Month: October 2013

29 Oct 2013

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

I crawled out of my anti-dystopia hole to read Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince. It was long-listed for the National Book Awards, so my modest hope was that I would not loathe it completely just because of its dystopiosity. And I did not loathe it at all! In fact, I enjoyed it.

June is a teenage street artist living in Palmares Tres, a city in futuristic Brazil. After world-wide nuclear fall-out, war, famine, etc, humans have survived in enclosed cities such as Palmares Tres, where elaborate, interactive technology weaves a careful symbiosis between the city and its people. In Palmares Tres, tradition, art, and a ruling matriarchy are revered; all attempts to hold onto the humanity of civilization in the face of such expansive technological possibility. Likewise, citizens are restricted from purchasing technology that interacts too closely with one’s own mind or physical appearance – “body mods” – that other cities are allowed. Palmares Tres is stuck between two different modes of thinking, two different visions of the future, between progress and tradition. Palmeres Tres’s most disturbing tradition is the transferal of royal power by electing a young boy as Summer King; after serving for a year, a figurehead beside the Queen who holds actual power, the King will be executed.  Enki – a boy who loves everyone he meets, who has a gift for subversive performance art – who wields his sexuality when he likes, is elected Summer King – June befriends him. And as is required in any proper dystopia, these two powerless characters begin to upset power structures in Palmares Tres.

I loved how carefully Johnson builds the world of Palmares Tres. With some fantasy and sci-fi, I get the feeling that the author has enjoyed creating a rich and intricate landscape, but because the world is so sprawling, the reader does not get to see very much of it. Palmares Tres is large, but contained – 90% of the story takes place within the walls of the city. You really get to enjoy Johnson’s attention to detail, and Palmares Tres becomes another character. And unlike other dystopias, June’s struggle against society isn’t entirely “us against them.” June wants progressive technology and wants to save Enki, but she also loves her city. She struggles at every step, knowing that any move too drastic may dismantle the safety of her fellow citizens. The pull between fighting the establishment and supporting it made for an interesting plot as well as adding depth to June’s character.

Also, you might notice that these teenagers are *gasp* not white. Or American. I never noticed how completely white-washed most dystopias are, until now. Even more reason not to read any more! Ha.

Some caveats. The plot is a bit complex. The ritual of electing a Summer King – a boy ruler, fated to die – is an integral part of the story’s plot that went a bit under-explained. And while I loved June when she was making her way in the world, creating art and staging political protests with her friends, her family conflicts with her mother seemed wedged in and a little forced. Some have taken issue with the accuracy and appropriateness of Brazilian culture. Not a perfect book, but I would argue that this is a progressive, exceptional dystopia; a standout in a sea of blargh. Once you’re done throwing Allegiant across the room, maybe pick this one up next.

27 Oct 2013

reading wishlist: fantasy catch-up

My name is Jessica, I’m twenty-eight-years-old, and I am a fantasy reader.

There, I said it.

This is not, however, a post about my Fall from Grace Realism. This is a post about what one should read when “discovering” fantasy as a full-fledged adult… albeit a full-fledged adult who considers YA and children’s literature fair game for inclusion in ANY sort of canon, fantastical or not. What are the classics, the “everyone who’s anyone has read this” books that I never read? What are the newer titles that I ignored? What kind of fantasy will I like? What kind should I avoid in the future?

If anyone has recommendations, please pass them along! There’s a wide, wide world (of other worlds) out there, and I don’t want to waste too much time slogging through crappy stuff just because I don’t know where to find the good!


Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Since moving to Boston, I have met a startling number of Cashore fangirls. No, I don’t think I’ve met any Cashore fanboys, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, just that I don’t talk to boys, I guess. I mean, I studied library science and children’s literature in a historically all-girls college for three years, so give me a break. Anyway, I’ve also met a startling number of Cashore detractors, folks who are more than willing to tell me why they loathed Graceling and its companion novels. Any book that earns such strong reactions feels like a book I should be reading.

Also, one time I sat next to Cashore in a classroom in a weekend-conference-thing and we made comments on the same book and while this is probably the least exciting story ever, it was one of those “This is not my beautiful life” moments for me. So yeah, I want to read Graceling.

Also also, I own a paperback.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

Alright, so if one is trying to get the Lay of the Fantasy Land, one must attend to “The Canon.” I’m not sure there’s a man or woman alive who would argue that Tolkien isn’t the place to start.

But maybe I just want to read it because I actually haven’t seen the movies yet, begging the excuse that I wanted to read the books first. Ahem.

Or maybeeeeee  I want to read it because I spent so much time watching my sisters play Lego Lord of the Rings this summer. I can’t really say.

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I started reading this one last fall, back when I was just dipping my toes into fantasy, but I was reading an eBook version… and while that ticking clock of a countdown totally motivates me when listening to downloadable audio, it completely defeats me with regular eBooks. I don’t know why. I don’t have ebook stick-to-it-ive-ness or something. Anyway, this seems pretty up my alley – girl-centric high-ish fantasy/adventure.

I can’t actually handle that I just wrote that last sentence. How am I going to make it through the rest of this post??

Alanna by Tamora Pierce

Alright, we are entering a section called Books All My Fantasy-Loving Friends Read to Shreds that I didn’t read because I was a Alice McKinley/Judy Blume/Louis Sachar-reading little punk.

Friends, I have never read a shred of Tamora Pierce. Alanna is a notably badass teen girl heroine with her own series, and some of my dearest Reader-Friends call her a favorite. So she seems like a good place to start.

Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

I’ve talked a bit about Megan Whalen Turner here before, I think. Basically, back when I was still anti-fantasy, I saw her give a talk that apparently shocked and offended the attending teachers and librarians. Apparently. I was too busy locked into her speech, hypnotized, nodding my head and mouthing “yes… yes! you are awesome, Ms. Turner!” to notice. Anyway, her speech inspired me to read The Thief awhile back, which probably now qualifies as one of my Gateway books, leading me down twistier fantasy paths. I want to finish the series, but I tried to start Queen of Attolia recently only to decide I need to re-read The Thief first.

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

I’ve had an ARC of this one stashed in my Drawer of Shame for a long time now. Moriarty has been at the YA game for some time now, so I really only grabbed it out of name recognition – I read the summary and said “urgh, fantasy… too much fantasy.”

But hey, I’m a freaking FANTASY READER NOW. I’m feeling ballsy. Bring it on. Also, the BG-HB award sticker helps. What can I say? I like a shiny medal sticker on my books.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Alright, now for some grown-up stuff. Have you ever been haunted by a book? Like, a book keeps following you around, showing up at various times in your life, random assortments of people recommending it? That’s The Master and Margarita for me. I first heard of the book at a library conference in Michigan, maybe 5 or 6 years ago, and ever since then it just keeps reappearing, keeps coming back up. And while I’m not sure this necessarily qualifies as fantasy, it definitely qualifies as Not Normal Enough for fantasy-hating Past Jessica to pay any mind.

But this is FANTASY READING PRESENT JESSICA! Also, there are cats. Fantasy-hating Past Jessica was not yet a cat person. Fantasy Reading Present Jessica definitely is.

Shadow and Claw by Gene Wolfe

A wild card. I hadn’t heard of this one until a few weeks ago it appeared on my Goodreads feed, a Readerly Friend of mine calling it her second favorite book in the world. Well, you guys know how I feel about Your Favorite Book.  Also, when you start reading a new genre, you start attending to some new… ah… reading authorities. This one had sparkling blurbs by Neil Gaiman and Ursula LeGuin. We should probably talk about blurbs at some point and even though they are probably all bullshit, I still tend to weight them higher than most other sources of book recommendations. We could talk about that. Once I read all eight of these books and become a fantasy expert and have some time on my hands, of course. You guys know I read EVERY book on these lists, right? I just check them all out from the library – on eBook – and read them all before they are due back in 14 days. It’s true. It’s remarkable. I am the very model of a modern major general.


26 Oct 2013

when nerds fall in love


Setting: Neighborhood grocery store, shopping for random food items, talking about dinners.


Me:        … and I forgot that you ate all the onions, so I couldn’t put the taco soup in the crock pot. And that’s why we need to buy something for dinner. Or at least onions.


The Boy:        Hey, you know what we should make in our crockpot?


Me:        What?


The Boy:        Mulled wine. We should make a big batch of spiced mulled wine and have everyone over for a winter party.


Me:       Oh. Ah. Hmm….


The Boy:         Yeah, spiced  red wine. With nutmeg. And cinnamon.


Me:        I think we can probably do that.


The Boy:       And chopped up apple.


Me:        Alright. But that’s all I’m promising, just nutmeg, cinnamon and apple. If we just throw everything we want in there without following a recipe it will end up gross.


The Boy:        Yeah. No squeeze of lemon.


Me:      What?


The Boy:        That’s how Captain Mormont likes it. No lemon. He’s very particular about his spiced wine.


Me:      What are you talking about. Oh. Wait. You are suggesting we throw a party specifically for the purpose of recreating a recipe for a drink that a supporting character in Game of Thrones prefers?


The Boy:       Yes.


Me:        I think we can do that. I mean, winter *is* coming.


Semi-spoiler laden bonus scene:

Me:       … so would we really just be throwing a Game of Thrones theme party then?

The Boy:       I guess so. What do you do for that?

Me:        Wait till everyone shows up, lock all the doors and have someone start playing The Rains of Castamere on the violin and freak all of your friends the fuck out.

25 Oct 2013

10 (audiobooks) under 10 (discs)

Audiobooks, audiobooks, audiobooks.

You are getting bored already.

But I can’t shut up. I can’t be stopped.

Allow me one more attempt to try to win you all over to the Way of the Audiobook.

If you’ve tried audio before and had a discouraging experience, I have two suggestions for you.

Suggestion #1: If you didn’t like the narrator, I behoove you to check out three or four books at once. You will know pretty quickly whether or not a narrator rubs you the wrong way; with extras, you can feel free to give up on one and try another at your leisure. An heir and a spare! Also, keep an eye out books read by the author – these aren’t always winners, for me, but most of the time they are pretty good.

Suggestion #2: If you find audiobooks to be tedious, patience-trying, too much of a commitment, then try a shorter book. After an interminable experience with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter in aught-eight, I keep a fairly strict 10 Discs or Under rule. Which I regularly break for Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. But anything outside of Westeros or Hogwarts, staying under 10 helps prevent boredom and keep me enthused and attentive.

A few weeks ago, The Boy asked me to request some audiobooks for him with the specific request that they should be short. You see, this Dear Boy of Mine, he has a goal of reading 30 books in 2013. Hazard of marrying me, I suppose. He’s a bit behind, however, and wanting to play catch-up. So I browsed my library’s newest audiobook holdings, checking the full record in the catalog for a disc number below 10, and found a slew of intriguing nonfiction titles. I added a few more fiction titles that would have piqued my attention if I wasn’t so attentive to my Overdrive bookshelf right now. If you are looking for a brief listen, here’s a list to get you started.



1) Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventure That Took the Victorian World by Storm by Monte Reel

2) David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

3) The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down by Andrew McCarthy

4) Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

5) The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Greatest Drinks by Amy Stewart

6) Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steven Martin


7) Just One Day by Gayle Forman

8 ) Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

9) The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

10) Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

21 Oct 2013

when life hands you kittens…

I am having trouble getting posts up here in a timely fashion. This has nothing to do with what I’ve been reading or what I’ve been feeling – my usual excuses for radio silence – and everything to do with time management troubles. Apartment-life-management troubles. Life management troubles. Trouble is the wrong word, perhaps. I don’t feel troubled, just distracted.

Top Five Distractions, end of October 2013 edition

1. Book Review Writing. Book Review Writing related procrastination.

2. Going to the gym, getting on a treadmill, and running one minute, then walking one minute – repeat until legs fall off. Subsequent gym-related exhaustion.

3. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell; How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

4. Living in tighter quarters with The Boy. I like him too much. I want to talk to him too much. I talk to him instead of engaging on other, more productive and solitary pursuits.

5. The four kittens living on my back porch. I just… can’t. This is an awful time of month for me to discover adorable nascent lifeforms on my property. Can’t deal. Can not deal. Must go outside and check on kittens every few hours.

I should be back here soon. In a few day’s time. If I’m not too busy playing Skyrim. Did I mention Skyrim? Yes, well… Skyrim.

16 Oct 2013

we keep asking where we are going

My Boston friends –  those dear grad school survivors, adjunct professors, teachers, librarians, writers, readers. All talkers, drinkers, dreamers, and laughers.  We get together regularly but with enough time passing between visits to warrant a proper life update. How’s your semester, how’s your classroom, how’s your new job, how’s your novel. What are you up to? What are you reading? Where have you been? Where are you going?

That last one is the conversation I’ve had over and over again. Where are you going? We are all going somewhere. We talk about cities we’ve loved, places we’d like to visit, homes we will someday have. Maybe this is a product of being Boston transplants ourselves – we landed here a few years ago for school, but also for Boston. The chance to live here. Maybe we are already stuck, but we chose Boston not that long ago; why not choose again? Before we are all too old. Before we are really stuck.

We all have places we’d like to go. Back to Los Angeles. Home to Colorado, to Michigan, to the Midwest. Try those Chicago winters out for size. The Pacific Northwest. North Carolina. Overseas for a few years.

But here we all sit, in the greater Boston metro area, still drinking, laughing, dreaming. Dreaming at 28 feels different than at 24. Like you have a last ditch attempt to force your life in one direction before life starts dragging you around behind it. Pressure. Nothing feels any clearer than 24.

So much weight put upon a place, as if happiness can be found with the right combination of luxuries and landmarks. For some folks, life is easier closer to family, or farther away. Life isn’t worth living unless you can see the ocean, go skiing, hike mountains. Some jobs are easily found in some places and impossible to find in others.

I don’t think I am that kind of person. Maybe it would be easier if I was, if there was any sort of impetus pulling me toward a particular zipcode, but then again, it would also be easier if I was more X, more Y, less Z.  But here I am, XYZ, no matter where I go. My life would change if I lived in San Francisco, rural New Hampshire, Baltimore, Cleveland, but it would also stay the same. At a certain point, I have to stop waiting for the Next Step to fall into place and just work with the Step I’m in now. At a certain point, maybe I have to stop worrying about where I’m headed and just be where I’m at.


12 Oct 2013

flora belle and hazel grace

This week I was reading two books at once. As I am wont to do. I was actually reading like, five books at once, but the two books I’d like to mention are Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

Flora & Ulysses is Kate DiCamillo’s latest middle grade novel. It’s on the National Book Award long list. It stars a precocious, cynical 10-year-old who loves comic books but finds her parents irritating. She finds a squirrel who has superpowers and has to defend him from the evils of everyday people who don’t think squirrels can have superpowers and want to hit him over the head with a shovel.

You may have heard about this book called The Fault in Our Stars. Once or twice, at least. It stars a precocious 16-year-old realist who loves an obscure book by a reclusive author. She finds a cute boy who has an artificial leg and they fall in love and go to Amsterdam.

I would argue that Flora Belle Buckman and Hazel Grace Lancaster are kindred character sisters. They both have a similar perspective of the world, a distinct point of view, a sense of humor. Flora could have been a younger, pre-cancer Hazel… or at least Hazel would have been Flora’s favorite babysitter.

I liked both of these books a great deal. While I was reading Flora & Ulysses, I was tickled by DiCamillo’s punchy dialogue and silly characterizations – especially her unnaturally verbose child characters. I think my favorite line was Flora’s friend William describing his father:

“My father, my real father, was a man of great humanity and intelligence… also, he had delicate feet. Very, very tiny feet. I, too, am small of foot.”

This kind of wordplay just tickles me. Is this a necessary character detail? No. Is it over-the-top? Yes. Do kids talk like this? Absolutely no.

You know who else talks like this? Hazel Grace and her boyfriend Augustus. I am similarly tickled when their “Lonely, Vaguely Pedophilic Swing Set Seeks the Butts of Children.” Is it over the top? Yes. Do teens talk like this? Probably not.

I just think it’s so sad that there have been so many reviewers who dismissed The Fault in Our Stars entirely based on this point. I get that Green’s dialogue rubs many readers the wrong way, that he shows his authorial hand more than others, but I don’t think either of those rationale are reason to completely pan a book. And most negative reviews I’ve read are by reviewers who aren’t actually terribly familiar with YA in general; to such reviewers, for a character not to seem Teen-y enough is criminal. When you dwell in a world where most of your friends, colleagues, and fellow professionals have a respect for YA, it’s easy to forget that the rest of the book-reading populace – professionals included – think YA exists only to portray teens realistically.

Their hamartia? (Thanks, Hazel) If you are a reader casting a judgment over a book for not portraying teenagers accurately or realistically, you are also arguing for a particular view of Teen-hood, of childhood. One that is flavored by your own experiences, perspectives and biases. One that may be accurate, but probably isn’t.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not liking Green’s dialogue. But in general, I think we hold YA up to a lot of bizarre standards that nobody requires of adult literature, or even children’s literature. Nobody is lambasting little Flora Belle Buckman for exercising her flamboyant vocabulary all over DiCamillo’s book. Nobody who reads adult literary fiction feels it necessary to analyze whether or not the average adult would utilize a particular fictional cadence or turn of phrase. It’s annoying. It perpetuates false perspectives of teen literature and teenagers. It’s lazy. It’s professionally irresponsible.

I think Flora and Hazel would approve of this diatribe, too.

11 Oct 2013

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Once upon a time, in a town far, far away…

Alright, never mind. Far Far Away is too weird for me to be too weird about it.

Our protagonist, Jeremy, is a normal, good natured boy. He has an absent mother and a troubled but caring father. Money is nonexistent and it’s up to Jeremy to secure enough cash to save his family’s home – a ramshackle bookstore that does zero business. Unfortunately, Jeremy is a bit of a pariah, an oddball the townsfolk don’t really want to rally around. Because he’s poor. And has a weird dad. Oh, and also he hears voices. Well, one voice. The voice of the ghost of Jakob Grimm – you know, like the Brother Grimm. In fact, Jakob Grimm is the focalizer of Jeremy’s story, his narration an ever-present, almost paternal presence, watching as Jeremy bumbles through various adventures and struggles and mysteries.

On the surface, this is a straightforward Kid Makes Friends and Saves the Day narrative, albeit a well-written one. Jeremy is an affable protagonist and his friend Ginger is energetic without being quirky, which I found surprisingly refreshing. But McNeal does some things here with tone, setting, and language that set Far Far Away apart from the YA pack… or from the pack of any sort of established genre, really. The book has an adult narrator – a verbose narrator from a different era, nonetheless. The language is dense. But the narrator isn’t just any elderly narrator, he’s a Grimm brother. Jakob’s narration takes Jeremy’s mundane troubles and weaves them into a fairytale. One moment, Jeremy’s hometown is any small town in the US; the next it’s a village full of archetypal adults – the witchy teacher, the kindly baker, the callous businessman – who either want to help Jeremy or hurt him. The story is realistic, but it’s not realism. Early on, McNeal draws attention to the grisly nature of many fairy tales – the parts of the stories Disney left out – and as the story unfolds, the atmosphere shifts from benign to ominous, from ominous to threatening.

This is a difficult book to categorize and to describe. The closest comparison I can think of is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. But if you are a Gaiman fan, a fairytale fan, or are seeking out that YA Not Otherwise Specified, this is one worth checking out.

09 Oct 2013

life on overdrive

Many, many moons ago, my mother recommended that I check out the public library’s new downloadable media service.

“You can download audiobooks right to your computer,” she said. “But maybe not with iPods. Unless you download them and then burn them to a CD and then I don’t know, that’s what somebody told me. But you should check out Overdrive.”

Alas, alack, I was never able to transfer an audiobook to my bulky little iPod mini with any success. Years passed, I ripped audiobooks onto a number of computers and transferred disc after disc to iPod after iPod. Meanwhile, despite maintaining a fairly atrocious public interface (and, I now know all too well, a blood-curdlingly awful acquisitions side), Overdrive caught the tidal wave of eBook lending and has become the primary vendor for public library eBook and digital audio lending.

Judging by their success,  I’m guessing they solved that “we don’t play with Apple” problem years back, but there was still the whole process that turned me off. Put the book in a cart. Check out the book. Enter your library card number AGAIN. Download file. Open file in special Overdrive program. Gack. Ripping discs was obnoxious, but still preferable, especially when your Overdrive audiobooks would expire after a mere fourteen days.

This a really long set-up to tell you this:

  • The Boy got an iPhone a few months ago
  • The Boy said: “Man, you can just use this Overdrive app to get audiobooks and it’s super easy!”
  • I tried it out and said: “Eh, I don’t know, I’m still stuck in 2005, I like burning all these CDs…”
  • A week later, I was completely obsessed

Since my audiobook rampage began, I’ve listened to 2.9 audiobooks. In less than three weeks. And that .9 is significant because it is .9 of Libba Bray’s The Diviners which in its paper form be used to stop heavy doors or used as a blunt weapon. Also, in this three weeks, Janssen over at Everyday Reading posted a HOW TO GUIDE for downloading audiobooks directly through your phone. Can you believe that? Leave it to Janssen, I say… once a librarian, always a librarian.

I should also mention that if you are disappointed in your library’s Overdrive collection, every public library worth its salt will be happy to try to get you more stuff you’d like – downloadable audio, too. Talk to your librarian. Make suggestions. Also, publishers are more friendly about selling digital audio than eBooks – you’ll likely find more popular audio titles on Overdrive than ebooks.

And that app is the key. The app eliminates all of the hold-rip-load, the hold-checkout-download-transfer-load – browse in the app, check out in the app, download in the app, and listen. I still don’t have any problem downloading disc after disc to my computer, conceptually, but without all that crap in the way, listening to audiobooks is just more fun. The selection isn’t always the best, but it pushes me to listen to books I’d like to read but know I will never otherwise actually take the time to read. The 14-day limit is still daunting for longer books, but I’ll take that as a challenge.

And maybe that’s the secret reason for my obsession – I’m sickeningly competitive. If I download a book I want to listen to it AS QUICKLY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. For no apparent reason, other than to beat that deadline!! !!! !! My podcast listening has dwindled to nothing, but that’s probably okay – it’s not really necessary to listen to an entire year’s worth of This American Life over the course of a week. I guess it’s not really necessary to muscle through 2.9 audiobooks in three weeks, either, but here we are.

All freakish obsessions aside, I think keeping a steady stream of audio will be a great way to get my fiction fix while my print reading time is devoted to nonfiction.

I would say that I would keep this obsessive book downloading spree going for awhile longer, but Storm of Swords just came in on audio for me downstairs… so… back to the old rip and transfer, for the next 30 discs or so anyway.

09 Oct 2013

Printz 2014 Contenders

Awards season! Awards season! Yay! Rah!

Someday My Printz Will Come is back up and running and they’ve posted their Long List of titles they have deemed contenders for the Big Prize in January. I’m not sure what to make of this year’s YA crop. Last year there were some favorites, but the winner – Nick Lake’s In Darkness – was a bit of a dark horse. This year, I can’t even pin down any frontrunners, really, other than Books That Won Other Awards. And statistically, that’s probably even LESS of an indicator that those titles will win the Printz. Pretty sure the same book has never appeared on the NBA longlist, the Boston-Globe Horn Book AND the ALA awrds, but feel free to cross-reference that wild claim.

Here is a short round up on Printz-y type titles. Will you look at all these I have read? Aren’t you guys proud of me? I actually had trouble selecting some titles I still want to read because I am just a damn overachiever this year.

These ones, I have read…

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This might be the closest to a favorite this year. I am in favor of this because A) I love when quiet contemporary romances get awards attention B) I love Rainbow Rowell. My review from way back when here. Which reminds me, I would like to do a re-read soon, maybe early 2014. I’ll pencil it into my agenda.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

As I mentioned, I think I liked Fangirl more than E&P. However, I am skeptical of this book’s Printz legs, if for the only reason that it is indeed set in college. That doesn’t bother me, but I would think this might give a committee pause, especially when E & P is also on the table. I’ll be looking forward to the discussion on Someday my Printz will Come. Review here.

Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal

This has to be the most audience-bending book of the year. It is narrated by the ghost of Jakob Grimm, who speaks very much like a 19th century academic. Adult. But the story Jakob tells is about a young-ish boy who lives in a little town that feels like a fairytale. Juvenile. But there’s all sorts of ominous, potentially violent tension…. YA? I have no idea. Review to come.

The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal

The Kingdom of Little Wounds definitely has the literary legs to get Printz attention. Why do I keep saying “legs” in this post, like a that is a legitimate way to talk about books? Or anything? I don’t know. It’s 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday. My brain doesn’t have the legs to function yet. Here’s a post from when I was slightly more cognizant. Emphasis on “slightly”

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Read this for a professional review this year and really enjoyed it. Not that it’s relevant, but I think Sara Zarr is generally under-awarded. Not that ANY of the criteria I’ve been talking about is relevant.

Relish by Lucy Knisley

Alright, I liked this book. I like Lucy Kinsley’s work a lot. But I don’t think it’s going to be on the committee’s radar – it’s not published as YA, and I think the adult, nostalgic perspective is pretty un-YA.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

A complex dystopia/post-apocalyptic story about art and rebellion that acknowledges race. This books has a lot of strengths, but I’ve heard some talk that the world building isn’t accurate or respectful of Brazilian culture, so maybe that will hold The Summer Prince back? Longer review to come, perhaps

Winger by Andrew Dean Smith

Every awards committee loves a good boarding school book, right? Here’s my review for more on Ryan Dean West. Let’s also talk sometime about how there are very few boarding school books with female leads, okay?


These books have been added to my to-read list

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

It’s Gene Luen Yang. It’s epic and graphic. It’s not one, but TWO books. Can anything stop Boxers & Saints? Well, the fact that it is two books might, unless one is clearly stronger than the other.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Charm & Strange seems to be one of those problem-novel books in which the main characters “problems” may be either pathological or supernatural. I can get behind that. Like Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, or even Edward Hogan’s Daylight Saving. madness, though,

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Let’s talk later about how I don’t think I like Australian YA and why that makes me feel vaguely racist. I will say, though, after attending a conference this weekend where Moriarty’s editor talked at length about this book’s strengths, I have bumped it up on my mental to-read queue. It helps that I’ve had a copy on my desk for months.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Is this book on the list because of it’s literary merit? Or is Mr. Quick still having his post Silver Linings Playbook “moment?” Eh, who cares. I think he deserves a moment. Also add this to the list of Books I’ve Had On My Desk for Months.

A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury

And now for something completely different: historical fiction set in India. Is this the kind of book I think I should read, or the kind of book I will actually read? Or both? Or neither. More importantly, is it Printz-worthy? Are any of these? Are we all just barking up the entirely incorrect tree and come January, a herd of Dark Horse YA Books will appear on the list? Are we done asking rhetorical questions?

Yes. Yes, we are.