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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The Memory of Light

Memory of Light, coverThe Memory of Light, Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books, January 2016
Reviewed from ARC

How can I assess The Memory of Light in the context of the Printz Award?

In some ways, it’s too real, too honest, and too close-to-home. It’s also surprisingly uninteresting and predictable. I struggled with these contradictory reactions throughout the novel.

When I read YA books that romanticize depression or mental illness, I want to tear down the Internet with my frustration. Yet this novel, which is so accurate in portraying the complexity of depression, does not inspire me to erect monuments. I don’t mean to be facetious, but this book made me feel nothing at all.

[Read more…]

We Are the Ants

We Are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse, January 2016
Reviewed from final copy

Have aliens been abducting Henry Denton since he was thirteen? Or has he been suffering from mental illness? Some days I believe the former; other days, the latter. But does it really matter?

Probably not.

We Are the Ants is about much more than the end of the world (although those doomsday scenarios were highly entertaining). Shaun David Hutchinson uses science fiction elements to get at themes that are highly realistic: grief, guilt, love, nihilism… actually, this book is packed with ideas and Hutchinson weaves them through a story in which the protagonist is largely passive.
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So many books they never end oh god too many books (Hanging Chad part 1)

morebooks copyThis year is just full of books, and so many of them are worth talking about. Sadly, we’re not going to get to everything we hoped to read before Monday’s award announcements, despite valiant efforts.

I’m mourning Leavitt’s Calvin, loaded on my Nook but sadly unread; Seneca Village; Lizard Radio, with a premise so unusual that maybe I will read it even after I ought to be moving on to 2016 publications; and a handful of other books besides. Not to mention all the books reviewed by Joy and/or Sarah, a percentage of which I haven’t read and several of which are clearly among the top 20 or so of the year.

But enough crying over books unread, and on to the final titles we have squeezed in. We’ll run half of them today and the other half tomorrow, because otherwise this post would be out of control.

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Can Lightning Strike Twice?

prevwinnersPrevious winners, new books… Sometimes it means the magic has happened again, and a lucky (well, and talented) author will receive a second (or third) golden P sticker.

More often, the magic doesn’t happen again, but previous winners have a proven track record so it’s a pretty sure bet anything from a previous winner received at least a look from one or more RealCommittee members. Which means we, in our endless stalkery committee-emulating ways, also did our best to make sure we read everything out in 2015 from a previous Printz winner or honoree. And there were a lot this year.

We’ve covered several of these already (see: books from Almond, Almond again, Anderson, Bray, Lanagan, Mackler, Myers, Schmidt, Smith, and Wein), but not a few of the biggest ones. Until today (she says portentously).

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Shadowshaper

shadowshaperShadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Arthur A. Levine Books, June 2015
Reviewed from an ARC

And now we are at the review I’ve been most excited about all year! The one that made me curse the linear nature of the calendar year, and the September publication date (editing note: I just found out Amazon listed this as out in June. I didn’t have to sit on this review??). All this waiting! All my bottled up excitement! I’ve had a few other books surprise me once I’ve picked them up this year, but this is a title I went into intrigued about — that cover! That premise! URBAN FANTASY, I HEART YOU. And while I am not here to report that this is a perfect book (does such a thing even exist?), I am happy to say that I’m not alone in my excitement. Four starred reviews. A myriad of lists (both summer reading recommendations and year’s best). But not just critical love; there’s been blog buzz and reader buzz for this title, too. [Read more…]

Symphony for the City of the Dead

Symphony for the City of the Dead, M.T. Anderson
Candlewick Press, September 2015
Reviewed from ARC

One of my favorite books last year was Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial RussiaDespite having a ton of critical praise for its tight, thrilling narrative and thoughtful approach to complex history, it didn’t manage to snag a Printz (although it did win lots of other great awards). Symphony for the City of the Dead is, in many ways, a wonderful sequel to Fleming’s book. M.T. Anderson begins Symphony with Dmitri Shostakovich’s childhood, just before the end of the Romanov reign and the rise of Lenin. For the first half of the book he alternates between chronicles of Shostakovich’s life and the political and social upheaval in Russia beginning with the Bolsheviks and the revolution straight into World War II. The siege of Leningrad and the composition of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 are the main focus of the rest of the book. Anderson—a two-time Printz honoree—does very good work here but a few things in Symphony may keep the author from earning his third Printz.
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Printzbery, Part 4: Last but Not Least

9780544462229 2The Marvels

I’ve had a busy two days, catching up on a few of the swing books we’ve got on the slate for our in-person Printzbery discussion this weekend. Also a busy few days sniffling and crying since both books are heavy on the feels.

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It’s Historical! (Fiction, that is)

Emperor of Any Place coverPaper Hearts cover

Today, two historical fiction books I’d love to talk to about, both set during World War II (making this an apt post to publish on the first night of Hannukah).

One is a lovely novel in verse that I don’t think has gotten much attention — zero stars, no buzz — but I was deeply touched by it and want to shine a little reflected glory on it by sticking it in the conversation even if it’s so dark of a horse it’s nearly invisible.

The second is a critical darling and I just don’t seem to have read the book everyone is raving about, so I’m eager to hear what others see in this one.

So join me below the fold for Paper Hearts and The Emperor of Any Place.

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2015 Nonfiction Part Two

stonewall boys challenged hitlerStonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum
Viking, May 2015
Reviewed from final copy

Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, May 2015
Reviewed from final copy

We’ve got two nonfiction reads. They’re both short, they’ve both received a lot of stars, and they’re both bringing new material to teen collections (IE, they’re full of SIGNIFICANCE, which may not be Printzly, but is still exciting and interesting to talk about). Will either one go the distance? [Read more…]

More Happy Than Not

coverMore Happy Than Not, Adam Silvera
Soho Teen, June 2015
Reviewed from e-ARC

This is the kind of book that can’t be discussed deeply without spoiling it. Big spoilers ahead; watch out. 

If you could forget the most painful memories of your life, would you? Maybe you’ve seen this scenario play out in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindbut Adam Silvera’s debut novel asks much harder questions than Charlie Kaufman’s 2004 film. Personality is largely shaped by the collection of memories we carry around. If you forget certain parts of your life, will you change and will you be happier? Equally heartbreaking and fascinating, More Happy Than Not explores how forgetting can change people, and how the loss of key memories would affect a teen who was still in the process of identity formation. Given the critical praise it’s received, this is a book that would have landed on our list anyway, but the buzz before it was even published was strongly positive and mostly centered on Adam Silvera as a unique new voice in YA lit. We all know that hype can really deflate one’s experience of a book, but that was not the case here.
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