It’s been a tough year for me in terms of keeping on top of Printz discussions and wanting to think about what the potential contenders for this year could be. You may or may not remember that after successfully petitioning to get on the Printz ballot and earning enough votes from my peers, I was elected to be a part of this upcoming year’s committee. But because of changes in YALSA policy, which essentially put a gag order on any sort of online discussion of eligible titles — meaning not even making book lists or recommending titles — I decided to step down from the committee.
This wasn’t an easy decision, but in time, it got easier. With work at Book Riot picking up and with knowing how much I enjoy talking about books here, on Book Riot, and in other online venues, it would be too hard for me to not talk about any 2015 YA titles at all. As much as it was a dream to do the Printz committee, personally and professionally, it’s more important for me to advocate for books and for readers. Keeping quiet for a year on every new book felt like a disservice.
And more, after thinking long and hard about the things I discussed in that post about stepping down, I chose not to renew my membership or continue involvement with YALSA. While I support those who are active and engaged with it, and while I will continue to talk up and champion the work members do, the organization as a governance doesn’t need my money or my time anymore. I’m finding far more value and personal/professional development in other venues.
All of that is to say at length what I said in the first sentence of this post: keeping on top of Printz talk has gone to the back burner for me. I’ve watched starred review sheets, and I’ve dipped in and out of reading the Someday My Printz Will Come blog. I had quite a bit to say about Grasshopper Jungle, but beyond that, I’ve been more of a lurker than a commenter. Even though I’ve not been super engaged, I do have to reiterate what I said last year: I think the 2014 crop of YA was weak. There were few standouts that screamed Printz. Many more debut novels screamed Morris to me, instead.
That said, I’ll definitely be in the audience on Monday for the Youth Media Award announcements, and because it’s a game I can’t stay away from entirely, I thought I’d throw out quickly some of the Printz titles I think have a shot, as well as a few titles I think may see honors in other categories.
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki: This one just…I have a feeling about it. I suspect the fact it earned a pile of stars doesn’t hurt its cause, either. Admittedly, this is a book I felt more strongly about in terms of its art than I did its story, and I’m curious how this one holds up under multiple reads and with strong scrutiny. This book also graced a number of “best of” lists when 2014 came to a close.
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn: Did this fall off people’s radar? I think it’s interesting we saw little talk about it throughout the year. I think this book is even better than Charm and Strange, and I think the writing is tighter, the story more gracefully woven, and it shows a little more experience than her debut. This got three starred reviews, and I suspect because Kuehn was a Morris winner last year, this will be talked about for a while by the committee.
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson: I was really underwhelmed by this one personally. I felt it was really overwritten, but it’s earned a pile of starred reviews and it showed up on numerous “best of” lists this year. It’s literary and it’s risky, probably especially in how it’s written.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King: An interesting phenomenon I noticed this year is that some titles seemed to have been forgotten about or weren’t talked up a whole lot in terms of their awards potential. The latest King book is one of them. Glory O’Brien earned 6 starred reviews and popped up on best of lists at the year’s end. But why aren’t more people talking about this one? I’m not 100% sold on this being a Printz title in a year where there are stronger books (I think King’s written better than this one), but this year, I think there’s a great shot for this particular title. While I know Printz doesn’t compare among titles, this is a standout.
Then there’s the Andrew Smith question I keep coming back to.
I’m not entirely sure why Grasshopper Jungle earned more attention this year than 100 Sideways Miles. We know Miles made the National Book Awards long list, but it’s Grasshopper Jungle that seems to be getting much more Printz buzz. I’ve not yet seen a really compelling essay — and I crave one — comparing and contrasting these two titles, their reception, and what they say about Smith’s risk taking and (sometimes) repetitive storytelling. (I’d also not mind a really great essay about his weakness in writing female characters, but that was sort of hashed out a bit in the comments on the Someday post).
Here’s where I say the thing that many might disagree with: I don’t think either of these are Printz titles this year.
I think Andrew Smith absolutely, positively has a Printz book in him. I don’t think either of these titles are it. Maybe it’ll be one of next year’s two titles. Maybe it’ll be a title after that. But I think both Grasshopper Jungle and 100 Sideways Miles are imperfect enough that they’re not going to go the distance. But the reason we keep hearing about them and the reason people keep talking about Smith and why he’s putting out two titles a year, one each from different publishers, is he’s talented, he’s prolific, and he’s doing some risky, innovating, and compelling story telling.
If I were to call out a potential dark horse for Printz this year, it’d be The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin. Depending on how Printz looks at age this year and how young they’ll go, I wouldn’t rule out a mention for Jacqueline Woodson’s brown girl dreaming. Same with Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, which I would absolutely love to see get a mention from the Newbery Committee.
I also still stand by my comments from the predictions post in June that I think We Were Liars will fall apart on subsequent reads and won’t go the distance.
I’ve only read two of the Morris titles this year, so I can’t talk at length about their merits comparatively. But I can say my heart would love to see this one walk away with the award:
I could easily see this committee spending quite a bit of time with Grasshopper Jungle and I’ll Give You The Sun. I also think the non-fiction side of this award will be talking about Beyond Magenta.
What do you think? Big titles I’m missing out on? Titles I should be thinking about? Other categories that have standout titles? I’m looking forward to seeing what comes down on Monday — the YMAs are always a lot of fun to hear and even more fun to talk about afterward.