Three stars! Two plots for the price of one! Paranormal romance WITH commentary on the paranormal romance genre! A book for book lovers! Publishing trivia sprinkled throughout! Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld is a door stopper of a book with a lot to say — about the intricacies of publishing, the craft of writing, the art of pulling stories from life, and the strange compulsion that asks people to take on the challenge and stress of sharing words with total strangers. [Read more…]
Through the Woods, Emily Carroll
McElderry Books, July 2014
Reviewed from final copy
Just yesterday, we had our annual visit from an NYPL teen librarian to get students public library cards and do a bunch of booktalks. The book that got the strongest reaction? Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods. Both classes had teens verbally enjoying the spooky pictures (and one class had a quick debate about the appropriate audience. “Picture books can be for all ages,” said one very wise teen). With 3 stars, blurbs from Kate Beaton and Lucy Knisley, and beautiful art and writing, these five short stories will suck you in. [Read more…]
Nostalgia and the Printz process don’t really go hand-in-hand. But those old school feelings really can color reading experiences. We have to do a lot of work to recognize them and move past them in order to assess a book more objectively. The first time you read someone, you might have been a young, impressionable librarian (Karyn is not the only one dating herself this week, ahem). Or an author’s earlier work could have defined an entire field and, you know, won the very first Printz award. What I’m saying is your (OK, be honest: my) baggage might make it hard to realize that the particular book you’re holding isn’t what you’re expecting. But, as always in Printz discussion, it’s important to focus on the book in hand, not previous works. [Read more…]
A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2014
Reviewed from ARC
This is a book that, I’m pretty sure, was written just for me. I love fantasy, I love courtly politics, I love dragons and willful ladies. Somehow, though, even though my review is due, I have to confess that I’m only about half way through. (Sometimes, reading in short bursts on the subway is not my friend, even though it makes for nice visuals.) [Read more…]
Children of the King, Sonya Hartnett
Candlewick, March 2014
Reviewed from ARC
Luxuriant prose, complicated and resonant themes, contemplative characters — Hartnett’s historical fiction is actually a bit of a genre-blender with thin fantasy elements woven in. Traditionally, the Printz committee rewards books that mix genres — but RealCommittee choices also tend to skew older, and Children of the King has been pegged by publisher and reviewers as a middle grade title. It’s happened before — David Almond comes immediately to mind; Hartnett’s rich descriptions and haunting strains of magic woven into the plot invite that comparison. [Read more…]
I’m struggling to remain even semi-impartial here. This is a book that I loved reading. But when I put it on the list, I was pretty sure I was doing it because of personal reasons, not so much because I was ready to nominate and defend it as a contender. And now that I’m writing up this review, well, I’m fairly muddled. AS USUAL.
Heading into the honor vote, we knew a few things: Eleanor & Park and Winger were in strong positions to do well based on where they finished behind Boxers & Saints. Although E&P ended up 26 points behind Boxers & Saints (and Winger was 36 points behind), there was only a 24 point margin between E&P, Winger, The Summer Prince and Far Far Away. Additionally, E&P, Winger and The Summer Prince all did well with first place votes (5, 6, and 6 respectively; interestingly, Far Far Away only received 2) in the vote for gold, indicating that they would all be good bets for Pyrite honors.
Another eight titles also had legitimate chances at grabbing an honor spot from any of the titles above based on the number of first and second place votes they received in the vote for gold: All the Truth That’s in Me, Black Helicopters, Fangirl, The Midnight Dress, Midwinterblood, Mortal Fire, Rose Under Fire, and September Girls. These were titles that ended up with fewer weighted points overall, but when they did receive support it was usually in a first or second place slot.
As happened last year, we had roughly half the number of voters for honors as we did for gold. (Again, probably due to all the fun everyone’s having at ALA). However—and this is really exciting—nearly everyone who voted in the honor round had also voted for gold! Because we had such a small pool of voters, the data can’t necessarily scale up well, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Read on to see if there were any surprises, what it all means, and to look at pretty charts!
Last year, we had a lot of great conversation about Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, which ended up with a silver medal. This year, we have its companion title, Rose Under Fire. With two starred reviews, will this title go the distance? I’m not so sure; I’ve gone through at least three different stages of thinking about this book. I think I’ve settled on “not likely.”
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to enjoy here: The writing is beautiful, and the decision to keep first person diary style benefits this story. It allows for immediate, emotional connection with Rose, and also provides an opportunity to track the changes Rose undergoes through the course of the story. Her change in voice from part one to part two is abrupt and effective; you’re warily drawn in, trying to understand what changes have happened. And the polished writing of the third section gives the book a gorgeous, formal (but still emotional and effective) ending. [Read more…]
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.
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…]