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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Fantastic Fantasy, Scintillating Science Fiction (a Twofer)

Canadian Mountain Goat (you'll understand after you read the post) by Eve Livesey.

Canadian Mountain Goat (you’ll understand after you read the post) by Eve Livesey.

For the reader, like me, who prefers fantasy to reality, at least in books, this has been a pretty knockout year. We seem to finally be fully beyond the various waves (paranormal romance, dystopias, love triangles) that have dominated YA fantasy and science fiction for the past decade. This has been a slow creep, and this year marks the first year where I don’t see any dominant trends. Microtrends, sure — the Arabian Nights and djinn tales have been increasing each year, series fiction is still quite common, and really we’ll never entirely be done with dystopic fiction (that usually isn’t technically set in a dystopia).

(Having said all that, someone will probably point out some trend I am willfully ignoring. I still say this is a banner year.)

So rather than an army of same old same old, this year has brought us a legion of fresh, original genre fiction — I’ve already talked about The Archivist Wasp and Razorhurst, and we’ve all admired Bone Gap and Shadowshaper (and yes, I KNOW we need to review those already. We haven’t forgotten). Joy had a lot of admiration for More Happy Than Not; The Walls Around Us is a tour de force, really, that I am still thinking about. Even genre books we haven’t 100% adored and/or may not be covering here (The Game of Love and Death, Walk on Earth a Stranger, Newt’s Emerald) are distinctly their own books and don’t fit into any easy boxes.

In short, I’m calling this the year fantasy finally moved on from blockbusters and into its own (magical) pride of place.

And today I’ve got not one but TWO fabulous genre books to add to the list of books we say nice things about.

[Read more…]

Printzbery Part 2, This Time on Wheels

Roller Girl coverYesterday we gave you a twofold twofer: two titles with potential for both Printz and Newbery.

Today we’re back with another, Roller Girl, in what looks like it might be a weeklong series.

Let’s get to it!

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Printzbery Part 1

There's a Prince Berry in Strawberry Shortcake! Who knew?

There’s a Prince Berry in Strawberry Shortcake! Who knew?

Printzbery: could be one, could be the other, might even end up both.*

By popular demand: today we’re talking about all those maybe kidlit, maybe YA books from the first three quarters of the year.

On the table for the potential Printzbery*: Roller Girl; Echo; Goodbye, Stranger; The Hired Girl, Cuckoo Song, and Orbiting Jupiter.

Today, we’re tackling The Hired Girl and Echo and tomorrow we’ll bring you Roller Girl and Goodbye Stranger; Orbiting Jupiter we’ll cover as we get deeper into the back half of the year (along with anything we come across in the meantime). And Cuckoo Song? It’s on my serious contender list and I will argue that it reads up UP UP, so I plan to cover it either by itself or in tandem with another genre frontrunner, hopefully in the next week or so.

[Read more…]

The Walls Around Us (are pretty darn impressive)

The Walls Around Us coverThe Walls Around Us, Nova Ren Suma
Algonquin Books for Young Readers, March 2015
Reviewed from final e-copy

Finally! In The Walls Around Us, Suma has delivered the book I wanted back when I first read Imaginary Girls. It’s got the good stuff I knew to expect — her wordsmithing really is excellent (my notes use the effusive words “lush” and “sensual”), she slides between fantasy and reality with a slippery grace — and those qualities works together perfectly with the complicated plot and seriously broken characters.

In short, I was blown away by this one.

However, within a few weeks of finishing the book I felt this vague sense of distaste and wasn’t really singing its praises very loudly, because we have here a book that is excellently written but (much like The Tightrope Walkers) not entirely likeable.

I blame Violet. I hated her with a depth characters can’t often evoke, because she’s written that well.

The again, and luckily, likeability isn’t at all an issue for the Printz, while good writing is, which makes this one a serious contender.

[Read more…]

Dark Horses

Some dark horses for your viewing entertainment.

For our final review of the season, squashed in at the 11th hour, we bring you a quick and dirty final roundup to shed a little bit of love on some books that we never got to discuss at length but that we still think deserve a little attention.

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100 Sideways Miles

100 Sideways Miles, Andrew Smith
Simon & Schuster, September 2014
Reviewed from final copy

If you were a teenager who spent at least one long night with friends discussing the future, destiny, and the fear that you can’t control the course of your life, 100 Sideways Miles probably reminded you of those moments. Finn Easton, the novel’s narrator, is a teen deeply concerned about his place in the universe and whether or not he has any say in his fate. Some of the themes Andrew Smith is thinking about in Grasshopper Jungle recur here—specifically connection and friendship; however, while Grasshopper Jungle takes quite a cynical view of human nature, 100 Sideways Miles has the kind of hopeful ending that feels like a beginning.

I have a feeling that this book’s optimism is a factor in why Andrew Smith’s second novel of 2014 has five stars to its predecessor’s three. (And just for reference, last year’s Winger was a three star book in addition to being a BFYA top ten pick.) [Read more…]

Books in Brief: Series

CC-licensed image by Banalities; click for original image.

Some time in the next few days I’ll have a lot to say about the year end lists, and we’ll be going back and making some additional edits to our start of season list in light of time crunches and more data. Today, though, I’m taking a moment away from that madness to reflect on series fiction, a topic near and dear to my heart.

[Read more…]

Poisoned Apples

Poisoned Apples, Christine Heppermann
Greenwillow, October 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Gosh, it’s a good year for poetry, at least from a publishing perspective.

And unlike Nelson’s gorgeous memoir that I will be hard pressed to sell to actual real live teen readers, Poisoned Apples has appeal in spades.

This was a later addition to our list, thanks to buzz and three stars five stars, and I’m glad we didn’t miss it; it’s a small collection of woman-centric fairy-tale poems that recast the action in the schools and streets and bedrooms and bathrooms of today’s world. Sort of Anne Sexton lite, maybe — which, frankly, is pretty much everything wrong with this collection in a nutshell. [Read more…]

We Were Liars

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart
Delacorte, May 2014
Reviewed from ARC

For the first formal writeup of the season, I thought I’d tackle the first likely contender I read (I read this one in late 2013, so I was early).

Also, I know lots of people are itching to talk about it.

First, pedigree: this one made our longlist in a whopping 4 categories. Buzz (although some of that was manufactured by the smart marketing people who knew they had something worth pushing); previous winner (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, 2009 Printz Honor book); stars (five of them); and interest (Frankie was one of my committee’s picks, and I also love love love Lockhart’s smart, sly Ruby Oliver books, which seem fluffy on the outside and are actually protein and pathos packed when you dig in.)

Now, I like intricately plotted books that work seamlessly when I read them but leave me thinking about the author’s skill in putting all the bits together once I’ve finished reading. I also like mysteries and unreliable narrators.

In other words, We Were Liars was made for me — but that’s not what  makes it a worthy contender.

[Read more…]

Fangirl — Finally!

Fangirl - Rainbow RowellWhy isn’t Fangirl getting more Printz buzz? It’s earned five stars and has appeared on a couple best of 2013 lists.

Is the subject too niche? Are readers putting all their support behind Eleanor & Park?

Whitney Winn of Youth Services Corner did a useful roundup of Mock Printz lists. While E&P appeared on all nineteen of the lists included in her data, Fangirl was on just five.

Am I taking crazy pills?

I lurve E&P. You know I do. But Fangirl is the stronger book. It’s richer thematically, has better characterizations, a more complex story, and a fascinating structure. If only one of Rowell’s novels is recognized by the Real Committee this year, it should be Fangirl.
[Read more…]