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.
The Lucy Variations, Sara Zarr
Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, May 2013
Reviewed from ARC
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.
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...]
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?
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…
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.
A four star book from an author whose last book netted an NBA finalist nod?
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?
As a quick reminder, we only have a little time before our Pyrite Printz nominations close, so if you have a book that knocks your socks off this year, you should head over to the comments to let us know!
But the real purpose of this post is to talk about Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily. We’ve got a retelling of Peter Pan that focuses on Tiger Lily. I pretty much snatched this out of Karyn’s hands when it came and haven’t given it back. I wrote about Tiger Lily way back when, mentioning that I wasn’t totally sure about it as a contenda, but that I really loved the way it played with the source material (more on that soon!). At this point, it’s got four starred reviews, so it’s an auto-contenda. [Read more...]
My friends, I have failed. For the first time this season, I’m calling DNF on an auto-contender I’m meant to be reviewing.
Second Chance Summer is a fine book. But 100 pages in, I can see that the literary merits don’t bring this into serious contenda territory, and with so many other books waiting for me, either to reread or in some cases, just read, I can’t bring myself to spend more time reading a book that I don’t think stands a chance (hah!) but will probably get checked out first thing Monday if I release it to the shelves instead.
So you know that Ship Breaker was the winner the year I served on the RealPrintz committee, right? And I can be a mature blogger — mature enough to admit that I wonder if my affection for “my” winner skews my reading of Ship Breaker’s companion book, The Drowned Cities. I know I’m not alone: four starred reviews, nice write ups in the lots of different newspapers…this is a book that’s getting a lot of love from a lot of people. It’s about to get some more love from me. [Read more...]