an award, except when it doesn’t.

There’s a reason I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this review. Actually, reasons. Lots of them. This is an extraordinarily impressive book. Except when it isn’t. ARGH!

[Read more…]

Belzhar

Belzhar, Meg Wolitzer
Dutton, September 2014
Reviewed from ARC

There’s always some weird dance of anticipation and dread when an author you respect as an author for adult readers dips into the YA world. Happily, Meg Wolitzer is very clear eyed about YA and about why she writes YA — it’s not to jump on the glory train (and isn’t it funny that YA is the glory train? That never stops being strange to me), and it’s not to say something to teens, although of course things are said. No, it’s about the feelings, and about capturing them on the page so that the rest of us can revisit those heady emotions.

And Belzhar is a perfect tempest of teen emotion, even if it’s not always a perfect piece of writing. [Read more…]

Everything Leads to You

Book CoverEverything 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.

[Read more…]

Roundup: Girls in Crisis

Double feature crisis show!

Today we’ve got not one but two — TWO! — reviews for the price of one click. Really, these two books — Fat Angie and 17 & Gone — have very little in common, but they are both March pubs and have some thematic overlap, dealing as they do with girls in distress. Not damsels in distress, but the kind of deep-seated internal anguish that is too often intrinsic to teen girls, saddled as they are with expectations and beliefs and the need to always be aware.

[Read more…]

The Different Girl

The Different Girl, Gordon Dahlquist
Dutton Children’s, Feb 2013
Reviewed from ARC

Let’s talk about voice (bay-bee), because this book features one of the strongest I’ve come across.

(And before you hit the jump, please remember that we do spoilers here. All the time. So if you are reading on and you haven’t read the book yet, I don’t think I’ll ruin it but I will spoil some parts. Caveat emptor.)

[Read more…]

More Roundup (Debut Style!)

Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone, Kat Rosenfield
Dutton, May 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Buzz and anticipation, impressive writing, and a whole that ends up not quite hitting it out of the park — haven’t we heard this story before?

Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone has some really magnificent sentence level writing. Some of the best out there this year, even, although on occasion it’s almost too much. It’s yet another potential Morris contender, too, and — as with so many of the books that have crossover eligibility for the Morris — it probably has a better chance there, because it’s a great debut.

[Read more…]