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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Roundup: Vaguely Paranormal

Paranormal fantasy, which is to say fiction with a fantastic angle, but not set in a secondary world, with at least one character who is not human or not, technically, alive, and a romance plot or subplot, continues to go strong.

(Even if we, as adults who have seen vast quantities of formulaic fiction pass us by, kind of wish it wouldn’t.)

I’m on my second generation of HS students reading this addictive but too-often derivative genre, and my tolerance has decreased a lot over the years. So I don’t read nearly as many of the books marketed toward the paranormal-loving reader base as I did, say, 4 or even 6 years ago. I don’t need to — I read the reviews, buy and display the titles, and let the buzz and pretty cover machines do the work for me.

But some of the books that (more or less) fall into this category are actually quite different from their cookie-cutter compatriots. We’ve had three of them (The Girl With the Borrowed Wings, Days of Blood and Starlight, and Monstrous Beauty) on our contender list from the beginning, and we have at least one reader seriously pulling for a fourth (Unspoken). I’ll be honest — all of these, for varied reasons, strike me an noncontenders for the Printz. But they all rock, so let’s take a look.

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Drowned Cities

The 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…]

Little, Brown Preview

These are not the actual shoes. But this CC-licensed image (by nora/sskizo) pretty much captures the mood.

Thursday afternoon, all three of us were lucky enough to attend the Little, Brown preview.

While all previews are fabulous, the LB preview is perhaps a bit MORE fabulous. This is entirely due to the shoes. For those who don’t know about the link between Little, Brown and shoes—sparkly shoes, high heeled shoes, shiny shoes, and this time around, tweedy with a cork-heel shoes—do yourself a favor and next time you are at a librarian conference, find the inimitable Victoria Stapleton (Associate Director, School and Library Marketing) and ask her about the shoes. [Read more…]

Stuck, Part 2

CC-licensed image by minicooper93402

You wanted to know, didn’t you?

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How to Save a Life

The year is winding down, my cold has returned with a vengeance, and I’m all out of witty titles.

But there are still books to read! Books that are getting lots of lauds and lots of love and require discussion here.

Because these are the books that might wear the crown come January 23!

Or they might not.

Last week I took the time to read one our late additions to the contenda list, Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life. It’s gotten four stars; notably, these are the most consistent reviews I’ve read in a long time. It also made both the PW and SLJ best lists. That’s a lot of love, and there’s no question that this is a compelling book: two broken teens who come together thanks to a rather unusual chain of events that has everything to do with the ways in which they are broken, and find that maybe they each have what the other needs.

But it’s also a little after-school special. And possibly too crowded: teen pregnancy, grief, and sexual abuse on the Issues front, and then dozens of smaller lowercase-i issues too.

So what’s the sweet spot between the poles of moving and messaging, powerful and PSA?

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The Thin Line between Love and Criticism

Oh, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, how I love thee.

And how it wounds me that I must now talk about all the ways in which you are not a Printz contender after all (says I, and won’t I be eating crow, with some pleasure, if the actual committee comes to entirely the opposite conclusion about that). [Read more…]

But does everybody love the ants?

A.S. King had an honor book last year (Please Ignore Vera Dietz), so I have been looking forward to reading Everybody Sees the Ants. This second book feels really different from Vera, although it has some elements in common: hints of magical realism and a thoughtful, intellectual center that acts as a unifying backbone to realistic, relatable characters.

The plot: Everyone seems to want to help Lucky Linderman, who came to school authorities’ attention by creating a school-wide survey on suicide his freshman year. He’s not actually considering suicide himself; he is, however, being ruthlessly tormented by Nader McMillan. Guidance counselors, teachers, his parents: all are well-meaning but don’t seem to know how to help or what to tell him. It’s only in his dreams, where Lucky is determined to rescue his grandfather (who is a POW/MIA in Vietnam since 1973), that Lucky attempts to deal with his daily life. But are his dreams only dreams? As Nader’s bullying escalates, and Lucky increasingly resents his distant, powerless father, Lucky starts to see the ants, a Greek Chorus-like group who comment honestly — and sometimes hilariously — on what goes on.

There’s a lot that I loved in this read: Lucky is  an engaging narrator, and his tough, hurt, bewildered reactions to things are captivating. The shifts in time between chapters are effective, and the secondary characters are almost all complex and memorable. The ants are a conceit that really worked for me as a reader. The humor they bring to heartbreaking and upsetting situations provides a really nice balance; the funny artfully enhances the sad. I like the various connections that King weaves between bullies and wars, too. There are the public conflicts that we clearly struggle to talk about (still: Vietnam; today: Afghanistan and Iran) and the private conflicts that we can barely acknowledge. We can mostly-sort-of own our ambiguous feelings about sending young people to war but are ill-equipped to talk about the hurtful conflicts that they all experience on a day-to-day basis. (No, really ill-equipped; check out this blog and Op-Ed from danah boyd.) This is a book about hidden and public wars, and it’s thought provoking and emotional and powerful.

But. [Read more…]