And we’re back with even more more books, in part 2 of our mega roundup of all (not really all) the books.
This is a difficult review to write.
The reason I’m struggling has nothing to do with Steve Sheinkin’s book, and everything to do with it.
My thoughts keep turning to Michael Brown, John Crawford III, and Tamir Rice. I’m thinking about the protests happening all over the country as I write these words. And I’m thinking about how these current events are part of the narrative of civil rights and racism in the U.S., specifically their connection to what happened at Port Chicago 70 years ago. Almost three-quarters of a century have passed since those 50 black sailors were convicted of mutiny, but we still need to take a hard look at the ways in which American systems have criminalized black youth—even when those young people are actively working to serve and defend the country.
And we have finalists! With yesterday’s announcement of the National Book Award Finalists in the Young People’s Literature category it’s really starting to feel like awards season. Last month, Karyn wrote about the longlist, observing that social conscience seemed to be a common thread among the nominees. Now that we’re down to five titles, her theory’s been reinforced.
We’ve been bringing the Pyrite* books back up for a second round of discussion, but a number of them were discussed so recently — and with their Pyrite nominations in mind — that it seems silly to post again about each one.
However, we didn’t want anyone to forget what makes these books at the very top of the top of the year, so here are the remaining Pyrite candidates revisited.
When guest blogger Joy reviewed Bomb, she said “With descriptive language and clever plot juggling, Sheinkin creates the atmosphere of life as a wartime spy (or a bomb-building physicist); it’s dangerous and exciting. This effective world building and use of stylistic tools create a book that feels light.” She then went on to list some criticisms, and concluded by wondering if Bomb is more style than substance. However, this is the one nonfiction book that made the Pyrite shortlist and is dearly beloved by many. It’s also gotten a lot of love from the Newbery speculation crowd over at Heavy Medal. Printz pick or pan?
Ask the Passengers swept our live Mock Printz event, and seems to be the book everyone loves, although it lacks the splash of Code Name Verity. Sarah’s review praised almost every aspect of the book, especially the characterization. She also mostly predicted it will place in the RealPrintz when she said “I think this title could go far at the table.” Is she on to something? Is this the one that can win the consensus and take the Pyrite, and maybe even the gold?
Whether or not it gets pyrite, nickel (isn’t that the pyrite equivalent for silver?), gold, or silver, The Brides of Rollrock Island wins the award for most hotly contested title of the year, at least around here. Karyn’s review was a great big waffle. She loved the language and the scope, but was left puzzled by the messages seemingly encoded in the themes and the plot. And the comments were almost equally divided, with no one seeming to be particularly swayed by anyone else’s observations and thoughts. Books we can talk about for hours are good, but when it comes to the Printz, consensus is key and a book this divisive often falls by the wayside. Will that be the fate of Brides?
The Raven Boys is a delicious fantasy and first in a series. And the same goes for The Diviners. Do either of them have what it takes to place despite the series issue? And the genre issue? Or are these heart books that will fall off the list as soon as the voting starts?
So that’s it, the last of the Pyrite Redux posts. Voting will begin today, so consider carefully your top three picks. And feel free to use the comments here as one last chance to sway the other voters. How persuasive can you be?
*The Pyrite Printz, or Pyrite, is the Someday My Printz Will Come mock Printz deliberation, and should not in any way be confused with YALSA’s Michael L. Printz Award, often referred to here as the RealPrintz or Printz. Our predictions, conversations, and speculation about potential RealPrintz contenders and winners reflect only our own best guesses and are not affiliated with YALSA or the RealPrintz committee. You probably figured that out on your own, but we like to make it clear!
When I say, “World War II espionage” which 2012 young adult title comes to mind?
Yeah, I know Code Name Verity is the big name in this conversation, but Bomb is a gripping spy story in its own right.
There are three main threads of Steve Sheinkin’s book: the American effort to build the atomic bomb, the Allies attempts to sabotage German advances towards the atomic bomb, and the Russians’ work to steal the plans for the atomic bomb. Sheinkin has taken something sprawling and complex and molded it into a nonfiction title that reads like an epic action movie. (Seriously, read the chapter on the destruction of the German heavy water plant in Vemork, Norway and tell me you don’t imagine this scene from Inception.)
Sheinkin nails action pacing and easily incorporates real quotes from the people involved. He also makes physics and atomic theory, which would normally make my brain hurt digestible by introducing the theory in the context of actual experiments conducted prior to and during the Manhattan Project.
That juxtaposition of fiction style with nonfiction content characterizes the entire book. Bomb oozes style, and it’s the book’s greatest strength — and greatest weakness. Sheinkin has a firm command of fast pacing, snappy dialogue, and multiple storylines, which create a massively appealing read. With descriptive language and clever plot juggling, Sheinkin creates the atmosphere of life as a wartime spy (or a bomb-building physicist); it’s dangerous and exciting. This effective world building and use of stylistic tools create a book that feels light.
Dare I say it? Bomb is, at times, too easy.