Since it’s the mid-year point and we’ve read a number of YA titles for the year, we thought we’d give it a go on our predictions for potential Printz and Morris titles. This is in no way scientific but rather based on what we’ve read ourselves, what we’ve read via the various reviews, and just some good old gut feelings.
To be honest, very little has stood out to me this year so far as Printz-worthy. There have been way more books that have sort of emerged into the Morris-worthy pile for me, and I’m going to make the bold prediction that the future Printz winner will be a debut novelist.
I’m pretty sure it’s heresy to not list the John Green book here, right? I’m okay with that. Green’s book garnered a lot of praise and earned a number of stars. I don’t plan on reading it, so I can’t comment on what it does or doesn’t accomplish on a literary scale. But what I can say is this: I think it’s going to be very hard to fairly assess his book and separate John Green from it. So while it’s made a bunch of Printz contender lists, I wonder how much of it has to do with the book itself and how much has to do with it being a John Green product. Either way, I don’t see it making the list.
The Children and the Wolves by Adam Rapp is one of my leading contenders. I’ve reviewed it and called it as much. It’s literary, it’s dark, it’s gripping, and it’s memorable. If I were to compare it to past Printz books, I’d put it up there with Janne Teller’s Nothing in terms of what it accomplishes.
Catch & Release was another early standout in my mind this year, and it’s another one I’ve reviewed. Woolston’s reputation for strong, literary writing was cemented when she won the Morris award for The Freak Observer, and as much as I liked that book, I think Catch & Release was an even stronger book.
Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick stands out in my mind because it has great voice, strong writing, and it sort of resonates with me on the same level that Lucy Christopher’s Printz honored Stolen did. I reviewed this one earlier.
Perhaps the biggest book of the year in terms of buzz (after the Green book, of course) is Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity. This book is either going to be all or nothing in my mind, and by that I mean, it’s either going to sweep the awards or it’s going to be like that time Gary Schmidt didn’t get any love for Okay for Now when everyone thought it was a no-brainer to sweep the awards. My opinion on Wein’s book is the unpopular one — I found it incredibly slow and boring. I think the book required a lot of interest on the part of the reader in a lot of niche subject areas. I’m not a huge World War II era fan, and stories about pilots and spies don’t resonate with me. That said, I get what Wein accomplished in the book and see why so much love has been bestowed.
Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Drowned Cities has also gotten a ton of great reviews, and despite having already won a Printz award, the reviews of this one suggest it might even be stronger than Ship Breaker. I have not read this one, but reviews like this make me want to.
I was really unimpressed with Karen Hesse’s Safekeeping, but I think a lot of what made me dislike the book will be what is appealing for many others. It’s a dystopia, but it’s not futuristic. It’s a series of cohesive vignettes that are layered with photographs to give readers a sense of this world being wholly ours and not anything but our world. It’s a twist on the trope, and the writing itself is strong. I just found the plot to be disappointing.
Those are my biggest picks for the Printz right now — excluding a few I’m going to talk about under the Morris category. A couple other possibilities I’ve thought about are AS King’s Ask the Passengers (which was my favorite of King’s books to date), Lindsey Barraclough’s Long Lankin (which I loved and will blog about soon), Melina Marchetta’s Froi of the Exiles, Pete Hautman’s The Obsidian Blade, and maybe Matthew Quick’s Boy21.
The number of contenders in this category is pretty large, in my mind, and I think so many of them are crossover contenders for the Printz.
If there was one book all year that has stood out to me as a Morris (and Printz) contender this year based on reviews alone, it’s J Anderson Coats’s The Wicked and the Just. It’s received three star reviews and the blog reviews I’ve read have found it to be great.
Also racking up a few stars is SD Crockett’s After the Snow, which I reviewed here. I think the writing itself was decent though I found the plot to be a bit confusing and I found the main character to have been a bit inconsistent and underdeveloped. But professional reviews seemed to have seen a lot more to this book than me. This one is also a potential Printz book in my mind.
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield is one of my favorites this year (and the review is forthcoming). It’s eerily reminiscent of Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls, except it is not at all magical realism. It’s a contemporary with a mystery woven in it about growing up and making choices about whether to leave the place you’re comfortable with or leave it all behind. The writing is top notch.
I wasn’t thrilled with Emily Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post but without doubt, it is a literary heavyweight and deserves recognition for what it achieves. It racked up four starred reviews, as well. This is another one I can see the Printz committee spending a little time with as well.
Erin Saldin’s The Girls of No Return is a story that I keep returning to in my mind. It’s risky, and it’s well-written, and I think those two things will give it a boost with the committee.
I have not read Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina because it’s not really my cup, but I’ve read some great reviews of this fantasy title. It’s supposed to be well written and have great world building. I like that the cover has a dragon on it, which ultimately is what will push the Morris committee over to this title (I jest).
There are a couple other titles I think could be Morris titles at this stage in the game, but I’ve had a harder time committing them down in my predictions. The Morris award does a good job of selecting books that fall on both sides of the literary/commercial divide, so it’s hard to know precisely what will or won’t make a book stand out to them (they care more about appeal to audience than the Printz award does). I’ve personally nominated a title for consideration, which is Trish Doller’s Something Like Normal, and obviously, I’d love to see that one among the selected.
I think these sort of predictions are always tough for me, mostly because I read so much genre fiction, which is usually overlooked by awards committees. I’ve read some novels that I thought were terrific this year, but not a whole lot that I feel could be real contenders for the Printz or the Morris.
Of the 2012 books I’ve read, Grave Mercy and Cinder are my favorites so far. Cinder is a debut, but I don’t think it has the “literary chops” (whatever that really means) to nab a Morris. That said, the Morris committee usually shortlists a good mix of genre and contemporary books, so it’s not out of the running. Grave Mercy is not a debut and I don’t consider it a Printz contender, despite its quality. (Perhaps it’s because I had too much fun reading it? Sorry, that’s an unfair jab at the Printz committees.) I also thoroughly enjoyed Monstrous Beauty (full review to come later – this one should be on your radar), but it’s not a debut, so it’s out of the running for the Morris. Meg Rosoff’s There is No Dog has gotten some positive critical feedback, and she’s a previous Printz winner, so there’s some possibility there.
The only book I’ve read that I believe could be a serious Printz contender, though, is A. S. King’s Ask the Passengers. Strangely enough, the only one of hers that’s garnered Printz love is the one I liked the least, but I’m hoping that doesn’t hold true here. Ask the Passengers is a fantastic book – expertly written, interesting, important, and timely. We’ll be covering it in more depth a bit later in the year. There aren’t many authors who make reading contemporary realistic fiction enjoyable for me, but King does it every time.
Of the 2012 books I haven’t read, there are a few standout titles worth mentioning that have gotten some award buzz. Kelly’s mentioned a few of them and I agree with most of her picks – they’re definite contenders – so won’t rehash them here. I will add a few: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi has gotten at least two starred reviews and could be a contender for the Morris; Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is another Morris contender I’ve also heard many good things about; Insignia by S. J. Kincaid could be under consideration for the Morris as well. (All three of these books are also ones I plan to read myself!)
As for the Printz, I don’t have much to add that Kelly hasn’t already mentioned. I’ve been concentrating on reading books I know I will enjoy this year, and, well, Printz-worthy titles usually aren’t ones that make my favorites list.
What are your thoughts? Anything we missed or anything we’re way off on?
Kelly Jensen is a former librarian turned editor for Book Riot. She's the author of IT HAPPENS: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader and the forthcoming Feminism For The Real World (Algonquin Young Readers, Spring 2017).