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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The Obsidian Blade

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman
Candlewick, April 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

I have a feeling this is going to be a short review, in part at least because I didn’t finish reading this one. Yes, we’ve gotten to my first DNF of the year (at least, my first public blogging about a DNF title; rest assured, there have been others). (Er. We all know that DNF is Did Not Finish, yes? I first saw Liz B use that acronym at Teacozy, so I’m assuming it’s a thing. A Thing, actually.)

Can I also just mention that I’m super bummed to out myself as someone who did not finish a Pete Hautman book? Because I would really prefer, as a fan, to be raving about this book — it’s science fiction! It’s full of action! It’s Pete Hautman! National Book Winner Pete Hautman! He will write any book and make it pretty awesome! Pete Hautman, people!

In any case, here’s what we’re looking at: Tucker Feye is an average teenager who at the outset of the novel does not spend his time seeing floating discs, interacting with possible aliens/super evolved humans, or time traveling. Until, of course, he starts doing all three of those things. One day, his minister father disappears through a floating disc and returns about an hour later, having lost his faith. Tucker’s family begins to unravel. When his parents disappear completely, Tucker finds his way through a floating disc and begins his own journey through time.

In general, my notes complain that this is not a very subtle book. Tucker’s family is the “Feye” family, for example — being sucked into a disc is rather like being transported to fairy land, am I right? Get it? More problematically, the writing here is not exceptional. Although the prose tells the story successfully, it doesn’t go any further than that. And unfortunately, there were a couple of times that I came across some downright clunkers: “By the time school let out in June, Tucker had almost gotten used to having a crazy mother.” Ouch. I mean. Ouch. Is that funny? Because I am not laughing. I have trouble imaging that Tucker is unaffected by his mother’s struggles. I have trouble believing that anything about a family member dealing with illness (mental or physical) deserves such flip writing. And while the mom is a minor — very minor! — character, it reflects badly on Tucker. It makes him seem flip, or uncaring, when in fact it’s the writing that’s the problem. These moments were enough to kick me right out of the story. Total killer in Printzland.

Actually, a lot of my issues with this book started with the way the mother is presented. The way her illness was described was totally inconsistent. She cannot keep herself clean, or make sense when talking, and has emotional, inappropriate outbursts…but can continue to cook and clean the house? Ugh. I guess so that Tucker and dad can have adventures? Just…no.

I have a feeling that the three star love (Kirkus, Booklist, and PW) was for taut action and ambitious themes rather than the writing per se. Which is totally understandable, and which I can support in theory — I didn’t quite make it far enough to see where all it was going. The writing and inconsistent/thin characterization felt like issues that would sink this as a Printz contenda.

I also suspect — but only suspect, perhaps you can confirm — that there’s a pacing problem here, too. The first 1/4 is all every day, fairly mundane stuff: Tucker’s family, Tucker’s family falling apart, Tucker wanting to know more about the discs. It takes an awful long time to get to the plot part of the book.

But maybe you’ve read more of the book? Would you care to champion it? Comments are open, and I’d love to hear your take.

About Sarah Couri

Sarah Couri is a librarian at Grace Church School's High School Division, and has served on a number of YALSA committees, including Quick Picks, Great Graphic Novels, and (most pertinently!) the 2011 Printz Committee. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, GCS, YALSA, or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @scouri or e-mail her at scouri35 at gmail dot com.


  1. The book has a beautiful cover though!

  2. Oh my god, I LOVED this book. Loved it. I thought it was so much fun, the character development and interaction with Tucker and his uncle was fabulous, and I loved all the questions it raised. I’m very sad to hear you didn’t keep reading it.

  3. I did end up finishing the whole book, even though, like you, I struggled with the “mundaneness” in the beginning. Once the SF plot picks up speed, though, it becomes a quite remarkable book. I wouldn’t call it as one of the best books of the year, but it certainly is a stand-out among SF YA.

  4. My reading partner and I dissected this in two parts on the blog. I finished it because I love Hautman, but had a LOT of questions! So many things happened and most of them seemed random. I enjoyed listening to Hautman talk about it at the Teen Summit and that increased my enjoyment of the book, but yeah, not a Contenda.

  5. I really enjoyed this book, but was surprised to see it show up here at all because I would never think of it as a Contenda. While I was intrigued by the story, it felt very unfinished/unpolished. The writing was lacking and the story, even though it is the first in a planned series, really left me hanging. I also thought it read as much more of a middle grade than true YA.

  6. Thank you, Sarah, for putting into words my feelings about this book. Especially paragraph two: it’s Pete Hautman, for Pete’s sake! I, too, was incredibly disappointed in myself that I did not like this book. I listened to it, which made it a bit easier (if you have nothing else in the car to listen to, it’s easier to finish it!), but found myself picking up the case at stop lights, checking that it was indeed written by Hautman!

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