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.
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...]
Remember how we talked about stars and the way a book can deserve a star for reasons that in no way correlate to Printzliness?
Beneath a Meth Moon could be Exhibit A to illustrate the gap that can exist between stars and the gold. This is a three-star book. The reviews mostly focus on the emotional impact of the novel (interestingly, the words “poignant” and “dreamlike” each appear in two reviews). And there is an emotional punch. In fact, it’s unavoidable given the 1-2 of a past destroyed by Katrina and a present destroyed by meth. But three stars for that one, admittedly significant aspect of the book does not, in this case, correlate to shortlist status because the virtues are counterbalanced by shortcomings that matter in an assessment of literary quality even if they don’t matter when it comes to emotional depth.
This is easily one of the biggest titles of the year — six starred reviews! Big time buzz! John Green! Previous Printz winner! Nerdfighters! — so we’ve been thinking about it for a while. Since this is a book from a former Printz winner and honoree, we knew we’d be reading it with our Printz glasses on. When you add the serious subject matter, the thoughtful treatment of said subject matter, the memorable characters, and the five-hanky tear-jerker of a plot, you know there’s a lot to talk about in terms of Printz-worthiness.
Hazel has terminal cancer. Augustus is a cancer survivor who has lost a leg to the disease. They meet in a teen cancer support group. It’s complicated and baggage-filled love almost at first sight. She doesn’t want to die on him; he wants to save everyone. It’s clearly a recipe for heartbreaking disaster. Their mutual love of (fictional) Peter Van Hauten’s (fictional) An Imperial Affliction gives the two an excuse for a road trip, but plot happens and PLOT PLOT PLOT. [Read more...]