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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling

Two Girls 232x300 Two Girls Staring at the CeilingTwo Girls Staring at the Ceiling, Lucy Frank
Schwartz & Wade, August 2014
Reviewed from final copy

I’m old.

This year, it has really come home to me that I have been doing this for a while, with the following exchanges:

Me: Oooh, a new one from Cecil Castellucci!
Joy: You mean the LA Review of Books editor?

Me: Oh! David Almond has two books out this year? We need to read those.
Joy: …I’ve heard of him.

Me: There’s a new Lucy Frank! I loved I Am An Artichoke!
Joy: <<Blank face>>

Ok, so I’m maybe exaggerating a bit, but Lucy Frank, whose name is impressed upon me as a YA author, whose early books I booktalked quite often in my salad days at New York Public Library, is one of many authors who elicit a sort of Pavlovian “I should read that” response, because I was reading their work in my formative years vis á vis YA literature.

Be wary of nostalgia reading, friends. It can lead you in the wrong direction. [Read more...]

Zac + Mia

9780544331648 Zac + MiaZac & Mia, A.J. Betts
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Remember when teens with terminal illnesses were the stuff of Lurlene McDaniels and also the Wakefield twins’ brother’s girlfriend? And not literary fodder.

Oh for the days of yore.

But the cancer book seems here to stay, and this one puts some spin on the tropes of the genre.

[Read more...]

Everything Leads to You

18667779 Everything Leads to YouEverything Leads to You, Nina LaCour
Dutton Books, May 2014
Reviewed from Final Copy

Everything Leads to You has all the elements you would want in a YA summer book: love, glamour, and mystery all in the warm, sunny climate of Southern California. And that’s just the trailer. Nina LaCour’s latest novel is also a tender story that beautifully captures what it’s like to be a young dreamer on the edge of adulthood.

There are a couple of pertinent details that are left out from these descriptions though. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t know that Emi, the protagonist, is a teen lesbian with African-American heritage (from her grandfather on her mother’s side); a glance at the cover or the flap copy won’t reveal any hint of these key facts. The book seems deliberately presented as white hetero-normative. So, I’ve thought about this almost as much as I’ve thought about the content of the novel and I’m still not sure how I feel. However, while I continue to let my ideas simmer, let’s talk about the meat.

[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...]

Roundup: Girls in Crisis

Double feature crisis show!

Today we’ve got not one but two — TWO! — reviews for the price of one click. Really, these two books — Fat Angie and 17 & Gone — have very little in common, but they are both March pubs and have some thematic overlap, dealing as they do with girls in distress. Not damsels in distress, but the kind of deep-seated internal anguish that is too often intrinsic to teen girls, saddled as they are with expectations and beliefs and the need to always be aware.

[Read more...]

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

15786110 Relish: My Life in the KitchenRelish: My Life in the Kitchen, Lucy Knisley
First Second, April 2013
Reviewed from Final Copy

I was diagnosed with Celiac disease on Halloween eight years ago. That’s eight years of politely saying, “no, thank you” when offered a delicious pastry, forgoing mom’s signature stuffing on Thanksgiving, and checking restaurant menus ahead of any dinner out with friends. As anyone with food issues can tell you, the hardest part of having a restricted diet is adjusting socially and emotionally. Lucy Knisley perfectly defines the value of food in Relish: “When we eat, we take in more than just sustenance.” She’s actually describing the cultural immersion through food she experienced in Japan, but the statement resonates because it’s about the complex role of food in our lives.

Relish has only received one star (from Publisher’s Weekly), but it’s one of my favorite titles of the year. Yeah, it speaks to me because I have a lot of complicated emotions about food, but it’s also charming and witty, earnest and playful, and it has illustrated recipes that will make you want to run to your kitchen and start cooking.
[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...]

All the Books!

Ok, not all the books, but a whole cluster of the titles that we wanted to cover and hadn’t gotten to yet, tidily rounded up in one post for your perusal.

In the last two weeks, I’ve read two more from the original contenda list (Pinned and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe), one Morris shortlist title (Love & Other Perishable Items) and two dark horse candidates that were brought to our attention by readers (In Darkness and Various Positions).

Sarah will be sharing a few more titles tomorrow, but sadly, neither of us managed to read Andrew Smith’s Passenger, a late addition auto-contender. It is, however, beyond a long shot for the RealPrintz — book 2 of a series, and, based on the first chapter and some student feedback, impenetrable without having read the first book.

(But if you never read the first book, The Marbury Lens, and want a really disturbing, stark, and very well-written book to read next, pick it up, because it really is a powerful read.)

We’re also sad to say that two buzz titles recommended by readers never made it onto either of our piles — Monument 14, recommended by Jen Hubert of Reading Rants, and The Opposite of Hallelujah, recommended by Kelly of Stacked. These are two well-read critics, and Jen definitely has a nose for Printz winners, so do check out their respective reviews. Whether or not either of these titles are named on Monday, they are definitely worth seeking out.

Okay, enough housekeeping! Onto the last of my 2012 reading.

[Read more...]

December Blahs

One of the things I find frustrating about this blogging thing is the December blahs.

At this point in the game, I have a sense of what the year has brought us. I’m not a seer, so I don’t know what books will take the RealPrintz (and judging by last year, don’t listen even if I pretend I DO know), but I know what the top of the pile looks like.

But we’re still reading, and we’re still covering books we listed back in September as contenders. And some days, what we’re tasked with is coming up with a thousand or so words about a book that was quite good, and that doesn’t deserve to be dissected into shards, but that just isn’t a serious contender.

And yes, I acknowledge that sometimes, I say “not a contender” and what I really mean is, “here’s my argument against this one, but your mileage may vary.” This time, I really just mean they’re not contenders.

[Read more...]

Round Up (Austen Style!)

austen Round Up (Austen Style!)

Delicious Jane Austen tea pot cookies from flickr user mischiefmari. Used under cc license.

Alright, y’all, I’m having a rough blog post, OK? Because I have here two books that I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed reading for myself. But when I switch to my magical Printz-o-vision, neither Keeping the Castle nor For Darkness Shows the Stars stands up to a more critical analysis. Pity me, the poor blogger, who has to write up why these books that are decidedly entertaining reads just don’t work in the context of our blog. Boo!

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray, June 2012
Reviewed from a final copy

Let’s start with Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars. It’s a retelling of Persuasion, set in a dystopic future. This title got one starred review and a lot of love in our comments — ha, and the last time that happened, I ended up reviewing Where Things Come Back…well, we all know how THAT ended. [Read more...]