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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Rose Under Fire


rose1 Rose Under FireRose Under Fire
by Elizabeth Wein

Disney Hyperion, September 2013
Reviewed from an ARC

Last year, we had a lot of great conversation about Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, which ended up with a silver medal. This year, we have its companion title, Rose Under Fire. With two starred reviews, will this title go the distance? I’m not so sure; I’ve gone through at least three different stages of thinking about this book. I think I’ve settled on “not likely.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to enjoy here: The writing is beautiful, and the decision to keep first person diary style benefits this story. It allows for immediate, emotional connection with Rose, and also provides an opportunity to track the changes Rose undergoes through the course of the story. Her change in voice from part one to part two is abrupt and effective; you’re warily drawn in, trying to understand what changes have happened. And the polished writing of the third section gives the book a gorgeous, formal (but still emotional and effective) ending. [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...]

The Kingdom of Little Wounds

little wounds The Kingdom of Little Wounds

The Kingdom of Little Wounds, Susann Cokal
Candlewick Press, October 2013
Reviewed from ARC

I wanted to like this.

I mean, it’s huge, it’s about my favorite general period in history, it uses a fairy tale motif throughout, it’s got a stunning package, and people whose opinions I respect say this is an it book when it comes to literary books this year.

I really really wanted to like this.

But…

[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...]

Dodger

Dodger DodgerDodger, Terry Pratchett
Harper, October 2012
Reviewed from ARC

So, Dodger is a heartsong book for me. I realize it’s not perfect — certainly not with regard to accuracy, which we’ll get to in a moment — but it is almost perfectly put together, and is certainly enough of an exemplar of voice, style and thematic development that I hope the 2013 RealCommittee will take a serious look (or maybe a second look) at it. In view of all the great titles before us, I would be surprised to see it take the gold, but you’d have to be a real nasty geezer, to borrow a term from Dodger himself, to snipe at any accolades thrown Sir Terry’s way.   [Read more...]

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity Code Name VerityCode Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein
Hyperion, May 2012
Reviewed from ARC

At last! I finally get to write about my one true love of the year, the book I will champion against all others as the be all, end all best book of the year.

(Sorry, Railsea, you rock, but you’re still not number one, Pyrite nomination notwithstanding.)

Oh god, now that the moment is here I feel such pressure to make the case. Because this is, for my money, the runaway best written book of the year. And yes, I loved it, but that’s not actually the point at all. The point is that this is a masterwork of writing, full of literary flourishes, tightly plotted, rich in character, well-grounded in reality, haunting in setting, and just hitting it out of the park on so many levels. It deserves the Printz.

(And look, people, the world has been amazing about keeping mum about some of the intricacies of this plot, because there are twists and reveals and they are super. But after nearly a year of keeping mum unless the other party in the conversation had also read it, I’m going to break my discretion, because I can’t discuss CNV with any level of specificity or textual evidence unless I give it all away. So do us all a favor. If you haven’t read CNV yet, please don’t click through. This is a book that is already fettered by the weight of expectation for some readers; do yourself a favor and read it unspoiled. We’ll wait. You’ll be back.)

[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...]

Does Never Fall Down Stand Up to the Hype?

never fall down 199x300 Does Never Fall Down Stand Up to the Hype?Never Fall Down, Patricia McCormick
Balzer + Bray, May 2012
Reviewed from ARC

National Book Award Finalist. Three stars. Patricia McCormick. Never Fall Down is a critical and popular darling, and there is absolutely no question about the emotional impact of the story. You would need to be a stone to stay dry-eyed reading about the atrocities Arn sees and endures under the Khmer Rouge.

So let’s cut to the chase. There’s really only one conversation anyone is having about Never Fall Down, and it’s all about the voice.

[Read more...]

Between Shades of Gray

gray 150x150 Between Shades of GrayKaryn’s already talked about historical fiction. And a lot of people have been talking about this book (four starred reviews, nominated for Best Fiction and a big ol’ Newbery discussion at Heavy Medal), especially in light of the Morris shortlist recognition. Karyn’s also already talked about Morris and Printz — where the two awards overlap, and where they don’t.

So that pretty much covers the background. I thought it could be interesting to look at Between Shades of Gray with Printz glasses firmly in place. [Read more...]

Historical Fictions

HistoricalFiction 300x225 Historical Fictions

CC-licensed image by Jessamyn West

Historical fiction is tough.

Too often the fiction takes a back seat to the history, and readers are drowned in detail or left feeling vaguely cheated by secondary characters who flesh out the story but whose experiences seem to cover a laundry list of additional details.

This is not to say that historical fiction can’t make for a darn good read, but the gap between a darn good read for an hour (or five) and a book you want to raise above all others with a shiny sticker is actually a pretty big one.

[Read more...]