We’ve spent the week looking at Printzbery books: the stuff that falls on the young end here, but is still eligible and worth the conversation. But here for our Friday read, I’ve got a totally different direction to take: two memoirs with distinctive voices: two very different reads. Ironically, the only thing they may have in common? They’re not really for younger teens at all. It’s hard to say that either one will definitely take a medal when all is said and done, but as different as they are, they’re worth considering. [Read more…]
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King
Little, Brown, October 2014
Reviewed from an ARC
OK, can I confess something? When I’ve tried to describe Glory O’Brien, I’ve started to feel like maybe I’m Stefon because there’s a lot going on here. A LOT: bat drinking, dystopias, politics, graduation, a dead mom, warring families, reclusive fathers, feminism, slutshaming, art, hippies, and STDs. Like, where are the Furbies and the screaming babies in Mozart wigs?
Which is not to say I’m not taking this review seriously (Stefon is always deadly serious anyway, right?) — with six starred reviews, with three placements on year’s best lists, A.S. King’s newest is getting a lot of love. Only, while I loved the wild ride of this read at first pass, as I’m writing this review now, it’s not entirely working. The things I loved are still there, but I have some problems and questions that are making me think twice as I write. [Read more…]
A few final books we wanted to squeeze in: Reality Boy, which received some buzz early in the year but seems to have fallen off everyone’s radars despite three year-end Best lists; More Than This, a book that has picked up some traction recently as a buzz book and potential contender; and Black Helicopters, which seems strongly divisive but which no one has forgotten despite having first read it months ago — and staying power matters when it comes to awards.
(As a bonus, we each reviewed one of them so you can try to guess which “I” is which blogger!)
Today, I’m talking about two books that are in my personal top 10 of the year. And both revolve around death and love, two primal, powerful pieces of life.
And they’re both fantastic.
Other than that, they’re really different, and I suspect neither of them has much chance at a Printz nod, which is sort of a shame.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Matthew Quick
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, August 2013
Reviewed from ARC
True confession: I had never heard of Matthew Quick until Silver Linings Playbook became an Oscar contender last fall, but then Sophie reviewed Boy 21 for the blog, and then in true Baader-Meinhof fashion, the ARC for Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock showed up on Karyn’s desk. This was probably less a case of Baader-Meinhof and more that Matthew Quick really was (and continues to be) having a moment. Which means I approached Leonard Peacock with a mixture of curiosity and tempered expectations because I’m always skeptical of anyone who’s “having a moment.”
Well, there is a lot of Printz-worthy stuff going on here. Thematically rich, ambitious in voice and style, this novel absolutely deserves to be a contender. But does it hold up to a close reading?
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.
So, I should start this post by disclosing that I have a personal connection with this book and its author. I want to acknowledge my personal baggage (a topic that has been addressed particularly well in the comments to the most recent post about The Fault in Our Stars), which is:
- I know Matthew Quick, and have followed his career with interest, because he was my sister’s favorite and most influential high school teacher,
- I’ve had coffee and exchanged some tweets with him,
- And he signed a copy of his first YA title, Sorta Like a Rock Star for my high school library’s collection.
All of which is to say, I have a great deal of affection for Quick, and for his books, and now that I’ve said all that, I think I can set it aside for the purposes of this review, in which I’ll make the case that his most recent YA title, Boy21, is a possible contender for a Printz Honor.
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?
One of the best things about having progressed from new librarian to rapidly aging librarian is the opportunity to work with bright young things. Former colleague Clair Segal is now the library technology coordinator at an independent school in NYC, and has graciously agreed to guest blog for us once again, this time about Libba Bray’s The Diviners. (If you take a close look at the acknowledgements in The Diviners, you’ll see why we farmed this favorite out — conflict of interest, what??)
Also, after you read her guest post, if you find yourself thinking, “Hey, this girl is awesome!” you should go check out her blog, the aptly titled Awesomebrarian.
Can I take an unrelated-to-anything moment to say how pretty the new blogs are? We’ve been hearing a lot about the new look behind the scenes, so to actually see it — and see how quickly it all came together — is so exciting! Yay for nice, new things, eh?
Of course, I’m actually here to talk about A.S. King’s newest, Ask the Passengers. By my count, it’s received two stars and is included in the buzz portion of our contenda list (as a past honoree, King’s an auto-contender, meaning we’d look at anything she has out, no matter the number of stars). For today, I have a lot of raves and a few questions. Since it’s on our Pyrite short list and we’ll be talking about it again very soon, maybe you all can help me answer some of those questions! [Read more…]