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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Reality Boy and More Than This and Black Helicopters, oh my!

A few final books we wanted to squeeze in: Reality Boy, which received some buzz early in the year but seems to have fallen off everyone’s radars despite three year-end Best lists; More Than This, a book that has picked up some traction recently as a buzz book and potential contender; and Black Helicopters, which seems strongly divisive but which no one has forgotten despite having first read it months ago — and staying power matters when it comes to awards.

(As a bonus, we each reviewed one of them so you can try to guess which “I” is which blogger!)

[Read more...]

Rose Under Fire


rose1 Rose Under FireRose Under Fire
by Elizabeth Wein

Disney Hyperion, September 2013
Reviewed from an ARC

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...]

Death and Love: Sorrow’s Knot & The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Today, I’m talking about two books that are in my personal top 10 of the year. And both revolve around death and love, two primal, powerful pieces of life.

And they’re both fantastic.

Other than that, they’re really different, and I suspect neither of them has much chance at a Printz nod, which is sort of a shame.

[Read more...]

Message or Masterpiece (Or, Does the Problem Novel Still Exist?)

Today we’re running a roundup of books that we think are worth discussing because they are in the top, say, 100 of the year. But they aren’t quite there, and we don’t think they’ll go the distance. And to make the post about more than just a series of short reviews, we’ve limited today’s roundup to books that have a lot to offer but seem to lose out on Printzliness in the name of message or purpose. Every time we discuss these books, we find ourselves focused on a central issue not of writing but of the world: an issue discussed in the books at hand but not really of them.

And as we discussed this, we found ourselves comparing these books to the problem novels of yesteryear, because like them, what the books are about seems to weigh more heavily then how they are written, even if the how is light years beyond the old chestnuts. And really, these books offer so much more than just the issues at their hearts — but we were struck by the ways that the social issue at the heart of the text stuck in our heads the longest, outweighing the literary elements. Is this about our own biases, seeing and holding on to the part that feels like a news soundbite — and therefore, easy to remember and the sort of thing that we are reminded of by the outside world on a sadly too frequent basis — or is it an issue in the writing?

Let’s see! [Read more...]

Yellowcake

yellowcake YellowcakeYellowcake, Margo Lanagan
Knopf Books for Young Readers, May 2013
Reviewed from Final Copy

Short stories aren’t always my favorite – collections can be so uneven sometimes; I’d rather spend time in a big long novel. But Margo Lanagan seems to be trying to convince me that I – even I! – can love a collection of short stories. Yellowcake is everything you’d expect – a generally strong collection of stories full of beautiful writing; disturbing images; colliding, twining themes. It’s s strong contender, although I’m not totally convinced it will take a medal in the end.

Let’s talk about what’s good here first. The language, of course (“Styx water is sharp and bites inside your nose.”): effective, unexpected, powerful. Her carefully crafted dialogue provides clues and insights into her characters (Gallantine’s very few, studiedly casual, deceptively mild lines gave me chills, for instance). Lanagan is an amazing writer, and she does her usual awesome job here, too. [Read more...]

The Kingdom of Little Wounds

little wounds The Kingdom of Little Wounds

The Kingdom of Little Wounds, Susann Cokal
Candlewick Press, October 2013
Reviewed from ARC

I wanted to like this.

I mean, it’s huge, it’s about my favorite general period in history, it uses a fairy tale motif throughout, it’s got a stunning package, and people whose opinions I respect say this is an it book when it comes to literary books this year.

I really really wanted to like this.

But…

[Read more...]

Roundup: Girls in Crisis

Double feature crisis show!

Today we’ve got not one but two — TWO! — reviews for the price of one click. Really, these two books — Fat Angie and 17 & Gone — have very little in common, but they are both March pubs and have some thematic overlap, dealing as they do with girls in distress. Not damsels in distress, but the kind of deep-seated internal anguish that is too often intrinsic to teen girls, saddled as they are with expectations and beliefs and the need to always be aware.

[Read more...]

Paper Valentine

papervalentine Paper ValentinePaper Valentine, Brenna Yovanoff
Razorbill, January 2013
Reviewed from final copy

Rereading Paper Valentine, I saw a lot of Printz-worthy elements.

In fact, there’s a serious contender here.

Except for one small problem: it’s two stories jammed into one book, and only one of those two is contender material.

[Read more...]

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

13477676 Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

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?

[Read more...]

Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Two Boys Kissing

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...]