Nostalgia and the Printz process don’t really go hand-in-hand. But those old school feelings really can color reading experiences. We have to do a lot of work to recognize them and move past them in order to assess a book more objectively. The first time you read someone, you might have been a young, impressionable librarian (Karyn is not the only one dating herself this week, ahem). Or an author’s earlier work could have defined an entire field and, you know, won the very first Printz award. What I’m saying is your (OK, be honest: my) baggage might make it hard to realize that the particular book you’re holding isn’t what you’re expecting. But, as always in Printz discussion, it’s important to focus on the book in hand, not previous works. [Read more...]
There’s a lot to discuss here. A lot of win and a lot of flaw, really.
Let’s start with win, which is the writing.
The writing is mature, sophisticated, free of unnecessary embellishments. There are marks of the author’s MFA; there is a style of writing that always seems to have the fingerprints of advanced writing coursework and workshops all over it. Words that fall like pebbles, and ripple outward, although you can’t always tell why. Chapters that read like short stories, the kind you might find in The New Yorker. Language that is deceptively simple. MFA writing.
Blythe Woolston’s debut (The Freak Observer) won the Morris. Her sophomore effort is getting some buzz (especially from Kelly over at Stacked), although it didn’t do so well on the star collecting. Then again, my research shows zero stars for The Freak Observer, and the Morris is nothing to sneer at.
The premise is a bit high concept: teen survivors of a MRSA infection on an epic, not entirely planned road trip (the Booklist reviewer referenced “nearly Kerouacian moments,” which is a lovely way of pointing to sometimes episodic moments that are pregnant with potential meaning but might just be the result of the vagaries of life. Then again, I’ve never really seen the charms of On the Road). There is a lot here that works, and a lot to respect from a literary perspective; the concept might be high but the execution is often tight.
Remind me to never ever make a schedule. Because here we are, October first, and do you know how close we are to posting reviews of Q2 books?
About 2 weeks.
In a possibly misguided attempt to get caught up — in general, this year is so rich with multiply starred books that getting them all covered is going to be rough regardless (and that despite reading like a madwoman all year already!) — I’m going to hit lots of birds books with one stone post tonight. These are books that made the 3-star cutoff but that I’m not seeing as serious contenders. I’d hate to skip them, though, because then there’d be no room for anyone to fight for them and propose contrary ways of looking at them.
So one big old roundup post it is.
What does it say about a book when as a reader, I’m far more engaged by its themes and the questions it explores than the story or main characters? Or does it say more about me? This is what I’m grappling with as I complete my second read of Morris Award Finalist Nina LaCour’s sophomore effort, The Disenchantments.
Clearly, with three stars under its belt — from Kirkus, PW, and SLJ — this is a well-regarded title, and with good reason. Kirkus called it “hauntingly beautiful”, while SLJ’s reviewer pronounced it “contemplative but spectacular”, but while I’ll certainly buy beautiful and contemplative, I haven’t been haunted by this book at all. In fact, after reading it this winter, I had to undertake a complete re-read to remind myself of some major plot points.
Chopsticks is a particularly interesting item from the buzzed-about portion of our contenda list. It’s a fascinating format — available digitally and physically — full of arresting visuals and links to outside media. Although there are very few words on each page, the visual elements are all carefully chosen and placed. Analyzing the title feels like it requires a special vocabulary; it’s not quite a graphic novel; it feels most like a found scrapbook. [Read more...]
I [redacted but it starts with F and is something Ed might say] love this book.
I actually started this post once before, and I had nice things to say, but I was being a bit dismissive. It’s “sweet and light,” I said. Ah, the perils of only reading a book once.
Then I started rereading, and realized that this is a quiet treasure.
This is indeed, just as the back cover promises, a very strong debut.
But I think it’s telling that even the blurbs mention its debut status, because this is a book that might be a solid contender for the Morris, but doesn’t rate for the Printz.
(I should acknowledge that I am making that very broad statement without actually having a list of 2012 debuts to consult, so, you know, sort of pontificating without evidence.)
I’m sure you’re thinking, wow, Karyn, tell us how you REALLY feel.