Since the year is now half over, Kim and I thought we’d offer up what we think is Printz-worthy so far this year. For those unfamiliar with the Printz award, it’s the American Library Association’s big award for young adult literature, and a boiled down list of criteria is available right here. We’re going to throw a few titles each at you and our reasons why we think they’ll be contenders. Moreover, we will only mention titles published before today, so no advanced titles are mentioned here.
Please share your comments after our post. We’d love to know your thoughts on our picks or what titles you’ve been thinking are worthy that we may have missed. And make sure you head over to Janssen’s blog, too, as she’ll be posting her Printz predictions today as well.
I have to be honest: not that many titles have screamed “Printz-Worthy” to me so far this year. So, be warned that some of my picks aren’t ones I’ve read yet, but ones I’m going by on author reputation and other reviews alone. In no particular order:
Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere is one that I didn’t much care for, but it has a lot of literary merit to it. The story is about loss and about love, and it has a timeless element to it. Yep, I’m putting a debut up for Printz consideration, and it won’t be the only one on my list.
Last year, I think Marcelo in the Real World may have had the Printz stolen from it. This year, I think it might happen for Francisco X. Stork. You can read my review of this one later this week, but I was impressed with the writing and I think, again, we have something timeless here in terms of theme. And the issue of overcoming adversity is one that the committee likes to see if it’s done well and a little differently (and it is here).
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver has gotten a lot of praise from reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and readers. Again, it wasn’t my favorite, but it was well-written, and it has good appeal: one girl I work with told me she picked it up and read the whole thing in one night because it was so good. The writing is strong, and the story is a twist of a couple familiar literary tropes. I’d be impressed if this debut writer did snag the Printz, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she won’t honored, at least.
The Cardturner by Louis Sacher was a smart little book about Bridge. It was well written and clever, and Sacher’s move from middle grade to young adult novels was pretty successful. He paints a good main character, and I think that the writing is worthy of Printz consideration.
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick has garnered four starred reviews this year, and it makes me think it might be worth considering (the dark horse, perhaps?). This is an adventure-survival story set in the early 1900s just after the steampunk era that librarians seem obsessed with right now. The writing has been described as gripping and compelling, and the story is one that sounds like it contains elements similar to Adam Rapp’s Punkzilla, which grabbed a Printz honor last year.
Two other titles I thought about included Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta and Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. The first I eliminated because Marchetta won for Jellicoe Road in 2009 and the second I eliminated since it was first published in 2007. I will also say I won’t be surprised if Will Grayson, Will Grayson gets considered, since John Green is a perennial librarian favorite (even though this is far from his best work and not one I’d think worthy of this honor).
When making my list, I checked out the running list of starred reviews from professional journals, which is worth looking at. I have to be honest: I’m surprised just how many starred books there are this year when quite honestly, very few have been memorable or all that good so far. But I digress.
For a bonus, I thought I’d throw a couple of my favorites I think will be considered heavily for the Cybils — a little less on the literary merit side and a little more on the teen appeal factors than those above. Some Girls Are, Dirty Little Secrets, and Harmonic Feedback all stood out to me this year as strongly written with compelling story lines and wide teen appeal.
The hallmark of the Printz award is literary excellence for teens, regardless of popularity or appeal. This is what I kept in mind as I began to think about my Printz predictions. Like Kelly, not all of my picks are books I have read – I’m going by authors whose quality of work I trust and also (but not as heavily) by amount of buzz generated.
Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher
While this was previously published in the UK, the American edition was published in January of this year, making it eligible for the award according to the ALA’s rules. While I was not a huge fan of the book, I can see it winning the Printz: it’s maturely written, has a unique concept (a living prison), and is very complex. It’s also hugely long, and judging by last year’s winner, Going Bovine, the longer the better where the Printz is concerned.
Monsters of Men, by Patrick Ness
This is a personal pick for me, very close to my heart. (It also hasn’t officially been published in the US yet, so I’m cheating a little, but it HAS been published in the UK…so it’s only half-cheating). I loved the first book in Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and loved the second book, The Ask and the Answer, almost as much. I’ve yet to delve more than a few pages into the third book, Monsters of Men, because I know that it will be an incredibly tense experience. These books are not light reading. The first two books both had fantastic plots and some of the best and most creative writing I’ve read in quite some time. I’d be ecstatic to see Ness take home the Printz.
Fever Crumb, by Philip Reeve
I haven’t read this one, but it’s gotten rave reviews from four of the major review sources, and I’ve been very impressed with other books by Reeve. Reeve’s concept for his “Hungry City” chronicles, to which this book is a prequel, is unique, and it is backed up by outstanding writing. I also have a weakness for strong female protagonists, and this book has been on my to-read list since I discovered it featured one.
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, by Francisco X. Stork
I’m in the middle of reading this one for our round-robin review (stay tuned!), and while I think the writing is good, the story just does not appeal to me. Still, the book deals with some heavy themes (death, rape, violence), and for a lot of people, that’s an automatic plus. While I don’t think the book’s writing is stellar enough to make it award-worthy, I know that Stork’s last book was a critical darling, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see this one win.
I think these picks really show my biases – I read a LOT of science fiction and fantasy and tend to stay away from much realistic YA literature. Still, I’m always thrilled when a “genre” book garners awards, and I hope the books on this list aren’t overlooked. A few other books I think might be in the running so far this year but which I did not include on the above list are:
- A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner’s newest set in the same world as her Newbery honor book The Thief, which I did not include because I’m not sure if it qualifies as a young adult novel;
- Nothing, by Janne Teller, which I feel is a shoe-in for the Mildred L. Batchelder award; and
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson, simply because it’s by John Green, who is a perennial librarian favorite, but an author whose work I have never read (I know, I know), so did not include.
What are your Printz picks so far this year?