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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

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...]

Tiger Lily

tiger Tiger LilyTiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Harper Teen, July 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

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...]

Second Chance Summer (Doesn’t Have a Chance at the Gold)

second chance Second Chance Summer (Doesnt Have a Chance at the Gold)Second Chance Summer, Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 2012
Reviewed from final copy

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.

[Read more...]

Drowned Cities

drowned Drowned CitiesThe Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
Little, Brown, May, 2012
Reviewed from final copy

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...]

Middle Age Girl Power: Grave Mercy vs The Wicked and the Just

Grave Mercy and The Wicked and the Just are, in so many ways, polar opposites.

But how often do we see YA books set in the Middle Ages? Not very, which makes it almost impossible not to think of these in a compare and contrast essay. So that’s what you get.

Both feature strong female heroines, well defined settings, and a fascinating story. Oh, and divided nations (France/Brittany and England/Wales), strangely fitting since I’m putting the final edits in to the accompaniment of the election results rolling across the TV. But that’s about where the compare part ends, really, because mostly these are very different books.

[Read more...]

Bitterblue

bitterblue BitterblueBitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Dial Books, May 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

I should probably be honest: I read this book as a fan first. I enjoyed Graceling and was impressed by Fire; I was more than curious about Cashore’s new book. Once I stole borrowed — with total intent to return! Someday! — Karyn’s copy, I read it and figured I was just reading it for myself. I love how feminist these books are, I love how strong Cashore’s protagonists are. But Bitterblue has stayed with me through the year, and it received four stars, bumping it into auto-contenda status. Yay!

So I’m being upfront and outing myself as a fan from the get-go — really trying to own my baggage, I suppose. But let me also say right at the start: I think this is a good read but unfortunately I suspect it’s not quite as strong on reread. [Read more...]

Dying to Know How this Is YA

dying to know you 198x300 Dying to Know How this Is YADying to Know You, Aidan Chambers
Amulet Books, April 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Look, Aidan Chambers is an immensely accomplished writer. He was one of the early Printz winners, people write critical essays about his books, and he plays quite impressively with form in many of his novels. He certainly has a a steady command of his language, and while there are aspects of Dying to Know You I don’t like, when it comes down to it a lot of this is stylistic quibbling and reader preference, which is not a Printz-worthy argument.

Not stylistic? The decision to have this ostensibly YA book narrated by a 75-year-old man.

75. Let that sink in for a moment.

[Read more...]

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

cameron post 197x300 The Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Miseducation of Cameron Post, Emily M. Danforth
Balzer + Bray, February 2012
Reviewed from ARC

There’s a lot to discuss here. A lot of win and a lot of flaw, really.

Let’s start with win, which is the writing.

The writing is mature, sophisticated, free of unnecessary embellishments. There are marks of the author’s MFA; there is a style of writing that always seems to have the fingerprints of advanced writing coursework and workshops all over it. Words that fall like pebbles, and ripple outward, although you can’t always tell why. Chapters that read like short stories, the kind you might find in The New Yorker. Language that is deceptively simple. MFA writing.

[Read more...]