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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Reading, Reading, Reading!

Well, we all know THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is THE book of the year (so far!). When did we last have a contemporary, realistic fiction title with this much buzz and prepub excitement? It probably goes without saying, but if you are the one person who hasn’t read it yet, be sure to get to it before September. We might just launch with this one, since we know some folks are already spoiling for that fight!

Now, let’s talk about the books that you might not have read yet, but probably ought to if you want to play along. Finally, remember that any books with three or more stars is automatically a contenda, so if you’ve gotten to something we haven’t, do let us know in the comments what deserves to go the distance—or not.


Well, I’m sure this will come as a surprise, but the top of my list of what I’ve read that I think has contender possibilities is (are ya ready??) CODE NAME VERITY.

Yes, I like to keep you guessing.

The other book I’d like to revisit come September (I’m starting to think we need September theme music or something, since every other sentence around these parts is about September…) is Rachel Hartman’s SERAPHINA. I really enjoyed this one and like it more as I think on it: flawed, appealing main character, great world building, and some nice twisty plotting all very satisfying. I’m not sure it will go the distance, but it’s worth a closer look. Has anyone else read this yet? Thoughts?

From the auto-contender list, I (along with my local librarian’s book club) read BENEATH A METH MOON. We’ll be talking about it come September (cue theme music), and boy-howdy do I have an earful for you. I did find myself thinking about geography and demographics, and how those play out as regards emotional resonance of a contemporary story as I read this one, so would love to hear thoughts from those in the more central parts of the country. I’ve also read DOUBLE and am waiting to see if it picks up a third star. It’s a bit too neat for my taste, but I think YA mystery is awfully hard to pull off.

Finally, on the train home tonight I started KEEPING THE CASTLE (which Sarah has already finished and mentions below). YUM! It’s frothy and funny and really, humor is just so difficult. Plus, it’s a great fit for my Downton-obsessed students (10th grade) and fellow FitzOsborne fans.



FROI OF THE EXILES has all the good stuff you’d expect from Melina Marchetta—strong characterizations, emotionally compelling story telling, drama, love, bravery, sacrifice… but it’s the middle volume of a trilogy and I am having complicated feeeeelings about the stand-alone-ness. For a couple of reasons (the stand alone issue, but I’ve also got a few issues with the world building and story) I am putting this down as something to keep your eyes on, something we’ll discuss further in the fall, but I’m not ready to champion this title as a solid contender. However… you might disagree with me, and that would make for some excellent comment discussion!

THE OBSIDIAN BLADE: I’ll be honest, I’m only ¼ of the way through, and I think I need to give it more of a chance—word is, this one has three stars. I may have been cranky while reading it because I felt like the characters were uninteresting and only there to carry the plot. However, since I stopped reading so early, I feel like I need to give it more of a chance. Jamie has already sounded off about it, but this is a title with three stars—anyone want to fight about it?

THE FINAL FOUR:  I love reading Paul Volponi! His fiction is smart and subtle and I always spend a lot of time thinking about his books, and his characters, afterwards. Set in the final minutes of an NCAA game’s overtime, the story moves back and forth in time, showing us the game’s action and the players’ histories. The writing is solid, but what really shines is the careful structure and varied format (he includes newspaper articles, interviews with players, etc). It’s early in the year, so I’m curious to see if this one has legs.

KEEPING THE CASTLE: A retelling/mash-up of Jane Austen’s Emma and Cinderella—so funny, so much fun! The literary allusions are well done, and the mixing of the two elements (comedy of manners and fairy tale) is really smooth. Although this is easily my favorite read so far, I’m not convinced that it will be a heavy hitter this year. Perhaps you disagree with my assessment? If so, let’s talk in the comments!

Next up: I need to go back and look at OBSIDIAN BLADE again, and I’ve got Tanita Davis’s HAPPY FAMILIES about ⅓ finished. Oh, and I’m ¾ of the way through AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE, too. I’m also planning to take a look at Natasha Friend’s MY LIFE IN BLACK AND WHITE and ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL by Jesse Andrews.


BOY21, by Matthew Quick—full disclosure: Quick was my youngest sister’s most beloved English teacher in high school, so my feeeeeelings about his books are hard to separate from their quality. I will say that I loved this auto-contender story of two boys from disparate backgrounds, working through terrible pain in different ways, for whom basketball is a saving grace in more ways than one. Strong suits here are the dialogue, sense of place (Philadelphia & its more blue collar, economically depressed environs) and, of course, the excellent evocation of life on the court. I have some doubts about its contender likelihood, due to an emotionally satisfying but not really believable plot development at the very end, but it’s going to be a book we discuss in more depth, for sure.

THE DISENCHANTMENTS, by Nina LaCour—This auto-contender should have me written all over it: indie rock, road trip, long-term unrequited love. It’s full of my literary catnip! Which is why I’m perplexed by my overall “meh” reaction, and wonder if it was an “it’s not you, lovely book, it’s ME” thing, since my reading of it was interrupted by several other books. I will probably circle back to it, with a view towards character development & themes, especially, since I remember thinking at the time that the secondary characters (sisters Alexa and Meg) were more interesting and well-developed than Colby and Bev, and the themes (leaving the nest, letting go of long-cherished hopes of love) seemed a little thinly examined. I’m willing to be argued with and possibly convinced otherwise, though!

THERE IS NO DOG, by Meg Rosoff—Like CHIME and THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND, this is a book where voice is everything, and if you don’t buy it, the book as a whole won’t work for you. I appreciate that Rosoff is paying homage to satiric greats such as Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams with this auto-contender—and really, if you’re going to write a book mocking all of creation, from a 3rd person omniscient perspective, those are THE inspirations to draw on. Sadly, the voice here feels his feels derivative, not like she’s bringing something new to the table. Again, I’m willing to be convinced, so marshal your arguments in the comments, please!

THE DROWNED CITIES, by Paolo Bacigalupi—I’m only on Chapter 5, but I predict this multiple star-earning companion to Bacigalupi’s 2011 Printz winning SHIP BREAKER will be a contender for the Pyrite Printz. Between a super-compelling setting, echoes of ecological and geopolitical problems we’re facing right now, and characters in various perilous situations that feel both real and epically mythic, this is a strong possibility. See, I can wrap up on a positive note!

Next up: PERSONAL EFFECTS, by E.M. Kokie, THE LIST, by Siobhan Vivian, IF ONLY, by Carole Geithner, and CATCH & RELEASE, by Blythe Woolston.

About Karyn Silverman

Karyn Silverman is the High School Librarian and Educational Technology Department Chair at LREI, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (say that ten times fast!). Karyn has served on YALSA’s Quick Picks and Best Books committees and was a member of the 2009 Printz committee. She has reviewed for Kirkus and School Library Journal. She has a lot of opinions about almost everything, as long as all the things are books. Said opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, YALSA or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @InfoWitch or e-mail her at karynsilverman at gmail dot com.


  1. I would love a post just to discuss the “stand alone” issue and whether / why a book has to “stand alone” if its part of a series / sequence. The Printz has been given to what, at least 2 books that were 2nd/last volumes of a series? (going off memory, didn’t look it up)

  2. Love the term “auto-contender.” Here’s an uninformed question: is there an empirical rationale for considering 3-star books auto-contenders? I mean, has the Printz (including honor books) statistically gone to books with multiple stars, or is this just a handy way of forming our reading list? Also, I’m already feeling behind. 🙁

  3. Sophie Brookover says

    Argh! In my sleep-deprived state, I noted that BOY21 and THERE IS NO DOG are auto-contenders, but, um, they’re not. They have 1 and 2 stars, respectively, and could OF COURSE be bumped up in time! Friends, I am a good 15 hours into a day full of fails large & small. Mea culpa!

    I also want to have a big, messy discussion about stand-alone-ness as award criterion. Spoiler alert: I call shenanigans on the very idea!

  4. Karyn Silverman says

    Three stars is a basic unit of consensus. It doesn’t mean the book is definitely worthy, because stars happen for different reasons, but it’s an easy way to create a list of books to look at. When I did my time on the RealCommittee, the books with three or more automatically went on my to read pile; books without stars also went on the pile, but it was a more complex process to decide which ones. Having a shorthand for pile building is awfully nice when you are looking at so many books! But many of them fall off the longlist quickly, too; you will note that mostly we seem to be speaking to what’s wrong with these books from the Printz POV, because it’s all a giant game of Survivor, eliminating until only one stands. And while I would need to do some statistical checking, I think it’s unusual for the Printz winner not to have at least three stars–although there are always exceptions. Anyone done that number crunching and want to share?

    Sophie, you were right the first time! Well, as far as There Is No Dog goes: it’s netted 4 stars, which for sure puts it on the auto-contender list (Booklist, Hornbook, Kirkus, and PW).

  5. Sarah Couri says

    Liz B and Sophie, I thought I completely agreed with you both about the stand alone issue…and then I read Froi and now I’m not so sure!!! ARGH!!!! My feeeeeeelings are so intense that I am actually waving my arms around like a worked up Muppet! I just don’t even know, you guys.

    We have been planning a series of posts about stand alone/series stuff and how those ideas relate to literary excellence, but that’s going to happen after we talk about starred review criteria, at least according to our calendar. 🙂

    (Not that we can’t talk about it here, too, OF COURSE!)

  6. I want to nominate Aristotle and Dante Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. It has lovely writing with subtle, yet deep characterization. It also has sublte literary and philosophy allusions interwoven in the story. It is also worth noting that Saenz won the first JHunt awards with his debut teen novel Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood and I definitely think this is strongest book yet. It might also be the first novel with gay main characters to breakthrough and win the Printz.

  7. ack! So many books to put on my to-read list! My favorite book I’ve read this year is definitely Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl, but not sure if it is Printz-worthy. I am reading Code Name Verity right now and absolutely adore it. I’ve heard similar reservations to Sophie’s about There is no Dog. I’m eager to get my hands on it and see for myself.

  8. Oy, but I’m far behind. The only real contenders I’ve read so far this year are The Fault In Our Stars and There Is No Dog, both of which I really loved – in TFiOS’ case, enough to want it to take home the gold (oh, and FEAR, the latest installment in my precious GONE series, is awfully good, though I don’t fool myself into thinking it’s any kind of contender).

    I’m excited for September, when Margo Lanagan’s new book comes out. Because selkies! And feminism! And LANAGAN! Oh I am so there.

  9. Joy Millam says

    I can’t wait to get my hands on Code Name Verity– it has a lot of buzz behind it. I’ve pre-ordered it and will try to be patient.
    My next read will be The Disenchantments– I’m hoping she’s got a good one there to avoid the sophomore slump. I’ve heard good things. We shall see.

  10. We haven’t yet talked about THE BOOK OF BLOOD AND SHADOWS as far as I can remember. My neck of the woods buzzes about that one.

  11. Hope Baugh says

    I promise I won’t gush every time, but I have to say again how much I love this blog and the fact that the discussion has started early this year. (Maybe it started at this time other years but I wasn’t paying attention? In any case, it feels good to be paying attention this year.)

    So far, the only contenda I’ve read is TFiOS and I confess that I am one of those people “spoiling for the fight.” I felt like throwing the book across the room when I got to page 84. However, it has already offered me good practice in going beyond my personal response to articulate a text-based, professional, and respectful response as I talk about the book with colleagues in person, so I’m grateful to it for that. I look forward to the discussion about it here as well.

    I look forward to reading Keeping the Castle. I agree that “humor is so difficult.” My library’s YA book discussion topic this month was humor. I was struck by how different each of the five selected books were, and how different their audiences are.

  12. Sophie Brookover says

    April, I am really looking forward to that Saenz book, too — the HB review really piqued my interest!

    tess, would you be willing to talk more about THERE IS NO DOG? What am I missing? Should I try again? I just…it didn’t work for me, in a way that goes beyond not *liking* the voice. I look forward to you, me & Hannahlily discussing in more depth!

    Joy, v. curious to hear your thoughts on THE DISENCHANTMENTS!

    Elizabeth, I am lazy: who is the author of THE BOOK OF BLOOD & SHADOWS?

    Hope, this is just the blog’s 2nd year. We are super-excited to be getting started sooner, too! 🙂

    I love the funny, so I look forward to KEEPING THE CASTLE, for sure. Can I just say that I started reading Geithner’s IF ONLY last night and busted out sobbing a few pages into the 2nd chapter? Uff-da. Dead mamas & their grieving kids are my kryptonite. Maybe I will have to alternate reading those two titles to prevent myself from spiraling into a puddle of tear-soaked Kleenex.

  13. Sophie: Sorry, there was a typo. It’s THE BOOK OF BLOOD AND SHADOW (singular) by Robin Wasserman.

    Hope: I had problems with TFiOS as well, and I adore what you call text-based, professional, respectful critiques of YA literature (which is why this is my favorite blog ever). But my problem is that John (and all the authors we’re going to discuss) is an esteemed colleague, and I have a book out this year, so–heavy sigh–I think I can’t jump in. Greek gods have killed mortals like me for less hubris than that. I will so enjoy hearing the rest of you grapple over the all the contenders, which I hope you’ll do with the passion and gusto they deserve.

  14. Karyn, I don’t know about the Printz, but I do know that The Higher Power of Lucky, which won the Newbery in 2007, received only one starred review (from Kirkus). The other reviews were quite positive, but none were starred.

  15. Sophie: I probably don’t have anything very wise to say about THERE IS NO DOG; I read it a few months ago and need to refresh my memory. I’ll have SUPER SMART things to say in September when we start talking about books in more depth. But going from what I do remember: Yes, I think you should give it a reread. Meg Rosoff’s books are pretty idiosyncratic, and they tend to take a few reads to really sink in (How I Live Now depressed and confused me when I first read it; now it’s one of my favourites).

    The voice is going to be divisive, kind of in the same way BEAUTY QUEENS was last year. But I bought the voice and the central idea completely, because I feel like Rosoff isn’t precious or smug about the concept. Religious satires so often end up, “Look at those silly people with their god, how quaint that they don’t know we’re all screwed,” and THERE IS NO DOG doesn’t do that. It’s got heart and a really nice belief in humanity without, in my opinion, being cloying about it. Plus, well, I thought it was just plain clever, and didn’t find it derivative 🙂 (it also helps that I’m surrounded by teenage boys every day, and Bob’s characterization is spot-freaking-on).

    Wow, that was far too long, and I suspect I blathered (it’s late here! Well, kind of). Hopefully my thoughts were vaguely coherent. 🙂

  16. (Wow, I really put too many smileys in my above post.)

  17. Kendall Haddix says

    This is my first comment, but I’ve been following this blog since last year, and I just wanted say that it’s great. I love the title suggestions, the in-depth discussions, and how you all have helped me appreciate a different type of teen fiction. Thank you, and I hope to read along with you all.

  18. So, in an extremely haphazard way, I went into Baker and Taylor and looked up the reviews for the winners back to How I Live Now (then I ran out of time). It does look like B&T doesn’t track the Bulletin’s starred reviews, just their recommended reviews. So everything may be one star short, but I did find star listings from all five of the other journals:
    Where Things Come Back – 1 star from PW (I know this for sure because I tracked stars last year – I think some of the journals might not have even reviewed it?)
    Ship Breaker – 3 stars – Booklist, PW, Horn Book
    Going Bovine – 1 star – Booklist
    Jellicoe Road – 1 star – Kirkus
    White Darkness – 3 stars – Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus
    American Born Chinese – 1 star – Booklist
    Looking for Alaska – 2 stars – Kirkus, SLJ
    How I Live Now – 1 star – Booklist

    Now, like I said above, this is definitely imprecise, but even if all of these were starred by the Bulletin (which I highly doubt – and of course if I haven’t missed anything else) about half don’t hit the 3 star threshhold.

    And looking at last year’s 5 and 6 starred titles (a list I would like to think is fairly accurate) – Why We Broke Up got 6 stars and an honor, Steampunk got 5 stars and wasn’t named, Scorpio Races 5 stars and an honor, Everyone Sees the Ants got 5 stars and wasn’t named, Daughter of Smoke and Bone 5 stars and wasn’t named, Chime 6 stars and not named, Anya’s Ghost 5 stars and not named. Of course all of these couldn’t be named.

    The two other titles that were honored – Jasper Jones got four stars and The Returning got one star.

    I’m not attempting to draw any conclusion from this data (I’ll let all of you do that!); I just love me some stats.

  19. TFIOS has been the best new release I’ve read this year. Though I read Froi of the Exiles last year and it was technically released this year. But I do think Froi is completely brilliant, especially in how it shows the different sides of the war and the complex characters. I honestly feel like it’s just as good as TFIOS, but I feel like the 2nd in a series is going to kill it’s chances. Even though I liked it better than Finnikan.

    I read The Final Four and I liked it, but I felt like the Trojan War connection was a little heavy handed. Also I’m a basketball fan and I had some suspension of disbelief problems. I liked it, I just never thought of it as an awards contender.

    I’m excited about Seraphina. I normally try to read closer to the release date but I”m considering breaking my own rule for that book.

  20. I need to dump some of my intended reads and get on these! Like most school librarians, I’ve read The Fault in Our Stars. My 8th graders even read and discussed it and they loved it! I really liked it but was confused by the author guy. Sometimes I think I’m trying to read too much into a book!

    I also read There Is No Dog because that title is just intriguing! Sadly, I haven’t read any of Rosoff’s other works. In terms of quirky weirdness – this is Printz contenda! Apropos of any real study – they seem to like different and discussable. This book has that in spades. You can talk about values, what if God was a boy, what is love, what it means to be human, expectations, and so much more. Just don’t see this as “teen” though. Of course, my students are on the younger side of this conversation.

    I’ve been putting off reading Froi because that sucker is huge! Also have The List, If Only, Boy21 and The Obsidian Blade waiting to be read. Adding the rest to the To-Be-Borrowed list!

    Self-promotion – we are discussing The Disenchantments and Under the Meth Moon over at the Goodreads Mock Printz site if you want to get your initial thoughts in!

  21. Your leg-work is so fascinating, Jen B, thanks! From what you’ve presented here, it seems like having more stars doesn’t guarantee a winner, but some number of stars greater than zero is empirically necessary. And it really argues for going through the one- and two-star lists and cherry picking the ones that (like Karen’s beloved The Returning last year) have rabid champions. Perhaps it’s easy for many journals to give a well-written or dynamic book a star, whereas every aspect of an award-winner (plot, characterization, setting, etc.) has to bear up under intense scrutiny. For instance you can already see, from The Brain Lair’s offhand comment, that when the committee is discussing TFiOS, someone will bring up Van Houten, and probably also (WARNING: SPOILER>>>>>>>>) Augustus’s decision to write to him at the end of the book–those plot choices will have to make it through some deep, incisive discussions.

    Another interesting question, perhaps beyond the scope of this blog, is how books that make it through such intense committee scrutiny (enough to win a major award) somehow didn’t leap out at journal reviewers as meriting stars when they read them?

  22. D’oh. Karyn. KARYN is the correct spelling. Shoot me.

  23. Jen B, thanks for that great mini-study! How can you not be tempted to write it up with the title “The Fault in Our Stars”?

    I am struck by how often Booklist starred the winning titles (5 out of 8, including 3 where it was the sole star. Booklist did not review “Looking for Alaska” due to its policy of not reviewing books by its own employees, but it was on their Best of the Year list so presumably they would have starred it if they had reviewed it.)

    I wonder if there is a correlation between this and the fact that a Booklist consultant sits on the committee. Perhaps someone who has been on the Printz Award Committee can tell us if the consultant plays an active role in the discussion, or whether the way the stars fall is just coincidental. And what, exactly, is the role of the Booklist consultant on the committee?

    In any case, perhaps a better indicator for this blog — or any group doing mock Printz Award discussions — rather than counting stars would be to give automatic contender status to any YA book that receives a starred review from Booklist.

  24. I read The Disenchantments and while I thought it was good, it didn’t jump out as having quite the same literary merit that I think of when I think Printz. That was just my reaction to the book as a whole–I did enjoy the setting, the quirky secondary characters, and especially the fact that the band in the story is really terrible.

  25. Karyn Silverman says

    Jen B, can we hire you to be the numbers girl? Because those are some excellent stats. LJC, I might steal that title (if you don’t mind!) as the subtitle to next week’s starred reviews part 2 post. Elizabeth, I’m also going to make a stab at answering your question about why the books don’t jump out, drawing on personal experience and in purely anecdotal, not at all definite terms. And EVERYONE spells my name wrong. I used to have barrettes with my name engraved, with the E spelling. Someday I might forgive my mother her need to be original, but not too original. (I was one of three Kary/en’s in grade school, but the only Karyn-with-a-Y).

    Tess, what did you see as the PURPOSE of the Rosoff? I’m not too put off by the voice, but it feels a bit… I dunno, pointless? Yes, we get it, the world seems like it was left to rot in the sandbox while God wandered off to lunch, or, in this case, wank, but haven’t we all made snide pseudo-deep comments like that? What does a full length treatment of that idea offer you as a reader that makes it seem new or fresh or at least not stale? (Anyone else can chime in too, obvs.) And so agree– the Lanagan! Tender Morsels was my RealPrintz year, and I would read anything that woman writes. Even grocery lists, which in her hands would doubtless be surreal gems. Dream sauce and sugar noodles, with a side of fascinating commentary on gender, perhaps? Yum!

  26. Reading, Reading, Reading! Someday My Printz Will Come great ideas for this world!

  27. I wonder if any of you has heard buzz about NEVER FALL DOWN? It certainly covers a weighty topic, and I’ve heard that McCormick stays true to Chorn-Pond’s voice. It came out two days ago but has relatively few reviews on goodreads so far.

    • Karyn Silverman says

      Elizabeth, I’ve got it on a pile to take a look at. My experience is that when McCormick is on, she’s on fire, but she’s not totally consistent. Haven’t heard anything from my usual buzz sources yet, tho.

  28. Clearly I didn’t close that command. Duh.

  29. Hope Baugh says

    I love this discussion! I’m sorry that is all I have time to write right now, though. More later, maybe…

  30. I think we may have to add EVERY DAY by David Levithan to our Printz reading lists, judging by my friends’ responses to it.

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