I’ve been on a bit of a strange kick here at the end of this season. Untwine and Moonshot in particular really blew me away, but didn’t pick up a lot of stars between them. Infandous is somewhat similar in that it got two stars and didn’t make a year’s best list — and I really loved it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve talked before about the differences between stars and Printz votes, but…sometimes it does feel funny to be so rave-y about something that not every reviewer gave a star to. And I must acknowledge, as far as this specific title goes, I’m an easy mark; if you have a book on women, society, double standards, and fairy tales, then I’m pretty guaranteed to be first in line. So will this be a book that makes it to the final five? Well, for committee members who are most likely reading and rereading, that’s…hard to say. [Read more…]
Untwine by Edwidge Danticat
Scholastic, September 2015
Reviewed from final copy
Can I admit something embarrassing? This is the first time I’m reading Edwidge Danticat. I’ve been recommending her for years to eager readers, but I haven’t actually sat down and read any myself, until now. But what a title to start with: Untwine has received 2 starred reviews, and came out in September. I loved reading this book; it had me tearing up on the subway, and nearly missing my stop. What are its chances to get a medal in January? Well, that depends (of course) on RealCommittee. The layered language and beautifully woven themes make this a memorable and gorgeous read, but there are a few flaws, too. [Read more…]
Karyn started out the week gushing about what a banner year for fantasy it is. I’m a little closer to Joy’s wavelength because I’ve got some (historical) realistic fiction to cover in this post. Joy also talked about SIGNIFICANCE (well, MESSAGE) in her post. I think that Quintero’s offering, while SIGNIFICANT, elegantly unites a specific setting and time period with a powerful coming of age story. Is that enough of a merit to name it as a contender, though? [Read more…]
So way back a few weeks ago, Karyn mentioned that she found Tightrope Walkers too dark and oppressive to really sit with. I immediately began to wonder, what did I miss? Why didn’t the darkness affect me? Was I fooled by the book, to find hints of hope throughout, and find moments of compelling beauty in the darkness?
I’m pretty sure I found the book that answers my question. Did I miss too much? Nah, I’m good. This is a dark book. This is a book that pushes and prods and then slaps you around. It’s oppressive, it’s unrelenting, it’s brutal, and then it ends in despair. What I’m saying is, Tightrope Walkers was a walk on a riverbank in the springtime with birds chirping and woodland creatures frolicking, and this is…sure not. [Read more…]
A few thoughts.
One: I planned to cover two books tonight, linked by the fact that they both feature girls who have been harmed by their worlds but who won’t go down without a fight, and who both, through perseverance and pain, succeed. But it diminished both texts and I especially didn’t want to risk obscuring All the Rage, which is an important and powerful book.
Two: Sometimes the worst thing about reading with the kind of critical lens required for the Printz is that that level of scrutiny often ends up meaning we read books more than once. Admittedly, there are times when this is a gift. Rereading can be a luxury, allowing us to read for craft and detail rather than just to booktalk, and often a second read reveals new layers. On the flip side, there are also times when a close second read means we need to confront the things that are less than perfect about a book, taking a top book down a few pegs or leaving us (me) torn between a critical/blog charge and a personal and/or professional desire to promote powerful, meaningful books.
I’ve read All the Rage twice now, and I’m still struggling with the tension between what matters about this book and what matters for award season. [Read more…]
Sometimes people who are grieving can find comfort in structured routines. Matt Miller, the titular boy of The Boy in the Black Suit, doesn’t just adopt a routine; he gets a job at a local funeral home where he will witness other people’s grief every day. Quietly sitting in on the services and observing the mourners helps Matt feel like the pain he’s felt following the death of his mother is the same as everyone else’s. It gives him a sense of normalcy when everything in his life has changed. He’s a regular fixture at the funeral home where he meets, of course, someone who challenges everything he thinks he knows about mourning, and that someone is a girl who will change his life.
This morning, we’re looking at two novels set in boarding schools; And We Stay is Jenny Hubbard’s follow up to her 2012 Morris Award Finalist, Paper Covers Rock, and debut author Chelsey Philpot is inspired by classic literature in Even in Paradise.*
Both novels feature a young woman with a traumatic past who, in her junior year, transfers to a boarding school in New England amidst whispered rumors and speculation. Ostensibly, these stories are quite similar.
But… not really. [Read more…]
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Matthew Quick
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, August 2013
Reviewed from ARC
True confession: I had never heard of Matthew Quick until Silver Linings Playbook became an Oscar contender last fall, but then Sophie reviewed Boy 21 for the blog, and then in true Baader-Meinhof fashion, the ARC for Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock showed up on Karyn’s desk. This was probably less a case of Baader-Meinhof and more that Matthew Quick really was (and continues to be) having a moment. Which means I approached Leonard Peacock with a mixture of curiosity and tempered expectations because I’m always skeptical of anyone who’s “having a moment.”
Well, there is a lot of Printz-worthy stuff going on here. Thematically rich, ambitious in voice and style, this novel absolutely deserves to be a contender. But does it hold up to a close reading?