Kimberly and I like to do a mid-year Printz and Morris award prediction post, and then we like to follow it up before the actual Youth Media Awards to take a stab at what we think the winners and honorees could be. Since we know the Morris shortlist already, at least we have a 1 in 5 shot of guessing correctly.
I already talked at length about Seraphina and the Morris Award, and even though it’s one of the titles I haven’t read yet, I put my bets on it. Seraphina earned six starred reviews, and the reviews of it outside the trades were glowing. It combines literary merit with reader appeal. As much as I loved Laura Buzo’s Love and Other Perishable Items, I think it may lack in the literary department at the end of the day. That’s not to say it’s not literary or well written — it is — but I think Seraphina will edge the other titles out.
I’ve been horrible about keeping up with commenting over at the Someday My Printz blog, but I have kept a close eye on it. I’ve also been spending a little time over at Crossreferencing, too, because there’s been a lot of good discussion of Printz titles there. Between those two blogs, my own reading, and other review reading, I’ve got a few titles that are standing out to me as potential Printz picks.
A number of these titles are ones I was thinking about at the mid-way point of 2012. I don’t want to say last year was a bad year for YA fiction, but it might have been a weaker year for literary, Printz-y fiction.
Let me start with my dark horse title. I saw this pop up over at Crossreferencing as a dark horse title, and the more I think about it, the more I think there just may be something to this title that could give it an honor.
Anna Jarzab’s The Opposite of Hallelujah has much to unpack. There’s not only spirituality and religion, but there’s family dynamics, there’s PTSD, there’s disordered eating, there’s romance, and then there’s science and art and so much more. The writing is great, the pacing is strong, and even if it’s not a perfect book, I do think it has a lot of the qualities of a Printz title.
I’ve been keeping an eye on the reviews of Jarzab’s title on Goodreads, and I’m surprised and baffled by the fact there are only 56 reviews. The book came out in early October, so it hasn’t been around a super long time, but that still seems like a very low number of reviews. A number of bloggers who I read have read and reviewed this one to similarly strong positive opinions as mine. I’d love to see this title get more attention, and I think it’s possible the Printz committee could look favorably upon so many elements of the story.
Both Kat Rosenfield’s Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone and Adam Rapp’s The Children and the Wolves were titles on my mid-year list, and I still stand by them both. Rosenfield’s book didn’t make any of the “best of” lists this year, which was a shocker to me. The writing, the dual perspectives, and the mystery woven throughout were compelling. This book is literary without trying too hard to be so. As for Rapp’s title, I think it’s the way he tackles such a horrid story that makes it stand out. The writing is strong, the three voices are distinct, and the way he manages to make these kids so middle school, despite their awful situations, is noteworthy.
I think Martine Leavitt’s My Book of Life by Angel has a good shot, too, and this hasn’t gotten a whole lot of talk, either. It’s a realistic title, set in the late 80s (or maybe early 90s) and it’s told in verse. This is a story about a girl caught up in childhood prostitution in Vancouver. It’s a painful, dark read and its writing is strong. Leavitt’s been a National Book Award finalist before, so she’s got the writing chops.
I don’t need to say much more about AS King’s Ask the Passengers which hasn’t already been addressed by Kim and my’s joint review.
I haven’t read Elizabeth Fama’s Monstrous Beauty, but Kimberly has. From the reviews, it sounds like it has the literary chops of Printz-muster. Even though I wasn’t enamored with Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity the way many others were, I do think there’s something to be said about not only the number of starred reviews it earned, but the number of times it appeared on last year’s “best of” lists. In my own reading, I see what’s working here and I see how it has the traits to take it to Printz contender.
I think Matthew Quick’s Boy21 might be another dark horse title, but it’s one that I think has the potential. It’s well-written, tackles race and fitting in and does so without ever becoming an issue book, and it has that something to it that feels classic. I’ve also already spent significant time talking about why Antonia Michaelis’s The Storyteller feels like a Printz to me. It’s dark. It’s a fairy tale. It’s got so much literary depth to it. It reminds me, like I’ve mentioned before, of Janne Teller’s Nothing.
My last Printz prediction — and I know I’ve offered up more than 5 by this point — is Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, for all of the reasons I listed about as to why it’s the most likely Morris winner. Do I think this year can see a debut on the Printz list as well as the Morris list, like last year? I do.
I lied. A couple other title contenders include The Wicked and the Just (another title overlooked on the “best of” lists) and Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island. I wonder, too, about Jodi Anderson’s Tiger Lily.
Note I still don’t include John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars here. I think the title has too much baggage attached to it for people to read it without seeing the actual problems which may exist in it. I haven’t read it personally, but, there is something to be said about how many lists it made and how much people just expect it to be a Printz. I still stand by the statement that I don’t think it will make the cut.
I agree almost completely with Kelly’s picks. Since this year was a pretty slim reading year for me, I don’t have any to add. I did want to highlight Code Name Verity, Ask the Passengers, and The Wicked and the Just as having particular Printz possibility, though. It should come as no shock to you that I’m rooting for Code Name Verity. Historical fiction books are often awards darlings (such as the Newbery last year), and this book was so well-crafted. (I don’t think any other book deserves the term “well-crafted” as much as this one.) The other two are great books, too, with The Wicked and the Just being a bit of a dark horse. Like the folks at Someday My Printz Will Come, I felt the chapters from Gwenhwyfar’s perspective were a bit weaker, but the book overall is original, well-researched, and integrates the two girls’ character arcs with the historical setting very, very well.
Still, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the winner turned out to be a book that flew completely under the radar, that I didn’t even think to consider, but that, after some thought, I should have included. That’s how these things generally seem to go, and it always makes the award ceremony exciting. (That said, I would shed not a single tear if Code Name Verity won, thereby proving me right after all…)
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).