OK, I know I’ve already said it’s been quite a year for historical fiction (and, you know, I stand by that), but we’ve had some amazing graphic novels to read this year, too. I don’t know if we’ll replicate This One Summer’s total dominance at the YMAs (OK, maybe I’m slightly overstating there!), but I did have a rave for Nimona, and I’ve got some more excitement for two other titles here. How far will they go? Well, I’d be happy (though surprised) to see one in the final five, and ready to argue hard for the other. [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…]
In previous years, I’ve been much more familiar with the Morris Award nominees, but Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers is the only book of this year’s nominees that I’ve read. Truthfully, if I don’t get around to the others I don’t think I’ll mind so much because McLemore’s debut is a gem. (Although, I’ll always be sad that Adam Silvera wasn’t recognized for More Happy Than Not. ::shakesfistatsky::)
Despite the Morris nod, I think The Weight of Feathers is flying (no pun intended) under the radar this season because it’s a quieter story that on the surface seems like it’s been done to death. Young star-crossed lovers forced to live with the sins of their parents’ generation isn’t a new concept. McLemore’s approach, using magic realism in a contemporary setting, heightens the stakes for her characters. Are the families really cursing each other? What will happen if a Paloma touches a Corbeau?
Here’s a novel that is exactly what its title indicates it will be: a song for Ella Grey. David Almond’s lyrical novel—his third (!) to come out this year—is about the desperate first love of one’s youth that can inspire for a lifetime. The surprise of this song is that the singer isn’t Orpheus; it’s Claire, Ella’s best friend. It’s about love, obsession, magic, and loss. In a year when Almond already has a six-star novel, it’s not likely that Ella Grey could ever have been more than a dark horse contender unless the critical praise matched or exceeded its predecessor. More than that though, Ella Grey is strange and rare, a book that will leave readers in a daze trying to understand what they’ve just experienced.
Black Dove, White Raven, Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion, March 2015
Reviewed from final copy
Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go, Laura Rose Wagner
Amulet Books, January 2015
Reviewed from final e-book
It’s a midweek roundup of books with commas in their titles. Okay, these two books are also about countries in the midst of crisis. Black Dove, White Raven is set in the years leading up to Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go presents more recent history—the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010.
I’m a day late in getting to this one because I just finished it. With no digital copies available, and my usual source without it in stock, I had to wait on a delivery. It was totally worth the wait, and I’m so glad it’s a physical copy (I don’t often say that, to be honest, but this is one gorgeous book; I enjoyed poring over the pages). I’m guessing that this will be a somewhat short review as a result, as I’ll continue to process…in the comments. [Read more…]
We’ve got a small list of nonfiction titles to go through today — all with starred reviews, and two on year’s best lists. These are all good non-fiction, solid reads. I liked them. Understand: these are no frogs here, and I enjoyed the kisses very much. Buuuuuut… I’m not convinced that they’ll be talked about in a major way at the Printz table. [Read more…]
For many, the second half of 2014 will be remembered as the time when police violence against black communities sparked outrage, protest, and calls for change. This is a timely and sorrowful moment for How It Went Down to arrive as a novel about the shooting death of a black teen by a white man. Thankfully, Kekla Magoon handles the plot and characters with delicacy and enough nuance that the book may become a helpful way for some teens to begin to process their frustration and confusion.
It’s important to note though, that How It Went Down is deliberately evocative of the death of Trayvon Martin, even though it’s possible to draw some parallels to Michael Brown’s death. It’s also important to note that Magoon doesn’t just recreate the plot beats of Trayvon Martin death; she’s not interested in a “ripped-from-the-headlines” kind of storytelling. She’s asking a lot of questions. How does a community cope with loss? When that loss is indicative of a larger social justice issue, how does that individual’s life become mythologized and/or demonized? How does tragedy connect and divide the people closest to it?
Some time in the next few days I’ll have a lot to say about the year end lists, and we’ll be going back and making some additional edits to our start of season list in light of time crunches and more data. Today, though, I’m taking a moment away from that madness to reflect on series fiction, a topic near and dear to my heart.