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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Top 5(s)

Hopefully you’ve already voted for the Pyrite Printz* (if you haven’t, do so!), but maybe you had some Printz picks that didn’t make that shortlist?

Well, so do we. So we thought we’d fill these final hours before the Pyrite polling closes by talking about our top 5s.

And as we talked through our lists, a very interesting dichotomy came up: were we going to discuss our top 5 books from the heart? Or from the head?

Because there were differences, although they aren’t mutually exclusive lists. So we decided we’d give you both!

Note that these are not predictions — we’re going to make our best guesses as to what the RealCommittee will choose (and doubtless be completely wrong!) on Sunday, at the very 11th hour. No, these are hopes, and dreams, and books we can’t let go of.

Anyway, read on for Sarah and Karyn’s Top 5 Heart and Top 5 Head YA Books of 2012. With annotations, sort of. Alphabetized by title, not ranked.

From the Heart


Hmmm. The books I loved? That’s not too hard — and it’s such a nice (mental) palate cleanser before really trying to think about the books that might actually appear in the final five. I am someone who just needs to gush, get the love out of my system, before I can settle down and try to make responsible choices. Let the gushing commence!

Bomb – This is an absolutely riveting read. Can’t put it down, want to know more, edge of my seat.

Chopsticks – I keep going over it and over it in my mind, the same way Glory can’t stop playing that tune. What really happened? It may not all add up perfectly, but this is such an intriguing read — and such an interesting format — that I had a great time trying to put all the pieces together.

The Impossible Rescue – A story about facing down cold Arctic death? MY FAVORITE THING EVER. I kept wanting to compare it to David Howarth’s We Die Alone: Overcoming incredible odds! Extreme heroism! I couldn’t put it down and didn’t want to finish reading it (I had my own impossible task here: facing down the reader’s dilemma).

Keeping the Castle – At a sentence level look, the writing is stellar. The humor is deft, and the love is sweet. Nothing but love for this title. I so enjoyed reading it, and I’d so love to see it in the final five…but I’m not quite ready to make that commitment. So instead I’ll just keep squeeing over it here: !!!!!!!!!!

The Year of the Beasts – I loved the quirky and memorable writing, the complicated sisterly rivalry, and that gorgeous art. That art is what’s really stuck with me – bold but detailed, so full of emotion. Tessa’s anger and pain are palpable in those pictures, and I’m glad to know she’s finding her feet by the end.


The heart books are the easy ones. These are the first five books I thought of, so this is my gut speaking, even more than my heart.

Code Name Verity, of course, tops the list; I fell in love with this one early in the year, and although I recognize that there are aspects that can be teased out and labeled flaws, I still think this is a virtuoso piece of writing, in emotion and in craft and composition.

Graffiti Moon has, rather surprisingly for such a sweet and seemingly simple story, stuck with me as my favorite feel good read of the year, so I am putting it up — so many other books, although I loved them and admired them along the way, required a breeze through Goodreads before I thought of them  (Dust Girl, A Confusion of Princes, and Me & Earl & the Dying Girl were three that I considered for this list, once my memory had been jogged), but in the end I think it’s more honest to go with the book that stuck.

Railsea still has my love. Miéville’s wordplay and take on a classic are witty and wise, and I really wish there had been more takers for this one. It’s arch and sly and silly and knowing and occasionally bloody, but it works and it’s got great meta levels and I just adored it.

The Raven Boys is not really a contenda, I think, although it has so much to recommend it — great mythology, appealing characters, and a wonderful inversion of the tropes of paranormal romance. But I really loved it, and this is about my heart (or gut) top 5. So it makes the list, even if the curse of the series book means it’s beyond a long shot.

Seraphina, no surprise, is also on my list — three reads and it keeps getting better. Plus, fantasy. In fact, if Rachel Hartman had been writing a book for me, she might have made Seraphina a librarian, but otherwise she nailed it. And nailed it beautifully.


From the Head


Ask the Passengers – I have minor quibbles with this title, but think it’s strong enough to medal this year. The Printz process is all about consensus, and I can see this book bringing a lot of people together. The thoughtful themes and strong characterization will be something people can agree on.

Brides of Rollrock Island – If you are into selkies, Margo Lanagan, and talking about big ideas in books, you are SET. Wait, are those not Printzly criteria? Well, OK, let me try again. If you are into beautiful writing, complicated themes, and a transformative reading experience, this is your book.

Bomb – No, seriously. Riveting. You cannot put it down. History, espionage, science, war, ethics — these are huge topics written about in an entertaining and engaging way.

Code Name Verity – There are some real issues with this read, but that doesn’t negate the strengths of the story, and it’s so memorable that I can see it coming out with a silver. Wein’s ability to tell the same story twice, but to twist it up and cap it off with a heart-breaking end is an accomplishment.

Seraphina – Beautiful writing, delicate characterization, detailed and great world building — this is just a delicious read.


This was much harder! These are the books I think I can argue for most compellingly:

The Brides of Rollrock Island is, in the end, a fascinating and beautifully written book, and while I won’t support it for the gold, I do think it deserves an honor. It may not be the book of my heart, but the very things that make it problematic make it great writing, and in the end it would be disingenuous to ignore that.

Code Name Verity makes my head list as well as my heart list, although I imagine the argument here would be passionate since I know the detractors feel just as strongly in the opposite direction. But this is the year’s critical darling, so it definitely belongs here.

Seraphina, for all the reasons I’ve already said, in this post and elsewhere. And the six stars.

My fifth book was going to be The Storyteller, despite some serious reservations, because it’s another one that has stuck with me. And then I read Various Positions (by Martha Schabas, a Pyrite nomination that received no votes I think due mostly to nonexistent readership, and which I’ll post a bit more about this week in one final roundup), and The Storyteller was left in the dust. Now, I’ve only read Various Positions once, and recently, which might have colored my opinion, but this book is intense and the writing is beautiful and the characterization is compelling and it’s just genius, for a seriously disturbing value of genius.

The Wicked and the Just is the book I really didn’t like (and I do think Gwenhwyfar’s voice is weak), but I could actually make a case for this one going the distance, in a White Darkness kind of way. I recognize the good, even if it’s not my book.

(I am, however, still reading Ask the Passengers and In Darkness, and could see adding either of those to this list in lieu of Various Positions or The Wicked and the Just once I’ve finished them, but I feel like it’s a cheat to list them at this moment.)

So there you have it, our top many titles, in varied categories. Won’t you share yours — head, heart, both, or combined — in the comments? It’s our last chance to champion our favorites before the RealCommittee makes the calls and the best of 2012 is set in stone, so speak up!


*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. You probably figured that out on your own, but we like to make it clear!




  1. I haven’t weighed in on the Pyrite because I have only read…a couple of them. Not enough to be entirely fair in making a list like that. BUT, I sure as heck am going to throw in my top picks, head and heart (I call ’em one in the same!)

    I’m with you, Karyn, on The Storyteller. Absolutely with you. I will be very curious what you have to say about Various Positions because I thought that book was a major miss. And I think a lot of the reason it was a major miss was the marketing aspect of it (it wasn’t a ballet story at all).

    I am right now obsessing over All You Never Wanted by Griffin (and rereading Joy’s analysis here, yes! even moreso).

    Other head/hearts? I think there’s a potential dark horse in Anna Jarzab’s The Opposite of Hallelujah (which I don’t remember being talked about here, but it was a later release in 2012, which may be part of that). Boy21, which Sophie hit on the head for me in her analysis. And of course, my heart/head on The Children and the Wolves will never end.

    I’m really hoping there is a total surprise on Monday, either as an honor or winner. Something no one has on their minds.

    (phew, I got a comment in the nick of time! I have so slacked this time around).

    • Karyn Silverman says

      Kelly, I agree 100% about that flap copy on Various Positions, and if it hadn’t been for the Pyrite Nomination I doubt I would have read this — the flap copy made it sound like every other ballet book. But I read most books in ARC the first time at least and almost never read flap copy as a result, and I think it’s probably the least important design/package aspect for Printz conversations. And once that is put aside, this is a dark, powerful and deeply disturbing tale. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for that final roundup post, tho!

      Opposite of Hallelujah is one of the few I’m not going to get to (unless it gets a nod on Monday) that I wish I had time for — I think you are right that the late publication doesn’t help with buzz.

      Since there are 9 members, the Real Committee as a body doubtless read way more than any of us did, which means a surprise on Monday is definitely possible. I’m torn between hoping for a surprise read that knocks my socks off and a professional hope that Someday isn’t caught with our pants down having missed the winner completely.

      • I read VARIOUS POSITIONS just before the vote and couldn’t bring myself to vote for it. Disturbing, vivid characters, yes, but I found it so totally unbelievable on a school-structure level that I couldn’t buy it. And it wasn’t the sort of unreliable narrator that asked the reader to question things like their schedule, who’s teaching what classes, when parts of the school are shut down… and those elements being, to my eye, unrealistic, knocked it right out of contention for me.

  2. Of the HEART:
    Love and Other Perishable Items- Laura Buzo
    Grave Mercy- Robin LaFevers
    The Diviners- Libba Bray
    Every Day- David Levithan
    The Crown of Embers- Rae Carson

    Of the HEAD:
    Ask the Passengers- A.S. King
    Code Name Verity- Elizabeth Wein
    Seraphina- Rachel Hartman
    The Brides of Rollrock Island- Margo Lanagan
    Bomb- Steve Sheinkin

    Yeesh. No overlap. Although Ask the Passengers, Seraphina, and Code Name Verity would all be in my top 10 of the heart.

    • Sarah Couri says

      I have no overlap either, Jenna! But I often find that to be the case at this point in the year. Now you’re making me wonder what the overlap would look like if we extended the list to top 10. Year of the Beasts would be in both my heart and head top 10 lists, for sure.

  3. I have a short attention span, much like my students, so I have a much different list than most people who can read a literary book through to the end. Also I have to admit that, though I read a lot of great YA books this year, I have read very few of the big contenders (I got almost halfway through Code Name Verity before I quit).
    My top five:
    Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – my favorite by far
    There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff
    Boy 21
    Curveball by Jordan Sonneblick
    Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

  4. Top 5 of the Heart:
    Code Name Verity
    Grave Mercy
    Monstrous Beauty

    Top 5 of the Head:
    All You Never Wanted – this almost made my top 5 heart books as well!
    Code Name Verity
    The Drowned Cities

    So much I still haven’t read though – Ask the Passengers, Every Day and Brides of Rollrock in particular which would be why I did not get to vote. As always, my refrain is next year! Maybe I’ll make it through the Battle of the Books list – that’s my next list to attempt!

  5. Top Five Heart:


  6. Top Five Heart:


    Top Five Head:


  7. Top 5 Heart Books (in no particular order)
    – Seraphina
    – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
    – The Raven Boys
    – Sumo
    – All You Never Wanted

    Top 5 Head Books (in no particular order)
    – Seraphina
    – Code Name Verity
    – All You Never Wanted
    – Titanic
    – Ask the Passengers

    Such hard choices! And there are still a few books I’d like to read based on the love I’ve seen here (Graffiti Moon and Boy21 are definitely on my to-read list).

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