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Someday My Printz Will Come
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Drowned Cities, Pyrite Redux

In November, Sarah reviewed Drowned Cities, from her admittedly biased perspective.

At the time, she praised the thematic depth: “It … explores what it means to be human, our inescapable need to create packs — and why we have to leave them. Bacigalupi scrutinizes humanity’s tendency to act monstrously, our insistence that we are civilized even when the evidence shows otherwise… Our identities are stories we tell ourselves to explain the situations we find ourselves in.”

She also praised the characterization and world building — although at least one comment raised the question of whether the world building here stands up without prior knowledge of the world (which Sarah’s repeated reads of Ship Breaker would have provided) — the powerful metaphors that work themselves into the narrative, and the careful pacing.

She mentioned a few issues with the book: some less than perfect characterization/weak dialog and weak moments in the plot. And, per the comments, an ending that is too hopeful.

A couple months have passed (and the book has been out since May), so we’ve all had a little time to sit with it. Since it’s a title on our Pyrite* short list, we need to consider: do these flaws knock Drowned Cities out of contention? Or will its strengths carry it through? Questions, questions. Let’s start answering them in the comments!

*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.



  1. I’m embarrassed to say I DNF’d this one. It just never grabbed me. Part of my difficulty was that I just don’t enjoy action scenes. I tend to skim them. I remember liking Tool a lot in Ship Breaker, but Tool being chased through swamps, fighting and half dead? Eh.

  2. Karyn Silverman says

    I think the grim material is also an impediment for this one — there is so little hope, really, and what hope we do get at the end feels small and unlikely at best. It makes for an unrelenting and bleak read. I know that I don’t want to read it again, although I found it riveting the first time, because emotionally that feels unappealing.

    For me, I found the pacing a bit uneven and saw some other minor issues, but at least going on memory, would still rate this quite high for the year, although not quite top 5.

  3. Sarah Couri says

    The strong characterizations of Mouse and Mahlia stick with me for this title, as does the grim and terrible world they live in. I thought that the small moments of hope sprinkled throughout the book were all the more powerful for being surrounded by a seriously harsh world.

    Someone — Miriam? — in the comments of the previous post described the violence and horribleness of the world as a better fit than the “swashbuckling” plot of SB. I totally agree.

    (Funny, I do not generally think of myself as someone who enjoys depressing books…)

  4. Barbara Moon says

    One of the themes that I found intriguing is concept of redemption. Mahlia, a half-breed cast-off girl, saves not only the lives those whose lives seem not-worth-saving: Tool and Ocho, but rescues each from his fate as a killing machine. Against all odds, even when it is hopeless, she is also intent on rescuing Mouse, regardless of the cost. Her determination to save those with no apparent hope of salvation resonates throughout the story. Manila herself is also saved, not only by Dr Mafouse, but ultimately by Tool and Ocho.

    • Barbara Moon says

      I see the magic of spell check has decided to “help” by changing Mahlia to Manila 🙂 Ah, the wonders of technology.

  5. I cannot force myself to read this one. I told myself that I would try to keep up with your shortlist, no matter what showed up on it, but as so many other books are calling my name, I just can’t find it in me to ignore them in favor of picking this one up. I absolutely hated Ship Breaker and have no desire to revisit that experience by reading this book. In all honesty, even if this wins, I don’t think I’ll ever read it.

    And now I hang my head in librarian shame for actually admitting that.

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