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What Do We Read Next? or, Potential Contendas

Which books can go the distance?
(CC-licensed image “The Champ” by truebluetitan)

Ok, so we’re a month plus into 2013 and I’ve finally, finally! started a 2013 title.

(Just One Day, by Gayle Forman, in case you wondered.)

And now I need to decide what to read next. So let’s talk 2013 publications that belong on the contenda list already, whether for critical acclaim (by which I mean, stars) or buzz.

I’ve got a few titles on the list already, so I’m thinking I’ll show you mine and you’ll show me yours. Good? Good.

I’ve been checking in with Jen J’s star list pretty frequently recently, where a handful of definite YA titles have already hit the (arbitrary and possibly ripe for revision) 3-star minimum that we’ve used the past two years to compile the contenda list.

Those titles are:

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell —  I’m already hearing raves about this book, and will be reading it as soon as I get my hands on it.

Etiquette & Espionage, Gail Carriger — One I’ve already read! I revealed this in a comment already, but this was the Mary Poppins book I mentioned last April. It’s delightful. It’s not a contender, though, and this is exactly the kind of book that has us thinking about that 3-star thing.

Widwinterblood, Marcus Sedgwick (with 4 stars already) — This was on my to-read list anyway, because I think his prose is masterful. I don’t even care what it’s about, I’m reading this thanks to pure blind author faith.

Teeth, by Hannah Moskowitz — Gone, Gone, Gone, Moskowitz’s 2012 publication was one of the 2012 books I wanted to read but never got to, so I am definitely making time for this one.

Uses for Boys, by Erica Lorraine Scheidt — And here is the argument for using stars, however arbitrary, because I haven’t heard of this one at all, and without the reviews I doubt it would have come to my attention, especially with that slightly sparkly romantic cover, which seems to be not at all indicative of the content — this is one I might have brushed right past as a commercial clone even if I had seen it (and frankly, accidental discovery is all but impossible these days — even big bookstores are only carrying the glossy stuff).

The list also has two crossover MG/YA titles with three stars already: Courage has no Color, by Tanya Lee Stone and Emancipation Proclamation by Tonya Bolden. Why am I not surprised that the crossovers are nonfiction??

So much for stars. On to my personal list. These are pretty much all based on faith — as with Sedgwick, these are works by authors I trust to deliver something worth my time. It remains to be seen if any of them are really contenders, but I’ll be reading them.

(And I’m not listing all the series books, but you can take as a given that A, I’ll be reading them, and B, it will be the rare mid-series title indeed that could make the contender list for real, but if one of them does jump out as that elusive beast, we’ll certainly mention it.

Paper Valentine, by Brenna Yovanoff (a title and cover that make me think of this amazing and bizarre stop-motion short) — I loved her first book, then never could finish her second, but am hopeful enough that I actually bought this for me (as opposed to for my library) yesterday. Here’s hoping that was the right call!

Spoils, by Tammar Stein — I read Light Years what feels like light years ago, and I found it flawed but intensely compelling. I’ve managed not to read Stein’s latest two, but this one is on my list for this year.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black — loved the short story, excited for the book. And I still think Black’s Curse Worker’s trilogy is criminally under appreciated (see what I did there? The puns, I love them). It’s brilliant.

Mortal Fire, Elizabeth Knox — I’ve loved Knox since I read The Vintner’s Luck, and the Dreamhunter duology remains one of my favorite books of all time (yes, there are two volumes, but it’s more a book than a series nonetheless). So, you know, I’m not expecting much.

Mojo, Tim Tharp — I know most people will remember Tharp for his NBA nod with The Spectacular Now, which had some spectacular and some not-so moments, but actually the book that won my heart was The Knights of Hill County, a football book I read in my BBYA days. I thought I would hate it but in fact it was a quiet, beautiful, brilliant work. I’m hoping Mojo is more of the same, without the issues of The Spectacular Now (that awful clichéd scifi stuff — urg).

17 & Gone, Nova Ren Suma — Imaginary Girls might have been flawed, but it was the kind of flawed that sticks with you, so I’m in for more of Suma’s sumptuous prose.

Black Helicopters, Blythe Woolston — Although I focused on the issues when I reviewed Catch & Release with an eye towards the RealPrintz, Woolston has some serious skill. Also, she already has a RealPrintz honor, and we generally read anything a former winner or honoree writes.

The Different Girl, Gordon Dahlquist — I’m the only person I know who read Dahlquist’s adult books (and they were very adult), but I loved his imagination and the scope of his world building, plus at least one person I trust has already read and loved The Different Girl. Also, I hear the cover will glow in the dark.

Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys — Confession: I never did read Between Shades of Gray, but I recognize that I should have.

When We Wake, Karen Healey — Guardian of the Dead was genius, and The Shattering was very good. I am not thrilled that Healey has moved on to dystopia, a word that at this point leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I’m going to give it the old college try anyway and hope that she’s good enough to rise above the rest.

The Tragedy Paper, Elizabeth LaBan — I have no idea who Elizabeth LaBan is, and I think this is a debut, but she went to my high school, a fact I knew before I Googled her, because I too wrote a tragedy paper. And it was a transformative rite of passage, and I (like all the other graduates who experienced that class) can still quote that teacher. So this is the sentimental read, borne out of a desire to see my high school experiences reshaped into fiction.

And… that’s it. That’s all I’ve got for now.

Mark and Sarah at Crossreferencing raised a few more titles (including The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door, a book that made my to-read list just for the awesome cover); Liz B of Teacozy and Kelly and Kimberly of Stacked have already started reviewing 2013 titles, some of which might be contenders; and I’ve been prowling Goodreads in the post ALA weeks looking at what those who attended and collected ARCs are listing,  all of which has put a few more titles on my list. But despite my efforts, this feels like a paltry list so far.

So please, won’t you add to my list until it’s wildly out of control? What are you looking forward to? What have you read already that has contender potential?

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. Okay, I just discovered Elizabeth Knox last month (when I read The Dreamhunter Duet in 48 hours), but EEEEE NEW BOOK WANT NOW. So, yes, for that being a contender.

    And I agree completely that Etiquette & Espionage is darling and wonderful and not a contender.

    I adored The Shattering but found When We Wake to be fairly unexceptional. I found the characters much less thoroughly developed in this one, which really hurt it for me. And the dystopian worldbuilding wasn’t especially well done–which I think it would have needed to stand out on a literary level.

    As for other 2013 books…

    THE SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson is beautifully written, has great characterization, and is pretty fantastic–but its focus on the importance of art may make it a hard sell for some people. But probably not for the Printz committee, eh?

    Elizabeth E. Wein has a book coming out in September, ROSE UNDER FIRE, set in the Ravensbruck women’s concentration camp… which is on my to-read list and I’d be inclined to call an auto-contenda just because of the author.

  2. Phew. I’ve been waiting for your call on this one! I’m going to be better this year about reading and commenting as I can.

    I think there’s a serious discussion to be had about Uses for Boys. It’s a 3-starred title with a misleading cover but it packs a punch. Eleanor and Park will be discussed, too, but I’m wondering how it holds up on a very close read (vs. a read for the reading for enjoyment’s sake — it’s a great book but does it carry muster in terms of literary value?).

    17 & Gone and Black Helicopters are early contenders in my mind. Suma’s title for the language, the writing, the storytelling. It’s literary. It’s haunting. I think on the writing level, maybe it’s even stronger than Imaginary Girls. Woolston’s Black Helicopters is incredibly sparse but begs for close reading to see what she does and how she does it. It was impressive.

    Some other titles I’m thinking about or have read and can say might merit discussion: Absent by Katie Williams (an amazingly smart, tightly-written mystery/supernatural story that is deceptively short), The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (I think it might be Zarr’s strongest so far), Please Forgive Me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (which I haven’t read yet but I love Quick’s books on principle and think they merit discussion in this capacity). I’m eager to dive into Out of the Easy, as well as The Tragedy Paper. There’s been a little talk of Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan, but I found it a little overlong and a little bit indulgent, too.

    I’m sure I’ll have more and I’m eager to see what other people are throwing out this early on.

    • Just finished USES FOR BOYS last night. I agree that it’s discussion worthy, but in some ways it reminds me of what Karyn (?) said here about BENEATH A METH MOON. It’s really short and almost feels like sketches pulled together. For me, that style really works – I can feel Anna’s yearning for a family – people to care about who care about her – so strongly despite the few words and the imagery seemed to build rather than just be repetitive, but I could see it being hard to build consensus around.

  3. I think there will be something worth discussing in Emily Murdoch’s IF YOU FIND ME, too, though I think there are some real issues requiring suspension of disbelief. I believe it just earned its third star, too.

  4. Karyn Silverman says

    Miriam, I thought about listing the Wein, but it’s sort of a series book, so there’s no telling how it will read. I was lucky enough to meet Wein’s agent, who said Maddie is in the book but it’s more companion than sequel — if that’s the case, then this would be a for-sure contender.

    Kelly, I’m hearing mixed things about Crash and Burn. I have the Quick and Zarr books already set aside, but thanks for Absent and If You FInd Me. You are way ahead of anyone else I know on 2013 titles!

  5. Jonathan Hunt says

    Here’s a vote for MORTAL FIRE. It’s awesome! And completely independent from the earlier Dreamhunter Duet. It’s set in the same world, but nearly 50 years later with different characters.

    Horn Book will star MIDWINTERBLOOD in their March/April issue (as announced on their website), so that one now has five stars.

  6. I do think the 3-star auto-contender rule is less than ideal. Using it to find gems like USES FOR BOYS that you might have passed up is helpful. But the real failure is in the direction of missing important books that get fewer than three stars. Historically, under-starred books have won the Printz gold and silver about half the time. Finding underrated, under-buzzed contenders is the challenge. I wonder whether there’s a systematic way to help suss them out. Like polling publishers about perceived contenders on their own lists, as an impractical example.

    Small correction: Blythe Woolston won the Morris Award in 2011, not the Printz Honor (for THE FREAK OBSERVER).

  7. Paul Cummings says

    2 Rick Yancey books this year, speaking of blind faith in an author:

    The 5th Wave
    The Final Descent (Monstrumologist book 4)

  8. Just wanted to put in a request for adding MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner (Feb Candlewick) and LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING by Francesca Lia Block (Aug Henry Holt) to the list. I really loved both – despite the sort of cheesy title of the latter and the fact that it’s an Odyssey retelling. Oh! and IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS by Cat Winters (Apr Abrams) seems to be getting some favorable reviews.

    I read both THE DIFFERENT GIRL and THE SUMMER PRINCE but I need to hear someone else’s opinion on them so I can figure out how I feel.

    TEETH is fantastic, possibly the best LGBT mermaid fairy tale you’ll ever read (ha).

  9. I am so, so very excited to break radio silence and join in the fun this year!! 🙂 I’m still in a fog of 2012 titles and recovering but am eager to jump in and read 2013 books and play along with the Mock Awards again.

    If You Find Me I think will be in discussion-I read a very early ARC of this one and really liked it, but I’m not sure it will hold up in the long run. Well worth reading though.

  10. I’ve not a lot of insight into what’s coming this year (woe to me for next getting to Midwinter!), but I wanted to chime in and say thet TEETH by Moskowitz is excellent. It went in directions I didn’t expect and I thought it was just lovely. Very much looking forward to ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE and OUT OF THE EASY. Can’t wait to see what else comes up!

  11. Let me throw out another one for you! Worth keeping an eye on, I think, is Stephanie Kuehn’s Charm and Strange (June, St Martins). The cover is deceiving. But this is a dark contemporary to shelve alongside Blythe Woolston and Adam Rapp in terms of sharp, haunting writing and a psychologically-driven storyline. It’s an impressive debut.

  12. In addition to several of the titles already mentioned, two books I’m excited about are Hilary T. Smith’s Wild Awake and Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan.

  13. MORTAL FIRE, what Jonathan said.

    I’ll be very interested in what others have to say about MAGGOT MOON as it felt younger for me, harrowing as it is.

    Just read and really liked Stone’s Courage has no Color; is a crossover between upper MG and lower YA, I’d say.

  14. Barbara Moon says

    I have started my 2013 reading & found THE SUMMER PRINCE ( why do I keep spelling it with a “tz” on the end?) fascinating – what a world Johnson builds! I also totally enjoyed MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner. Loved her Red Necklace & couldn’t wait to read this one which is totally different from her previous work. A TANGLE OF KNOTS is not YA but is certainly on my fav list for young Tweens. So delightful. Agree with the general consensus re E & E. “How often have I warned you against fraternizing with technology?” is just a gem of a quote!

  15. I believe MAGGOT MOON was pubbed in the UK in 2012; I think that knocks the 2013 US edition out of the running, yes?

    Reading MORTAL FIRE now, and YES.

  16. I’m giving The Tragedy Paper a thumbs down. I had several issues with it and I don’t think it has the heft to go the distance.

    The Lucy Variations is very good on the other hand and Zarr took what could be some very cliche plots and worked her magic on them. I too have my fingers crossed for the Tharp being good and have heard great things about Winger by Andrew Smith as well.

  17. At this stage of the game I wouldn’t rule out Orleans by Sherri L. Smith either, things might be different in September but I thought it was pretty good.

  18. I CAN’T wait to read The 39 .
    Deaths of Adam Strand by Greg Galloway. He wrote As Simple as snow and it was awesome, weird, but awesome. I still get clues from Mr. Galloway about As Simple as Snow!

  19. I just finished an ARC of YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS which is getting starred in Horn Book this month, I believe and I’d say it’s a contender. Fantastic blend of gritty realism and lyrical prose with some of the best Latina characters I’ve read in YA.

  20. I’m so far behind! I”m doing two committees this year! May just have to listen in!

  21. Steffaney Smith says

    Looking forward to Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson (sequel to Hattie Big Sky) and Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson, the last of the Chains trilogy. OMG, aren’t these both historical fiction??? Not the highlights for a lot of teens!

  22. The spreadsheet is updated for all of the March Journals and by star-count here’s what we’ve got:
    5 stars: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick – SLJ is the lone holdout from the 6 journals I track.

    4 stars: The two NF MG/YA crossovers mentioned in the post –
    Courage Has No Color by Stone and Emancipation Proclamation by Bolden
    Eleanor & Park by Rowell and Etiquette & Espionage by Carriger – both also mentioned above
    There are also three fiction titles that are undoubtably too young, but that according to reviews include the 12 year old audience which should technically make them eligible:
    Jinx by Blackwood; Navigating Early by Vanderpool; One Came Home by Timberlake

    3 stars: 10 books hit this threshold
    Dark Triumph by LaFevers
    Doll Bones by Holly Black (reviews peg it at Gr. 5-8 and age 10-14 so another MG/YA crossover)
    If You Find Me by Murdoch
    Maggot Moon by Gardner
    My Brother’s Book by Sendak (I have no idea where this belongs – review journals are saying all ages and one put it for Gr. 10-12 so here it is.)
    Out of the Easy by Sepetys
    Quintana of Charyn by Marchetta
    Teeth by Moskowitz
    Uses for Boys by Scheidt
    Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Medina

    2 stars: The list starts getting really long at this point, so I’m only putting things that seem solidly YA – there may be others that touch that lower age range – check the spreadsheet for a complete list.
    The 5th Wave by Yancey
    The Bird King by Tan
    Black Helicopters by Woolston
    Crash & Burn by Hassan
    Darius & Twig by Myers
    Homeland by Doctorow
    Just One Day by Forman
    The Lucy Variations by Zarr
    Mind Games by White
    Nobody’s Secret by MacColl
    Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Shen with art by Hicks
    Orleans by Smith
    Out of Nowhere by Padian
    Paper Valentine by Yovanoff
    Peanut by Halliday
    Scarlet by Meyer
    The Sin-Eater’s Confession by Bick
    The Summer Prince by Johnson

    I’ll try to post an update again in a couple months – either at the end of May or the end of June.

    • Paul Cummings says

      Hi Jen…..THANK YOU for keeping the star rating spreadsheet!! It has never been so easy to keep up with the top books and pick what my book clubs should be reading. Seriously, thank you so much.

  23. I’ve read a few of the books already discussed. I adored Eleanor and Park. I have been raving about it with teens in the library all week. I also liked Maggot Moon. I just finished Midwinter Blood. Yes, it was quite clever and the writing is superb. The only issue I have is that I’m not sure it’s for a YA audience. It is a love story and more: vampire, ghosts, reincarnation. But very few of the characters in the vignettes are teens. Does that matter?

  24. Is everyone waiting for after ALA to start talking again?

    Having now read it, I think that ROSE UNDER FIRE does stand alone enough to be a contenda–though it almost certainly packs more punch if you know what Maddie’s been through.

    I’d add THE KINGDOM OF LITTLE WOUNDS to the Contenda list, though it comes out this fall and reviews haven’t appeared yet. Simply stunning, but inevitably going to lead to an “is it YA?” conversation. (I say it’s as YA as, say, Tender Morsels, so, yes.)

    I’ve also heard that AN OCD LOVE STORY is amazing and just got a star, but it’s not out yet and I haven’t managed to snag an ARC. Another thing on my to-read list that may be a contenda is Robyn Schneider’s THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING, but I haven’t seen reviews for that yet, either.

    • Karyn Silverman says

      Miriam, who is the author of Kingdom? Suzanne Cokel?

    • I’m going to add some thoughts on ROSE UNDER FIRE, now that it’s settled in my brain a bit. It’s impact is very different from CNV’s. At first I felt it was not as powerful as CNV; having had some time, I now feel that VERITY shoots the reader out of the sky–it’s an immediate, painful, shocking experience–whereas ROSE is a slow burn that has just as much pain, just not as abruptly. ROSE is a lingering book, whereas VERITY was a suckerpunch of a book. Love them both, but… differently.


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