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Sex and girls and stuff
We’ve got another round up here and this time, it’s all about the complexities and frustrations and amazing moments related to gender, sex, identity, hook ups, heartbreak, and true love. And who couldn’t use a little love at this time of year, amirite? Well, to be honest, these three books aren’t all about wuv (twue wuv); they are more about all the messy parts — the hook ups and doomed romances, the figuring yourself out, and the murder mysteries you might find yourself investigating from your family’s vintage record store. Although I’m not convinced that these titles are in the running for Printz medals, I’m excited to share these books here; they have some really great moments.
Girl Defective by Simone Howell
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, September 2014
Reviewed from an ARC
First up we have our romance + murder mystery + dysfunctional family. There’s a lot going on in Howell’s story; it’s ambitious about exploring a lot of ideas and working to tie them all together by the end. It doesn’t quite coalesce (some elements of the story just come in too late and as a result don’t mesh smoothly enough with the rest) to make it to the end of discussion at the Printz table, but it got a starred review, made a best list, and genuinely engaged me throughout.
Mesrobian’s Perfectly Good White Boy felt almost like a Blake Nelson story to me. Her writing isn’t as blunt and no-frills as Nelson’s, but her characters are just as impulsive and immediately recognizable to readers. She, like Nelson, doesn’t shy away from the darker side of teen behavior (impulsivity can sometimes get ugly), but her characters (like Nelson’s) remain understandable and relatable. Where she parts ways with Nelson: there’s not a lot of plot in her plot. This is far more a slice-of-life story, about a teen dealing with figuring out the future when he’s still working on figuring himself out. The dialogue is super true to life — sometimes stumbling and a little bumbling and full of awkward silences. She worked to equalize Neecie’s hook ups with Sean’s, and it was very earnest but maybe slightly too obvious, too. Her very sex positive, judgement-free depiction of hook up culture made this feel like a refreshing read.
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
Published by Zest Books, September 2014
Reviewed from final copy
And not quite so much with the sex stuff, we turn to questions of identity and also learning to fully understand ourselves so we can love ourselves (so! Still a Romance! OK, I’m stretching here.) Tomboy is an important story, intelligently told. With one star and a placement on a best list, this really is an engaging read. In a year with some great graphic novel contenders, I’m not sure Tomboy will make it to the final five at the table for RealPrintz, but this is still worth raving about in this space (and with teens!). Taking on questions of sex, gender, and identity with some very personal nuance is important. Prince’s ability to be so honest about her bullying experiences will also help readers connect with her story — and hopefully help grow seeds of empathy. Maybe not a final fiver, but still compelling and effective.
So that’s what I got. What are your thoughts? Think one of these will surprise us with a medal at the Youth Media Awards?
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.
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