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...]
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...]
Okay, not all the books, but three books for the price of one post: The Golden Day, Winger, and The Midnight Dress.
(It was going to be four books, because I stayed up way too late reading More Than This the other night, but I think I need to sit on that for another day or so before I can do it justice.)
Other than the facts that all three feature murders and have garnered three stars, these aren’t linked by anything other than that they needed to be talked about in the context of awards season.
Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan
Alfred A. Knopf. August 2013
Reviewed from ARC
Sometimes a book packs such an emotional whammy that every other aspect becomes irrelevant to 99.9% of the readers.
Two Boys Kissing is seriously packing. [Read more...]
Another (and last for the year) guest post from pinch-hitter Joy Piedmont. This time, Joy raves about a book that made the contenda list with three stars but mostly deserves recognition as a serious buzz book. I’m a long time fan of Adele Griffin’s, and this is, I think, a stronger candidate than her last few YA titles when it comes to award chat. But I’ll let Joy explain why…
All You Never Wanted: it’s a gem of a title, isn’t it? It’s a warning, a temptation, and a promise written directly at you, pulling you in.
And Adele Griffin’s latest has more than a great title. It’s an engaging study of two teenage sisters told from their alternating perspectives. Attention-seeking Thea and anxiety-stricken Alex seem to be direct descendants of Edith Wharton’s characters. (It’s no surprise that in a recent online Q&A, Griffin revealed that she went through a Wharton phase, and discussed how that may have influenced AYNW). Like Wharton’s, Griffin’s characters are complex and fully realized in an exploration of wealth, privilege, class, desire, jealousy, and anxiety.
In the end, it’s a gorgeous little TARDIS of a novel.
(Bigger on the inside, for you non-Whovians).
Gosh golly, but I love rereading.
Books change upon acquaintance. They get deeper (or, sometimes, shallower, but let’s not go there); different aspects bubble to the top; when the reader is no longer at the mercy of the plot’s momentum there is time to really savor all the different elements, even those that were initially subtle notes.
(Also, apparently, books are actually pots of soup. Mmmm, soup.)
Seraphina is one of those books that improves upon acquaintance, and which lingers after consuming reading. Having now read it three times, I find that actually, I love this book. And while love is immaterial, I’m also incredibly impressed at the way it keeps revealing new facets (rather like the moment Seraphina first sees dragons in their dragon forms, and realizes that the initially dull scales are filled with all sorts of color, in fact).
If you’ve never been to a preview before: it’s a chance for the editors to tell people about upcoming, exciting titles. Editors give quick descriptions and show cover art — not quite a booktalk, but almost. Publishers are also often generous enough to pass on ARCs of some of the titles they talk about.
Karyn and I were lucky enough to see the Random House preview. They’ve got a lot of great stuff coming out this spring. When any of us are able to make it to a preview, we promise to summarize what we hear about with an eye to the Printz.
Titles we think are worth tracking down: [Read more...]
I don’t mean fiction that is literature, I mean Literary in the postmodern, smugly self-aware, consciously playing with literature and language sense.
Somewhere along the way, I lost all patience with this style of writing. Especially the self-aware bit.
So those of you who have already read Jenny Hubbard’s Paper Covers Rock will not be surprised that I had some difficulty with the novel.
I’ve tried. Oh, how I’ve tried. For two months, this is the book I’ve been reading between and in the midst of other, less aggravating books. I want to like it: it’s a boy’s boarding school story, and I often love that designation (A Separate Peace was a long time favorite). It’s short, and I’ve had the kind of fall where short books are a joy because I get to read them fast, so I can usually finish them before the flaws catch up to me. It’s got the tantalizing possibility of a teacher-student love story, which has held an icky sort of fascination since I came of age singing “Don’t Stand so Close to Me.”
You Against Me is a fine novel, in the non-pejorative sense of fine. It is finely detailed, even nuanced, story about family and what happens when bad things derail the complacency and blindness of a family.
It’s also the second book I’ve read in 2011 alone in which a sibling response to an alleged date rape is a central component: back in February, verse novel Exposed by Kimberly Marcus hit the stands.
Exposed hasn’t been mentioned over here before, although it too is a fine novel, this time admittedly in the damning with faint praise sense. It did quite well in my library, because it’s short and tight and while it has nothing hugely remarkable to recommend itself, it does what it sets out to do very well. Because really, what it is is a problem novel. Like Ellen Hopkins’s books, or Sarah Dessen’s, or Patty McCormick’s, it provides palatable (not sweetened) access to a difficult subject, and it’s fairly straightforward (verse format notwithstanding.)
You Against Me covers much of the same territory, except that in addition to the rapist’s sister, we also get the victim’s brother, a double whammy treatise on masculinity, and a star-crossed love (between the two siblings). And I found myself thinking that this seemed like trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. In many ways, this passes as a silk purse. Downham has an astounding ear for dialogue (caveat: I speak American, the characters speak English. So it might play differently across the pond). She has a deft touch with her examination of gender and class. But in the end, it read a little too much like a problem novel gussied up, and I’m not sure that dressing up is enough to make this stand out in the year. [Read more...]