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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Death and Love: Sorrow’s Knot & The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Today, I’m talking about two books that are in my personal top 10 of the year. And both revolve around death and love, two primal, powerful pieces of life.

And they’re both fantastic.

Other than that, they’re really different, and I suspect neither of them has much chance at a Printz nod, which is sort of a shame.

[Read more...]

Message or Masterpiece (Or, Does the Problem Novel Still Exist?)

Today we’re running a roundup of books that we think are worth discussing because they are in the top, say, 100 of the year. But they aren’t quite there, and we don’t think they’ll go the distance. And to make the post about more than just a series of short reviews, we’ve limited today’s roundup to books that have a lot to offer but seem to lose out on Printzliness in the name of message or purpose. Every time we discuss these books, we find ourselves focused on a central issue not of writing but of the world: an issue discussed in the books at hand but not really of them.

And as we discussed this, we found ourselves comparing these books to the problem novels of yesteryear, because like them, what the books are about seems to weigh more heavily then how they are written, even if the how is light years beyond the old chestnuts. And really, these books offer so much more than just the issues at their hearts — but we were struck by the ways that the social issue at the heart of the text stuck in our heads the longest, outweighing the literary elements. Is this about our own biases, seeing and holding on to the part that feels like a news soundbite — and therefore, easy to remember and the sort of thing that we are reminded of by the outside world on a sadly too frequent basis — or is it an issue in the writing?

Let’s see! [Read more...]

A Corner of White

A Corner of White A Corner of WhiteA Corner of White (Book 1 of The Colors of Madeleine), Jaclyn Moriarty
Scholastic, April 2013
Reviewed from ARC and final ebook

This is a doozy of a book. Clair talked about the difficulties summing up a complex book like The Raven Boys, but that would be a breeze compared to this one. It’s crowded and strange and whimsical but sort of deadly serious and heavy too.

Also, four stars, three year-end lists, two turtledoves and one not-a-list.

Well, not the turtledoves. (The not-a-list is the NPR tagged and searchable assemblage of best titles.)

So does it have a chance? Or, as a fellow librarian asked, is this one of those books that gets stars just because the reviewers don’t know what else to do with it?

[Read more...]

Courage Has No Color

15799010 278x300 Courage Has No ColorCourage Has No Color, Tanya Lee Stone
Candlewick Press
Reviewed from ARC

Karyn talked about the emotionally powerful Two Boys Kissing last week, and at the risk of completely echoing her review, I had such a similar reading experience with Courage Has No Color, which moved me to tears. The Triple Nickles dealt with racism in the army and at home, all while training to defend a country that wanted to keep them segregated. They worked extremely hard, made great sacrifices, and after all they endured, the men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion were never sent overseas to use their considerable skills in combat. I came away from that first reading feeling bitter and inspired, and I had very favorable things to say about the book overall. And now? I still have favorable things to say, but I don’t think this is a book we’ll be seeing in the winner’s circle come January.

[Read more...]

The Lucy Variations

The Lucy Variations, Sara Zarr
Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, May 2013
Reviewed from ARC

lucy variations 200x300 The Lucy Variations

If you stop doing the thing that defined you and made you special for most of your life, who are you and can you ever move on?

The Lucy Variations is a meditation on the classic young adult themes of loss, identity formation, and relationships – platonic, familial, and romantic. What makes Sara Zarr’s novel unique is that it is also a novel about talent, artistry, commitment, and the consequences of being a professional before you’re an adult. The Lucy Variations succeeds as the former, but excels as the latter.

[Read more...]

More of the books!

Karyn just posted an impressive roundup of last minute reading, so I’m chiming in with some more. With Monday morning’s announcement looming large, it seems like everyone is trying to sprint through their last minute reads in order to feel prepared. [Read more...]

Nonfiction Roundup, Part 2

Karyn wrote about the long slog of winter break reading just before a conference/blog deadline. I understand her image, but I think I spend winter break/early January more like a muppet: waving my arms around in a flurry of indecision (and, sometimes, stress because I’ve put off so much committee reading. Blerg!); now’s the time when we’re supposed to be firming up our thoughts on books and able to talk intelligibly about the year as a whole and how any given title fits into it. (Uh, but no pressure, right?)

I actually spent a good portion of my own break trying to catch up, at last, on the nonfiction books on our contenda list. I got to read about deadly diseases (well, one), certain death in the Arctic (well, practically certain!), and a young woman’s experience of the civil rights movement. These are all strong books — engaging reads, beautifully designed (I think; I actually read two of these titles as ebooks, so I’m making a few assumptions based on what I saw on my phone screen and what other people have said), important and enduring subjects — so if the Printz process is about winnowing down, I definitely have my work cut out for me! [Read more...]

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Another guest post from Joy Piedmont, who is saving our bacon at this crunch time, as we realize just how many books we haven’t read yet!

my sister My Sister Lives on the MantelpieceMy Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, Annabel Pitcher
Little, Brown, August 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

Annabel Pitcher’s debut novel has earned four starred reviews landed on Kirkus’ Best Children’s Books of 2012 and the Atlantic Wire’s YA/Middle-Grade 2012 Book Awards (in the “Most Deftly Handled” category). Originally published in the UK in 2011, this is a haunting story about how grief and hatred destroys families, told through the voice of a 10-year-old boy trying to make sense of it all.

Yes, that’s right. The protagonist is a 10-year-old. Which raises one question right off the bat: Who is this book for? Kirkus lists ages 10-14, while SLJ and the publisher list grades 7-10 (or ages 12-15, roughly). The content is probably best suited to young teens (13 to 15, much as SLJ says), but the voice is so young. Could this be a nostalgia read for that audience? (Do young teens read new books as nostalgia reads??) Does the youth of the protagonist make this more suited for the Newbery audience (of course, as a British import, this isn’t actually eligible for the Newbery at all), and not a true Printz contender? What do we do with these books that really are liminal — not J because of content, not YA because they’re too young? Would this have been better served written for an adult audience, like The Curious Incident of the Dog in a the Night Time or Room, where the thematic scope and young voice don’t pull in different directions, to the detriment of the novel?

[Read more...]

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster (Is Not a Disaster)

Occasional guest blogger Joy Piedmont is back! She (unlike, say, Karyn) likes to read nonfiction, and has OPINIONS about it. Thoughtful, considered opinions. Making her a perfect candidate to guest write as we try to catch up on our nonfiction 2012 piles. So, with no further ado…

titanic2 Titanic: Voices from the Disaster (Is Not a Disaster)Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, Deborah Hopkinson
Scholastic Press, April 2012
Reviewed from final copy

What is good nonfiction?

I know, I know; you came for a review and I’m hitting you with the big questions right up front. Apologies.

Right, so, good nonfiction.

Actually, it’s what any good book is: engaging, honest (factually and/or artistically), moving. Reading isn’t just the consumption of information, it’s an act that must change us, even in a small way. Good books should force us to question, to cry or to shout; we should be moved. Good nonfiction can put you under a spell and make the real unreal. (And isn’t this the inverse of good fiction, making the unreal real?) Good nonfiction, like fiction, is transformative.

When we consider this in light of the Printz, there is no reason why nonfiction can’t be in the conversation, and 2012 has been a particularly good year for YA nonfiction.

[Read more...]

My Book of Life By Angel

My Book of Life My Book of Life By AngelMy Book of Life by Angel, Martine Leavitt
Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, September 2012
Reviewed from ARC

A four star book from an author whose last book netted an NBA finalist nod?

Yes please!

But just to put it right out there — Leavitt’s latest is nothing like Keturah and Lord Death, with its mythopoeic elements and historical/fantastical setting. My Book of Life by Angel is a gritty free verse tale of a teen prostitute looking for a way out. It’s Ellen Hopkins with a dash of Paradise Lost; Angel’s closet literary sister is probably Alice, from Elizabeth Scott’s utterly harrowing Living Dead Girl.

So what do you get when you mix literary concepts with street grit?

[Read more...]