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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Fantasy You Don’t Want to Miss, a Two-fer

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 9.55.31 PMLet’s talk about heart books. Because today I want to call your attention to two books that are long shots at best, but which I loved them dearly as a reader. More than that, despite the flaws that I predict will ultimately sink them, these are strong books that deserve close attention. Both are contemporary fantasy, one in the magic realism vein and the other in the send up all the tropes and take no prisoners vein. (Ok, that’s a pretty niche vein, but still.) Other than genre, their bisexual protagonists (something I didn’t put together until halfway through this review), and their likely distance from medal territory these don’t have much in common – but that’s ok, because every book deserves to be considered on its own.

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Funny Girls

Covers

Today is going to be one of those ALL THE BOOKS posts, loosely linked by being by and about women and featuring humor. Which is a pretty loose thread, but let’s roll with it. As is often the case with these roundups, we don’t think any of these are books that are likely to go the distance — but all are books we could see someone else championing, and that could easily be on the table for the RealCommittee, which means the conversation is open and a strong advocate might be all that’s needed. Perhaps one of you will champion one of these in the comments and be that advocate? We’re getting close to Pyrite nomination time, so now is definitely the moment to make a case.

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Sleepers

Slide1Today I’m talking about two books that are impressive, powerful, skillfully crafted reads. Both have received some minor critical acclaim (1 star for Maresi, 2 for Fire Color One), and both are books no one is talking about or name-checking, which is a damn shame. More similarities: Both are imports and both are unexpectedly short, which is both  refreshing. In this eternal age of doorstoppers, concise writing remains startling and welcome, and a tightly written book that packs as much in as each of these does is even more impressive.

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Unexpected Mysteries

We’ve been calling this post “unexpected mysteries” which is an intriguing title that I quite enjoy. I wonder if it’s more accurately, “slow, detail-laden, explorative mysteries,” though. Mysteries aren’t always the big movers and shakers in YA fiction, although there are quite a few to be found in the middle grade realm. While one of the titles does skew younger for audience, these two titles share main characters living on the fringes of society, and meticulous scrutiny of the past. [Read more…]

Goodbye Days

GoodbyeDays

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
Crown Books for Young Readers, March 2017
Reviewed from an ARC

And now it’s somehow time to speculate about Printz? How can that be?? Ready or not, though, here we are, and it’s time to read, review, debate, and decide! (I am sure many of you are far more ready than me, so I hope you’ll jump right in!)

First up on my list is Zentner’s sophomore title. It’s got two stars — which of course means nothing for Printz, but is something we consider when building our initial list —  and with his Morris win last year, odds are RealCommittee is giving this book a thorough and thoughtful read (and re-read). Like his previous effort, this is an ambitious novel that asks big questions, has relatable characters, sharp dialogue, and a story that gives All The Feels. They’ll have a lot to discuss. [Read more…]

Morris and Turner Contendas

Roundup photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart, CC license BY 2.0

Roundup photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart, CC license BY 2.0

Hello! It’s roundup time, today focused on contendas for awards other than the Printz.

One of these awards is a real actual award, the William C. Morris YA Debut Award; the other is imaginary but no less real in my heart. The Morris you all know about, of course, and we’ve been covering several debut/Morris contenders that we think are also Printz contenders; today I’ll be talking about some early 2016 debuts that I don’t think quite have the chops for the larger pool that is all YA, but are good enough to have been potentially on the table for the Morris committee. The other award I’m speculating about is the  imaginary — but needed! — Meghan Whalen Turner Award for Best Completed Series.

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The Passion of Dolssa

the-passion-of-dolssa-coverThe Passion of Dolssa, Julie Berry
Viking, April 2016
Reviewed from final copy

2016 has been, by and large, a strong year. Strong enough that I’ll be hard pressed to come up with my top 5 at the end of the season.

But my top 2 are already decided, and after rereading The Passion of Dolssa last week, I no longer have any question about which book should get the top billing this year.

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The Dark Days Club

dark-days-club-titleI’m going to tip my hand right at the outset: this is a fantastic slow burn of a novel that is also the first in a series, so let’s face it: award recognition here probably goes beyond long shot and right into impossible. But sometimes you sit down to write up the book you meant to write up and you find yourself thinking “Wait! I WANT to say something about this other book, because it’s GOOD.” So I’m saying something.

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The Radiant Road

The Radiant Road coverThe Radiant Road, Katherine Catmull
Dutton, January 2016
Reviewed from final e-book

I mentioned last week that each of us has to assess excellence for ourselves, as well as coming to consensus when it comes time to pick a winner (or, for us, Pyrite winner).

For me, excellence is deeply tied to language. I was an English major; I’ve been know to read poetry for fun. I love puns. It doesn’t have to be highfalutin’, but show me real skill manipulating language and I’m likely to be lined up reaching for that book with both hands.

So no surprise, my second book this season once again is one that hits it out of the park when it comes to pure old-fashioned word-smithing.

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Fiction Roundup: Depressed Teens Edition


All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven
Knopf Books for Young Readers, January 2015
Reviewed from final copy

I Was Here, Gayle Forman
Viking, January 2015
Reviewed from ARC

Hey folks, a friendly reminder that we do spoilers here so if you don’t want to know major plot points for either of these novels, consider yourself warned.

In young adult literature mental illness is an ISSUE (note the all caps) that comes with a responsibility to the intended audience. Misinformation is potentially harmful, as is romanticizing or sugarcoating facts.* Yet an author also has a responsibility to the story that they want to tell, their characters, and to themselves as artists. This doesn’t mean that accuracy and literary merit are mutually exclusive options—after all, accuracy is one of the Printz criteria—but they can be competing interests, especially in novels written with a young audience in mind. Can literary quality outweigh problematic messaging?

Today we’re looking at two novels about depression, both published in January. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven has earned four stars and gathered a lot of early buzz; Gayle Forman’s I Was Here has two stars and hasn’t been in the awards conversation per se despite treading the same ground.
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