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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Gay Pride

gay pride

Today we have a two-fer! Are you in the mood for a quick nonfiction read? Or perhaps a fictional take on the Grand Tour? Maybe some history with a side of sass? Perhaps a rogue taking a hedonistic last hurrah before shouldering familial responsibilities? OK, I’m going to stop asking questions and just get on with this introduction. We’ve got a title with two stars, and a title with four. Both of these books have a definitive voice telling the story. Both of these are reads that will entertain you, and keep you thinking.  Do you think one of these books could walk away with a medal? [Read more…]

Thick as Thieves

Thick as ThievesSo, today’s post was scheduled to be about two new books in familiar worlds with thieves in them. But after rereading Thick as Thieves I decided to split them up — because really, both books (the other is Wein’s The Pearl Thief, of course) deserve full posts to themselves. Thick as Thieves delighted me when I read it for the first time, back in February, but I wanted to love it so much that I wondered if maybe I had loved it despite issues. After rereading it, I’m convinced I didn’t love it enough the first time around, because once I was past that first read to find out what was going to happen, I was able to sit back and really be blown away by Turner’s writing, which is frankly genius.

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Fish out of water

A lot of young adult literature is about teens in unfamiliar situations and places. Sometimes the differences they experience are socio-economic, sometimes they’re cultural, and sometimes they’re magical. Fish out of water tales are usually easily relatable, regardless of the specificity, because most people can remember how they felt the first time they encountered something that was wholly outside of their lived experience up to that point.

Two February books—American Street and Piecing Me Together—have black teen girls narrating their lives in first person. Both have received lots of critical praise with five and four stars, respectively. More significantly, and the reason why they’re paired together, both books are by black women writing deeply emotional stories that their voices imbue with authenticity and integrity.

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Haunted Places

haunted placesWe are working on getting through books in the maximally efficient way, which sometimes means more fanciful pairings, and other times means groups that play with each other in interesting ways as we discuss them. Today we have the second option, a trio of books that mingle together in engaging ways as we consider the set. We have three books that are on the young side, and all involve a heavy sense of place, where the characters are as much shaped by their surroundings as they are by their own histories. Hence, haunted places.

(As always, this is not really how RealCommittee approaches their discussions, since they try to talk about each book individually.) [Read more…]

Strange the Dreamer

Strange the DreamerDo I start with why this is not going to win an award, or with why it should?

Let’s start with the issues: it’s fantasy. It’s the start of a series. We’ve all heard this song before, and I don’t have faith that this is the book that will change the tune – but man, I loved it, and also it’s a sharp piece of writing from an author who just keeps improving – so I’m going to make a case for why it continues to be a travesty that this book (and books like this — quality, serial fantasy) don’t even make the speculation conversation most of the time, because I can’t help thinking this is exactly the kind of fantasy that best exemplifies the genre — no fancy genre-blending or crossover, just full on, gorgeous fantasy — and that we should recognize that even if RealCommittee’s rarely do.

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Intertwined Stories

Here’s a day of intertwined stories — stories told through multiple points of view, offering many perspectives on a single converging plot. Yay! I do love novels with multiple POVs; it can give the read a rhythmic, regular pace through to the end. Here we have straight up realistic, historical fiction and we have a mostly realistic but infused-with-magical-realism title for contrast. One is definitely for younger readers, the other is a read for an older audience. Both novels use the varying perspectives to allow their respective plots to build to their conclusions.  [Read more…]

Haunted by the past

We’ve got two solid contenders up next, both realistic fiction, both with characters haunted by the past. It’s not entirely fair to pair titles up like this, and it’s not really how RC talks about books at the table — they are trying to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each title individually, after all. But we have a blog schedule to keep and a lot of books to cover, so while it’s not exactly legit, this is done in the spirit of “make it work,” and thus we get these two books and two haunted characters, working through past violence and trauma.

And while I keep using this word, haunted, I want to be clear: these are realistic titles and not in any way supernatural. But they both depict people shaped by, tortured by, painful pasts. They’re both first person narration, and they’re both thematically ambitious titles, talking about major social issues through the lens of their protagonists’ experiences. [Read more…]

Unexpected Mysteries

We’ve been calling this post “unexpected mysteries” which is an intriguing title that I quite enjoy. I wonder if it’s more accurately, “slow, detail-laden, explorative mysteries,” though. Mysteries aren’t always the big movers and shakers in YA fiction, although there are quite a few to be found in the middle grade realm. While one of the titles does skew younger for audience, these two titles share main characters living on the fringes of society, and meticulous scrutiny of the past. [Read more…]

We Are Okay

We Are OkayWe Are Okay, Nina LaCour
Dutton Books for Young Readers, February 2017
Reviewed from ARC
Four stars

I almost didn’t finish We Are Okay. Not because it’s bad–in fact, it’s quite beautiful–but because reading it required a lot of emotional labor. When fiction pokes at pieces of your heart that you thought you had protected and hidden away, it requires strength and stamina to push through when all you actually want to do is bury the book at the bottom of your to-read pile.

All of this is to say that I had a deeply emotional experience reading Nina LaCour’s novel. Critics, myself included, tend to separate heart from head in their professional reviews. Here though, LaCour’s ability to access and communicate so many raw and complicated feelings is extraordinary and so relevant to any discussion of this book. I couldn’t have cried through the last 40 pages of We Are Okay without LaCour’s precise and detailed sentence-level writing. This is a small book densely packed with complicated people, feelings, unimaginable loss, heartbreak, and so much love.

Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t read the book (and you really should) consider yourself warned.

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A List of Cages

Before I dive into the first review of the year, a few housekeeping notes.

We are, as we have been doing, plan to review in roughly chronological order. So for the next month, we’ll focus on Q1 books, those published between January and March 2017. We’re not going to be super strict about this — sometimes we’ll bump a book up or hold it, for example if we think it goes well with something else, or if we have’t read it and end up circling back to it. But we’re hoping this will make it more likely that people who don’t have amazing ARC/galley access will have read books we discuss by the time we discuss them.

In the past, we’ve always shared a list — more recently, an abbreviated list of 25 titles. It’s always sort of arbitrary (although I could tell you already the 10 books I am pulling for hardest). We’re tempted to skip it this year — but we’ll defer to reader opinion. Let us know.

And of course, as always, we are reviewing specifically for Printz speculation, which means we’re mostly looking for what’s wrong with books — because in the end it’s an elimination game, and being a great book isn’t enough.

Now, on to the first review of the year.

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