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Our 2015 Predictions and Picks: Loves and Likelies
One of the greatest joys of writing this blog is the chance to be spectacularly wrong* come the announcements. So here is our official post of both our personal picks — books we can support and love love love — and our predictions, which are the books we think are most likely — even if we don’t necessarily love them.
*Last year Joy and Karyn actually both predicted Midwinterblood, and Joy had Eleanor & Park on her personal picks. But otherwise, not so much with the accuracy.
I always like to start with the heart. In no particular order, here are five books I loved as a reader, for reasons that may or may not have bearing on literary merits, but that I can also stand behind as excellent books that do indeed have merits, even if they aren’t perfect. But then, perfection is so boring, isn’t it?
How I Discovered Poetry, Marilyn Nelson: Look, this book is as close to perfect as they come. And I know I just said perfection is boring, but really this is just amazing. It’s poetry and also a full story and also a memoir, and the package is lovely, and while it’s not actually my most beloved book this year, it’s hands down the best and I can’t possibly list anything above it without completely throwing merit out the window. This book deserves the Printz. It deserves the gold in a big way.
Through the Woods, Emily Carroll: Egg & Spoon was on this list and then off it and then on it again, and the book it’s dueling with in my heart is Through the Woods. In the end, I have to admit that while E&S is one of the books I loved most, there is an unevenness in the pacing. If the RealCommittee can see a way past that (they will read their final picks more than once, and with more thought, after all), I won’t complain. But in the meantime, Carroll’s dark, fairy tale and horror infused collection netted a position on my list. It’s stunning and unusual and does so much with such an economy of language and I find myself coming back to it again and again.
(Also don’t you like how I totally squeezed an extra shoutout in there for a 6th book?)
Love is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson: A thriller, a science fiction novel, and a book about race, identity, and love familial and romantic — this has it all. I know this isn’t a popular choice. I also don’t think it’s as good as The Summer Prince, but luckily it’s only in competition with other 2014 books, and in that crowd this has an awful lot to offer.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton: I finished this last night, so maybe that’s clouding my judgement, but I don’t think that’s it. What has me listing this one is the fact that it’s a gorgeous example of magic realism, with nods to some of the great magic realism works. It’s beautifully written, powerfully evocative, and I couldn’t put it down. I am not 100% sure about the ending, but in ways that have me burning to talk about this and dissect it, which excites me.
We Were Liars, E. Lockhart: My last pick is the very first one I read or reviewed for this year. I’ve said so much in praise of this book already, and I probably sound like a broken record, but I keep going back to the criteria and the ways that this does an excellent job with every single listed aspect of writing the P&P cite. That’s a winner in my book.
So much for what I want to see recognized on Monday. Read on for what I expect to see recognized. Although actually, I’m sort of cheating this year — instead of having a few standouts I am really pulling for, it’s more like hey, what an awful lot of impressive books we have! So really, while the first five I listed are closer to my heart, stickers for any of the next five would not upset me all. (This is in strong contrast to last year, where I really had feelings, many less than positive, about some of the winners).
Also, and totally not relevant to anything, I’m realizing as I write all my picks and predictions up that this was a banner year for short works.
This One Summer, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki: Everyone loves this and it’s impressive as hell. It’s been a while since a graphic novel was recognized, but this thoughtful and beautiful text is exactly the book to put graphica back on the table.
The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean, David Almond: Although I still don’t love the sudden shift to correct use of spelling at the very end (because the whole thing was written in retrospect, so logically this manifestation of Billy’s growth doesn’t need to be saved for the final page), I can’t deny how impressive this book is. Almond is a master and he may not write the most appealing books, but even when I hate them I can’t deny his command of language and imagery. And in this case, I mostly think it’s an appealing story although really difficult. This is the lowest buzzed of my predictions, but it strikes me as exactly the sort of quiet book that often scoops up committee attention.
How I Discovered Poetry, Marilyn Nelson: Did I mention the near perfection of this book? It’s so astounding I can’t imagine how it can’t get recognized. (And I really hope I haven’t just jinxed it.)
The Family Romanov, Candace Fleming: In fairness, I didn’t actually enjoy this one, but I admire it. And most people seem to feel love AND admiration. Nonfiction isn’t always very literary, but this is — Fleming has a strong voice and she uses it. Assuming there aren’t issues of accuracy that take this out of contention, I totally expect an honor.
Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith: I love it, I hate it, I can’t stop thinking about it. And that seems to be the prevailing opinion. Any book worth the amount of discussion this one has generated seems likely to get a nod. Also, it’s audacious and unexpected and totally fresh. It may be problematic, but it’s in many ways the most exciting book of the year.
And as a bonus, here are a few additional award predictions. Well, guesses. From a somewhat less than comprehensive exposure to the potential candidates:
For the Morris, The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender; for the Pura Belpré, Gabi: A Girl in Pieces; for the CSK, Brown Girl Dreaming (although I think it should be How I Discovered Poetry); for the Batchelder, Vango; for the Schneider, A Time to Dance. And for the Newbery, it almost seems like it has to be Brown Girl Dreaming.
Now, to wait with bated breath for Monday morning so I can see just how wrong I am, twice over!
2014 was a weird year. I keep thinking that this wasn’t a particularly strong year, and then I look back at what I’ve read, reviewed, and at the other coverage here, and I realize that I’m crazy because this was a great year for YA lit. (The fact that those titles don’t immediately leap to mind says much more about me than necessary so I’ll just stop talking now.) Here, in alphabetical order by author, are the books I support because they made me think and squee.
The Family Romanov, Candace Fleming: The pacing and tight plotting here are so brilliantly executed, and they’re just one piece of the great technical skill on display in Fleming’s history of the Romanovs. Equally impressive are the ways in which this book sheds light on income inequality in a relevant and relatable context.
I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson: All I can say is that this is the book that made my heart ache in the best way. I adore Jude and Noah, I’ll defend the story until I have no words left, and I could go on and on about Nelson’s beautiful use of language.
How I Discovered Poetry, Marilyn Nelson: I really liked this elegant collection. The voice in particular—how Nelson goes from a small child to a teenager so seamlessly—just knocked me out. And then Karyn explained why the poetry is so good; how Nelson does so much within this tight structure. That’s when I kind of fell in love with this book.
The Riverman, Aaron Starmer: We’ve only just given this one a shout out here, but oh my word, how I adore this book. It is so thematically rich, filled with complex characters, and a fantastic story. If there are any surprises on Monday, I really want this to be one of them.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton: This Morris nominee by far my favorite debut of the year. Despite my reservations about the final chapters, this is a novel with themes that continue to resonate in my mind.
My prediction list is actually not too different from my “If I Was the Committee” picks, because as I mentioned above, this was a strong year. There are so many books with strong arguments of support that I’m finding it hard to choose just five that I think may actually win. Here’s my attempt anyway (in no particular order):
We Were Liars, E. Lockhart: Although I don’t think it stands above any other book in any criteria category, it’s solid and consistent writing. Personally, this one didn’t move me emotionally or dazzle me with its technical skill (I’m one of those readers who didn’t find the twist shocking at all); however, I respect the analysis that others have made, making this the one book I actually expect to see win, or receive an honor, on Monday.
Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith: Mad and wildly ambitious with so much to discuss. This is
The Family Romanov, Candace Fleming: For all the reasons I state above, plus, I think there are a lot of people who feel the same way.
I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson: For all the reasons above, plus, it just might be this year’s Eleanor & Park; that is to say, it’s a widely adored heart book with enough depth to discuss at length.
Egg & Spoon, Gregory Maguire: Truthfully? I’m reading this now and the only thing I can be sure of for Monday is that there will be at least one surprise and Maguire’s book could be it. The writing is crisp, the voice is clear, and the characters are intriguing. If not one of my personal faves, why not this?
Last year was a total blur for me, so I’m excited to be feeling slightly more coherent now. I’m not sure I have any better sense of what will or won’t win, but I definitely have my top heart books all lined up and am ready to gush in totally random, haphazard order:
This One Summer, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. I have to go with what I started with back in my review (waaaaaaaaay back at the start of this blogging season — seems like a lifetime ago now!): squeeeeeeeeee! This book amazed me, it blew me away, and it’s the book I can’t get out of my head. It’s the first one I wrote up here, and I’ve held every other book up to it, and….well, I think there should be a sticker on this one, come Monday morning.
How I Discovered Poetry, Marilyn Nelson. Maybe Karyn primed the pump a little bit with her review (I read that before picking this title up), but I thought the blend of genres and the beauty of the language and — and — and! It’s all been said already, but I would be delighted to hear this one named from the podium.
A Volcano Beneath the Snow, Albert Marrin. This one has flown under the radar a bit — FamRom is getting a lot more buzz. But honestly, this was a really great year for nonfiction, and since there won’t be an ENF for Volcano, a little Printz love would make me really happy.
I Remember Beirut, Zeinia Abichared. I know people feel like it doesn’t stand alone, but as an exploration of memory and the events that shape give shape to our childhood and thus our very selves, this slight graphic novel packs quite a punch. I still find myself thinking about some of the images from the pages — the Abichared family as game pieces; Zeinia and her mother separated by geography and situation and words unsaid and powerful memories at the end. I hope the committee picks it, but understand that it’s really a long shot.
As far as what I think might take get stickered on Monday… Well, here are my best guesses.
How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson. I feel scandalously bold, going with two nonfiction titles.
This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. Because this book foreverrrrrrrrr.
We Were Liars by E Lockhart. Again, way back in September, our comments held multitudes — there was buzz, there was backlash, it was the best of books, etc etc. I think a committee could stand behind this one, though — the plot and pacing, the voice, the huge reveal.
But let’s hear from everyone! Predictions? Best guesses? Bring ’em to the comments!
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