Mid-year Morris and Printz Predictions

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.  

Kelly’s Predictions 

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.

Printz Contenders

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.

Morris Contenders

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.

Kimberly’s Predictions

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?

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  1. says

    I NEED to read SERAPHINA.

    I hope people can separate John from TFIOS, because the book itself is beautiful — the fact that he's the one who wrote it is just an added bonus.

  2. says

    re SAFEKEEPING: the appeal here (for me) is that its pretty much an emo, non action book about the collapse of society; much more about feelings and metaphor, almost like a foreign film — for example, I got no helpful hints at all from SAFEKEEPING on how to survive such an event (unlike ASHES, for example, or ROT & RUIN). what I did get in spades was the emotions, the fear, the isolation, the confusion — and metaphor because of how the various people came together at the end, more about faith in the future than in actual "this is what happened".

    • says

      I absolutely agree with you on what the appeal is on this one, but I felt like the execution and the set up overshadowed the narrative (which I found in and of itself problematic — I actually had little emotional connection or found little of the fear/confusion imbued throughout). That said, there's a reason I think it has a Printz shot, even if I didn't like it. The merits are there.

    • says

      While I liked this b/c it's different (dystopia for folks who don't like dystopia; I wouldn't include it on most dystopia booklists, tho, b/c I don't think it will appeal to the HG/dystopia crowd), I'm mulling it and awards. I think its worth discussion at the table; so it'll depend what else is on the table.

    • says

      I think that's the thing: it should be discussed. Much as I didn't like what it did, it did do something different (and maybe achieved it for other readers with savvier eyes than mine). And I agree — I wouldn't include this on a standard dystopia book list. I think it has much more appeal for fans of contemporary and lit fic than genre fiction.

      It's been a much better year for commercial fiction than literary fiction.

  3. says

    Also, Kelly, the best way to preserve our magical friendship is to never, ever talk about our having different stances on CNV. We shall act as if that book doesn't exist.

    • says

      Please do give me some credit for admitting to the book's strengths and award-worthiness despite my less-than-enthusiastic response toward it.

      I know saying this could result in disaster, but I sort of see CNV as the Okay for Now of 2012. Which, it should surprise no one, I was not a fan of either. I KNOW.

    • says

      There are definately winners where I don't like them/ they don't appeal to me yet I see the validity of the title getting an award nod!

    • says

      Well, and I think that's what separates mature readers from non-mature readers. There are many award/honor books I disagree with — heck, there are books I was on committee for to earn distinctions — but I see the validity of the nod.

    • says

      wait, did you just call us mature? KIDDING. But I think that is a huge part of both reading as a librarian; bookseller; or reviewer, or reading for a committe. Being able to see why something got a nod, why people engage with a title, etc.

    • says

      Well, and it's also admitting your biases. I'm really looking forward to when the ladies over at the Printz blog dig into genre/genre biases.

    • says

      Just looked that one up and I could definitely see the discussion-worthy aspects of it. Alas, it is totally not my sorta book so I don't know if I'd pick it up (I have no idea if it's of the same ilk or not, but it sounds a little bit like Jennifer Donnelley's Revolution).

    • says

      The similarity to Revolution is superficial (stories at two different time periods, some time travel elements.) Both the mechanics of what is (or isn't) happening, as well as the overall meaning of the books (grief v evolution as artist) are different.

  4. says

    I have to go with John Green's book for the Printz also. It really is well done. My advisor (I'm in a master's program) read and loved Seraphina (and she is very picky), so I have to wonder if that will be a Printz honor book. I haven't read it yet, but it is on my wish list. The Wicked and the Just is a strong contender for an award.

    • says

      Lots of people have said that about TFiOS but I'm going to maintain my stance that it won't happen. I could see Seraphina garnering a little Printz discussion too — again, said without reading it myself but based on other reviews I've read. And yes: I am almost certain the Coats book will be a big talker!

    • says

      I just finished Seraphina…after putting it down 100 pages in for, like, a month. I could see it getting some love, but the first 100-150 pages really, really drag.

      The second half certainly picked up, but I could never get over that stalling point as an issue.

    • says

      I have the same feelings about Seraphina as I do about Code Name Verity. I understand why they get praise, but they are not what you'd call captivating reads. I have not been able to get back to Seraphina after struggling through about 150 pages.

    • says

      Tatiana, knowing other people feel the same way about CNV as I do is refreshing. I GET why that book garners such praise, but I found it the opposite of capitivating.

    • says

      Tatiana – I had the same issue with Seraphina. Made it to page 147, put it down and had to force myself to pick it back up. The only reason I did was numerous reviews cited it getting better and worth pushing through.

      Honestly, I'm not sure I agree with it being worth the first 150 pages, but it certainly was an interesting fantasy concept. It reminded me of Robin McKinley's Pegasus: great world-building, but is almost lost amongst its own details. It takes a while to understand why I should care about any of the characters.

      (I loved CNV. But I love a friendship story AND WWII stories).

    • says

      But "wide appeal" isn't a Printz mandate. There's a lot of discussion surrounding this for the Newbery, too. The committees for both awards don't factor in appeal, knowing that other awards and lists accomplish that.

    • says

      Oh, I wasn't trying to say that that's why these books shouldn't be acknowledged. It was just a general observation. For instance, I read CNV because of high ratings, but when it came to discussing the reading experience on Goodreads, it appeared that there were much more people who didn't connect with the story than the early reviews would imply.

    • says

      After all the Printz talk, I'll say this much: part of why I LOVE the Morris award is that appeal is considered more than with the Printz. I think that makes the field a little wider, a little more unpredictable (not that the Printz is at all predictable), and, at least for me, more interesting.

  5. says

    I haven't read FIOS yet myself, but I keep hearing that it's Green's best writing and better even than LOOKING FOR ALASKA, which won a Printz, so that might be what people are assessing. IDK! I haven't read any of the Printz titles you've mentioned, but CODE NAME VERITY has been getting a lot of acclaim. I can definitely see that one heading in this direction. Oh, is this the same Adam Rapp who is brothers with Broadway actor Anthony Rapp, I wonder. I believe his brother who wrote was named Adam… I didn't realize DROWNING INSTINCT was by Ilsa Blick! I've seen the book all over, but I only associate Blick with her zombie novel. Also, if it resonates t he way STOLEN does, I should check it out! I hear Blick is amazing, but I hate zombies, so….

    Ah, the Morris! I haven't read these yet, either, though I have both AFTER THE SNOW and THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN. I have been hearing AWESOME things about SERAPHINA, so I need to read that when it comes out! I always see CAMERON POST and think it's something light, so I really don't know much about it at all!

    I really love GRAVE MERCY and CINDER. I would love to see GRAVE MERCY win something…but there are many other awards, too! I will be reading MONSTROUS BEAUTY this week or next because I'm featuring during my upcoming SPLASH INTO SUMMER event! I agree, A.S. King could definitely be one to watch! I loved SHADOW AND BONE and I thought I'd HATE it. I didn't want to read it at all!! I still need to read UNDER THE NEVER SKY…

    • says

      I don't know about the Adam-Anthony Rapp connection but Adam Rapp has garnered good acclaim in the past too. Part of me wonders if this year's Printz titles are going to be pooled from authors who have earned the accolade already (thinking Rapp, Bacigalupi, King). And yep! Drowning Instinct is Bick, and it is fantastic. It's completely contemporary, so no zombies in it.

      Cameron Post is far from a light read. It's incredibly meaty and literary, which is why I think it'll get some talk going with the Morris folks.

      I can't comment on Kim's titles since I haven't read any of them (aside from the King which we were both big fans of).

    • says

      Adam and Anthony are, in fact, brothers. Adam writes plays, and Anthony has written a book and play.

      YA world and theatre world COLLIDE!!!

  6. says

    I think TFIOS is likely one that will get serious discussion and just not make it. Had it come out last year I would have had issues with some of the digression/info dump things that are key to his style, but questionable from a purely literary standpoint.

    What do you think of the Woodson? She somehow manages edgy topics with some beautiful writing, but I'm not sure there is enough meat there to make it a true contender.

    • says

      That is my thought on TFiOS — it'll get discussed but ultimately not make it. I think it'd be wrong if it did not get discussed.

      I read the Woodson and was incredibly underwhelmed. It was lacking in a lot of things. That said, I think the Woodson title has Quick Pick written all over it.

  7. says

    I adored CODE NAME VERITY, but guys, when you look at the cold numbers historical fiction doesn't do well with Printzes. There will be a post discussing this later in the week or next week over at Someday My Printz Will Come). P.S. Seeing MONSTROUS BEAUTY on this page–on one of my abs favorite blogs–is the hugest treat. Thanks, Kimberly.

    • says

      But that's looking at the numbers, and I am pretty confident the Printz committee doesn't let the past influence this year's crop of titles. That said, I have a feeling CNV will go the way of Schmidt this year, and I think there's going to be a lot of disappointment because of it.

    • says

      I'm curious what your thoughts on TFiOS are regarding the Printz, since it seems a lot of people are, uh, quite vocal about it here!

    • says

      But historical fiction does REMARKABLY well for the Newbery. All winner/honorees last year were historical fiction. Not that CNV is in contention for a Newbery, but I think historical fiction always gets a fair shake at awards in general.

    • says

      Well, sure, the historical fiction statistic is an unconditional probability. Conditioned on the book being as literary as CNV and as widely praised, the chances may be better, but honestly the unconditional numbers are really dramatic. Only one historical fiction book has won the gold in thirteen years, and that book was only half historical fiction (POSTCARDS FROM NO MAN'S LAND–Jacob's story is contemporary and Geertrui's is historical). Only 7 historical fiction titles have taken home honors, which represents 14% of total honor awards (and one of those books is MONSTRUMOLOGIST, which is also heavily fantasy, not pure historical fiction). I haven't looked at Newbery statistics, but that would be a fun next project.

      Kelly, you little devil. How did you know I had written something about TFiOS and EVERY DAY in my first comment (and deleted it)?!

    • says

      I am curious why (and I ask because I am not as intimately familiar with the numeric breakdowns of past Printz winners) the past numbers would matter? Do you think they have an influence at all, even if it's subconscious? Because in theory, a well-done book is a well-done book, regardless of genre.

      Also, I didn't even think about the Levithan book. I'm not quite there yet in my reading this year. I am surprised you deleted your thoughts, though.

    • says

      Elizabeth, I'd have to disagree w/ you about historical fiction, because I'd include those that are AU. It's an interesting point, though, does something being a mashup (fantasy & history) make it more likely to win? Anyway, here is my count: THE RETURNING (b/c quasi medieval feel); REVOLVER; MONSTRUMOLOGIST; MADMEN UNDERGROUND; OCTAVIAN II; NATION (AU EDWARDIAN/VICTORIAN); TENDER MORSELS (AU MEDIEVAL FEEL); YOUR OWN SYLVIA (i don't count this as nf); DREAMQUAKE (AU EDWARDIAN); OCTAVIAN I; BOOK THIEF; AIRBORN; LIZZIE BRIGHT. So I count 8 straight-out HF, 3 mild AU, and 2 that is more "vibe" than anything else.

    • says

      Kelly, it's not a matter of past years influencing current-year committees at all. I would be surprised if that happened, since I think each committee is fiercely independent, and takes pains to establish its own criteria (for instance, on the issue of series books). What I'm really noting is just something statistical (and historical, no pun intended): for whatever reason, committees in the past have not tended to favor historical fiction. It's a surprising fact, to me.

      Liz, yes! The categorization is definitely slippery because there is so much overlap in all of these ground-breaking books, almost by definition. But no, I didn't include alternate universes as historical fiction. Adding these crossovers wouldn't help the statistics for CODE NAME VERITY anyway, since that's a traditional historical fiction piece.

    • says

      This gets though to a question of genre vs. literary merit. I don't suspect the committee considers or worries about genre when they're assessing a book, so the lack of HF would be coincidental, rather than necessarily a trend/insight worth worrying about too much.

    • says

      I think of historical fiction as generally shooting for literary merit, though. So why it misses is an interesting question. But remember–and I should have mentioned this before–we don't know the denominator here. Perhaps so little historical fiction is published each year that 1/13 win and 7+/49 honor is not a bad track record. You can't argue the same to be true of fantasy, however, of which a ton is published every year, yet only 2/13 have been winners and 10/49 have been honors. There, again, numbers may be involved: of the fantasy published, how much is shooting for literary vs. commercial? The denominator (for Printz purposes) may be lower than it appears.

    • says

      So then here's another interesting question: if a year is full of one kind of book, say this year being heavy with the dystopia/post-apocalyptic theme, do you think that impacts the committee at all? I'm thinking fatigue by sheer number. I'm pulling that from your comment about how historical fiction is published less (and I agree) and thus, the chances are going to be slighter anyway and instead, offering it in reverse.

    • says

      I guess in theory if more of a particular genre is published in one year, and if some percentage of that "more" is of high literary quality, the odds are increased for a dystopia/post-apocalypse novel to get the nod. But I think the outcome of committee work, and especially committees choosing awards, is by its nature really hard to predict. Your fatigue idea is interesting: a glut of commercial books in a particular genre may make the committee miss the one or two that are more literary.

    • says

      I am finding it fascinating how many people are in agreement over the lack of literary/contending fiction this year, given the comments here and the post/comments over at the Printz blog. Fatigue, maybe?

  8. says

    I'm taking these as reading suggestions as I want to read more 'serious' YA this year. Have added most of these to my wishlist.

  9. says

    I am highly doubtful Green's latest is going to get any Printz acknowledgement. What made Looking Alaska unique is just not present in The Fault…, which is a pretty standard cancer fare.

    Overall, this year so far has been really light on quality fiction. Out of your list, Kelly, I can truly stand by only The Drowned Cities and The Wicked and the Just.

    Under the Never Sky, Grave Mercy, Cinder, Shadow and Bone might be popular with readers, but the quality of their writing is not sufficient to elevate them to the status of contenders.

    Haven't read King's upcoming novel yet, but it is definitely one of a very few I look forward to reading this year.

    • says

      It makes me happy to not be alone in my bold Green predictions. And despite not having read TFiOS, I know it follows some of the same road maps that his other books do.

      And yeah, I agree: strong fiction has been light this year. I've read stuff I've really liked, but it's been more commercial than literary.

  10. says

    Safekeeping also left me vaguely unsatisfied. I loved Mark Kurlansky's Battle Fatigue (25 October 2011– does it just miss?); for historical fiction, I think it's something the students will really like.

  11. says

    I need to beef up my reading this summer. I don't know if it's the books I'm choosing to read or what, but I usually haven't read many of the actual Printz award books when they're announced. The Morris awards, however, I'm usually familiar with. I'm glad you have this post because it's definitely going to drive some of my reading choices this summer!

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