In my head, as I’ve written this post, it’s mostly been a series of exclamation points and the word “squeeeeeeee” interspersed with pictures from the book’s pages. I mean, that’s legit Printz discussion, no? With 6 starred reviews, gorgeous art, a meditative story line, it really seems like my work here is done and I’m only 57 words along in this review. But perhaps you need convincing? Or are just in the mood for a good gush? In the name of due diligence, let’s explore what’s making me go squee. We’ve got beautiful art, strong characterization and an emotional, summer-wandering plot with complicated themes adding texture and weight…I’m pretty much squeeing over the whole package of this spare-but-profound graphic novel. [Read more...]
The 5th Wave, Rick Yancey
Putnam Juvenile, May 2013
Reviewed from ARC
Apocalyptic scenario, isolated teen in the woods, romance against-the-odds… we’ve been down this desolate road before. Rick Yancey’s tough-girl protagonist is Cassie (short for Cassiopeia) who is determined to find her younger brother. The 5th Wave goes beyond the familiar premise as a richer and more satisfying doomsday novel. The action is coherent and genuinely thrilling and tense, and the multiple narrating voices with converging plot lines create an interesting structure.
Yancey previously received the Printz Honor for The Monstrumologist. This novel similarly uses horror and is the first in a projected series. Will The 5th Wave make Yancey a twice honored author?
To give you a metaphor in my native tongue: if this were a summer popcorn movie—which it one day may be—it would get two thumbs up, but once Oscar season rolled around, a Best Picture nomination for The 5th Wave would be a long shot.
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.
I love a good, sad book. A real weepie is all my joy. I’ll try to avoid reading them, I’ll say, “oh, I’m not really in the mood for reading that,” but the truth is, a book that can bring on a nice, cleansing cry is pretty much always up my alley. And you guys, this book is so sad. I lost count of my Kleenex. And, ok, I have a cold, so let’s handicap the first 5. There were still at least 5 tear-filled Kleenex by my bedside table when I was done (also, I am a terrible housekeeper. Pity my tidy husband.).
What’s so sad? London is grieving the loss of her beloved big brother (older by a year, barely) and best friend, Zach. They grew up as the kids of globe-trotting missionaries, then settled down in Florida, where they met & fell for their first loves at about the same time. Now Zach is dead, under circumstances that don’t become totally, horribly clear til nearly page 300, and not only is London at sea without her closest friend, confidant and ally, but her normally loving dad is distant and her mom is somehow both vacant and hostile. It’s a terrible burden for a girl who needs her parents so badly, and Williams is good at making us feel both London’s gaping loss and at giving us glimpses of the distinct awfulness of losing a child that her parents are suffering.
This story of one kind of life coming to a close and another one — a sadder, more difficult kind of life, but one full of hope, friendship and love, too — beginning is moving and compulsively readable, but it is not particularly literary.
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.)
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...]
Oh this book!
This marvelous & bizarre book, with far too many ampersands & lots of literary antecedents. It is a marvelous invention full of fun & surprises. & it begs for rereading, often a Printzly quality.
China Miéville is, among adult genre circles, a serious literary darling. He has won the Arthur C. Clarke, Locus, and British Fantasy Awards more than once each and has a Hugo as well. You know, no big.
He’s also an acquired taste. And, thanks to his delight in writing fantasy that looks to other genres and plays with them, each book is very unlike his others and each one requires re-acquiring the taste (I found Kraken and The Scar hard going, but The City and the City brilliant and Un Lun Dun quite appealing, for instance). So I suspect there won’t be that many takers for Railsea among teens (or, actually, among the adults who serve them and/or read their books). Which is not to say that this isn’t a YA title; there is a lot of potential appeal for the story, but the style, while brilliant, is likely to be a bit of a niche taste. Like sea urchin. Or moldywarpe, I suspect.
Happily, appeal is pretty immaterial in the realm of literary excellence, so I’m calling this one as a serious contenda and nominating it for the Pyrite Printz as well. Because it’s spectacular and odd and so literary but also at times totally lowbrow and really it’s just genius and everyone should give it a good patient go.
Whew. Okay, enough not entirely coherent gushing. On to close examination.
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.
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...]