Tag Archives: Books that might win other awards

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Reviewed by Andrea, Windsor Library

more happy(Mild spoilers in this one)

Aaron Soto is recovering from his father’s suicide and finds comfort in both his relationship with his girlfriend, Genevieve, and a new neighborhood friend, Thomas. Within the backdrop of this story is the futuristic Leteo Institute which is administering a trendy procedure that suppresses memories; it becomes more attractive to Aaron the more confusing his life becomes.

This book received a lot of praise; it garnered 3 starred reviews from the 6 review journals we look at, which is right in the wheelhouse of a medal. And with good reason. This book hits a lot of high points in regards to the criteria for a Printz award.

Its story is, in a word, messy. To say it’s contemporary realistic fiction would be inaccurate, but to call it sci-fi doesn’t make sense either. There’s a coming out story intertwined with the survivors of suicide story. The setting would be enough for one book, to say nothing of being just that in this one – the setting. Aaron’s story is all of these and Silvera combines them well. Think of all the stories that you are living right now; they are all happening simultaneously. So does Aaron’s.

The setting and his voice are excellent. His is the voice who is struggling with identity, friendship, family; he is, in a word, a teenager. He is sad and confused, betrayed and loved. It wasn’t overbearing or melodramatic. Aaron is thoughtful and introspective and the voice of the book mirrors that. With a plot as robust as this, Silvera does well to not overdue this element. The same can be said for the setting. A kid in the Bronx can be its own coming-of-age story. As can a kid in a house that is healing from a suicide. As can a kid coming out among a group of ultra masculine friends and their neighborhood. It’s a tribute to Silver’s writing to say that these are all woven into the storyline, that they affect and are affected by it, very well.

What gives me pause is the whole of the book. I’m looking over recent winners and see big, stylized, giant worldbuilding books that have a lot going for them in ways that add splash to their Printz appeal. Historical settings, dystopian themes, and structural choices are also at play for those recognized. The only one that stands out as a straightforward, well done story is Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley from 2012. In this way it reminds me of When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds; simple, honest, yet memorable gets the job done. I have hope that it will stand out for the Morris Award, given to debuts in YA, but have less confidence for the Printz. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Advertisements

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Reviewed by Geri, Ridgefield Library

I fear my considerations for whether or not this book is a Printz contender are muddled.

A queen, who may or may not be Snow White (her name is never given, but in the past she had slept for a year and spent time among dwarves) hears about a princess who was placed under a sleeping spell. The spell appears to be spreading, plunging surrounding villages into sleep, so the queen sets out with three dwarf friends to see if the princess can be awakened and the spell broken before it reaches her kingdom. Since this is written by Gaiman, he twists the tale. Snow White is a tough, no nonsense queen who leaves her pretty, little prince husband at home. There is one person awake in the sleeping castle – a very elderly woman – but who is she exactly? And it is not giving too much away to say that the sleeper awakens, but that she is nothing like what the queen, or readers expect. Unlike Gaiman’s Newbery-winning Coraline, this is one of his fairy tale retellings (he likes them), so will the Printz committee look askance at that? That it is not 100% ‘new?’ Also, the book is riddled with Riddell’s gorgeous pen and ink drawings (see what I did there?). Again, this could go either way for the award. The committees have been rewarding graphic formats lately, but this is not a really a graphic novel, rather a heavily illustrated book. And it is stunning. The award focuses on the writing, but this whole package tells a story and it is amazing.

New version of old story, not quite a graphic novel but the illustrations work so well with the text they enhance the whole = muddled meditations.

(By the by, this is another title that I listened to first. And it is just how one would imagine a fairy tale brought to life would sound. Having a full cast helps you suspend disbelief. The narrator has a wry tone and a smart English accent. The performers use English accents for the most part – making the royal characters upper class, while workers in the pub are vaguely cockney.The dwarves are gloriously Scottish, which is somehow completely fitting.The performers’ voices give nothing away, letting surprises hit listeners in a good way. Music and sound effects immerse you in the tale. You will think you are seated in a pub, or walking through a stone-walled castle, or most disconcertingly, hearing maggots chomping nearby.)

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Reviewed by Shannon, Windsor Library

20560137I’m not even sure how to summarize this book because so much happens and it’s so good. It takes place in a fantasy world kind of like ancient Rome where there is a caste system. The story is told from two perspectives: Laia who is a Scholar slave and Elias who is a Mask soldier. Although they start out very separate from one another, their stories end up crossing paths more than once and getting entangled in multiple ways. Both of them have a potential love interest of their own, but they are also drawn to each other, which provided an interesting love square rather than the typical love triangle. Their relationships are all complex and honest and confusing. But, the story is so much more than romance. It’s about survival, family, friendship, magic, and bravery. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel in April.

As for the Printz award, I think this one could end up with an honor because it is so unique and so well written, and it was one that made me feel a lot of different emotions (always a good sign). Since it is high fantasy though I’m not sure that it can get the win.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Reviewed by Shannon, Windsor Library

18692431I had high expectations for this book which may be why I ended up feeling a little disappointed. Madeline is allergic to everything and she has spent her whole life inside her house because of SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency). Most of the time she is fine with living inside, but when Olly and his family move into the house next door she starts to want more for herself and her life. Madeline is a great character, and her and Olly’s romance is very sweet and enjoyable to read.  Yoon did a nice job of playing with the format of the story by including some illustrations, emails, and IM conversations. But, I would have liked to see more development with some of the secondary characters and their stories and I felt like there were some holes in the main storyline. Olly could have even been developed more, and I may have liked the book better if it had alternated between their two perspectives. There is also a big plot twist toward the end that I predicted very early on, and I hate when books don’t surprise me (which is why I had the VERY unpopular opinion of not liking TFIOS that much).

One thing I really liked was that Madeline was both Asian and African American so I thought it was really refreshing to have a diverse character like that be the central figure in a mainstream YA romance. Overall, I really liked the book, but the writing was not the best and I don’t think it deserves Printz attention.

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Reviewed by Sara, Simsbury Library

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon meets Blue by responding to a post on the school’s “anonymous confessions” Tumblr. They start an email relationship that Martin accidentally reads on the shared library computers. Martin screenshots the messages and blackmails Simon into including him in events so he can be closer to Simon’s friend Abby.

Simon can be real with Blue. They openly share their feelings about being gay, how and when they want to come out to their friends and family, which we get to experience as readers, and other shared happenings at school. They attend the same school but don’t know each other. We read the story through Simon’s narrative and email conversations between him and Blue. They fall in love as time goes on and Simon wants to meet. Thanks to Martin’s public outing of Simon, Blue now knows who he is, but Simon only has guesses as to who Blue can be. Then he finds out exactly who Blue is…

This book was hilarious and adorable! I would recommend it to any teen that loved Better Nate Than Ever. Filled with friend drama, sibling bonds, and finding that first true love. Can it win the Printz? Maybe. I kept forgetting to pay attention to how well the author wrote because I was too involved in Simon’s story. Can it win the Morris Debut Award? Yes! I’m going to go about nominating it right now… Who knows. The book I recommended last year at this blog received the same award! Go Gabi!

 

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

Reviewed by Sara, Simsbury Library

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir

As I was reading this graphic memoir, I realized that I am probably not qualified to really review a graphic book. However, I love graphic stories and found Honor Girl to be an important book for our teens of today.

Maggie, aged 15, is attending girls camp in 2000. She crushes on Erin, 19, who is a camp counselor and openly gay. When Maggie discovers she likes Erin, and in turn realizing that she is gay as well, she only tells a few people at camp. Of course word gets around. She gets spoken to about “don’t ask, don’t tell” and that girls camp is really not a place for girls like her. She gets close to Erin at times but it doesn’t get past holding hands.

Outside of the romance, camp is filled with a lot of fun and interesting stories for Maggie. These include sleepwalking in the middle of the night, rifle practice and awards, as well as getting stranded during a flood that prevented them from going back across the river to camp.

Can a graphic book win the Printz? American Born Chinese won in 2007 and This One Summer won an honor last year. Thrash writes a honest, forthcoming story about what it was like, for one summer at least, to grow up a gay teen in a place that does not accept gays. The story itself draws you into Maggie’s world of summer camp and you want to know the outcome. The drawings are very simple. I had a hard time a few times distinguishing one blond girl from another. I felt that the drawings were complete and easy to understand. Thrash has a memoir that will reach today’s teens, especially speaking to those who are questioning their sexuality or have a friend doing so. Can it win the Printz? Again, I think there is a lot of competition but I wouldn’t put it past an Honor.

On a fun note, it was cool to discover that Maggie and I were the same age in the story (being 15 in the year 2000) and in love with Backstreet Boys. If you happened to have loved boy bands in the 90s, early 2000s, you should check out Maggie’s impersonation of Kevin Richardson.

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

 

Reviewed by Amy, Ferguson Library

acciendtThis lyrical, mysterious novel walks the line between true paranormal and magical realism, as it brings up questions of love, safety, and what is real.  Every year Cara, her sister Alice, her ex-step-brother Sam and her mom endure the accident season.  A month in which accidents happen to all of them.  Accidents that include everything from cuts and bruises to broken bones, concussions, near drownings and, during the worst years, death.  As the story unfolds, Cara searches for Elsie, a girl who she hopes has answers for her.  Elsie is the girl who has no true friends.  But for some reason, Elsie has appeared in all of Cara’s pictures, and when Cara decides to confront her, it turns out she has disappeared, and no one even seems worried.  In fact no one seems to even really remember she exists.  Not even the teachers.

Fowley-Doyle allows the story to unfold slowly, as Cara uncovers secret upon secret about the past, about her family, and even about herself.  The writing is powerful and lyrical and unusually polished for a first novel.  Each chapter draws the reader further into Cara’s eerie and uncanny world, as the story’s layers first pile up and then slowly peel back.

Somehow, the story seems to move at both a leisurely pace and at breakneck speed at the same time, immersing the reader in this strange world, and masterfully building suspense, making the book difficult to put down.

Fowley-Doyle neatly walks the wire between creating an overly neat ending and leaving the reader without enough answers.  The ending is emotionally satisfying, yet some questions are left unanswered, leaving the reader to walk away pondering what just happened.

This isn’t to say the book is perfect.  Putting aside the suspension of disbelief needed for the excessive paranormal elements, there is the practical issue that it seems impossible that no one would have alerted the authorities about the numerous injuries and raised questions of abuse.  The magical realism also sometimes becomes overly immersive, threatening to overwhelm the story itself, and while Cara maintains that she has an overly active imagination, and perhaps she imagined some of what happens, it sometimes feels as if the author isn’t sure what to believe either.  Additionally, some of the supernatural elements feel somewhat superfluous or overly symbolic, as if the author was attempting to do too much.  And finally, several of the secondary characters are thinly drawn ciphers, primarily there to drive the plot.

However, the story is written as if the only people important in Cara’s life are her small circle, and as it is written in first person, the lack of development of secondary characters could, in fact, be seen as a purposeful reflection of the way Cara sees (or doesn’t see, as it were) them, and not a fault of the writing.  Ultimately, the intensity and lyricism of the writing, the general tightness of the plot, the careful unfolding of the story and back-story, the well-developed and complex main characters, the powerful tension as the plot unfolds, and the unique premise come together to create a fascinating and unforgettable whole that is well worth reading, and certainly hard to put down.

Whether or not it will stand up to other titles this year in the awards forum is a good question.  Nevertheless, it is a fascinating and different read, and well worth picking up.  A great story from a new author worth watching.