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(not so) Premature Printz

When I started dreaming up this post, I was going to title it Premature Printz Predictions. Because I started crafting this post in June, only halfway through 2014.

Sometime between June and now, postulating upon potential Printz pics became… um… timely. So there you have it. I’m a procrastinator. A Printz Predicting Procrastinator. Okay, I’m done. Really.

Flashback to late 2013. I won’t go as far as to say I *called* Marcus Sedgwick winning last year’s award for Midwinterblood. I didn’t read the book, and I didn’t tell anyone my prediction or write it down or even call it a prediction in my own mind. What I do remember, quite clearly, is a moment where I gazed upon what I believed to be the primary contenders for the year’s award and wonder why nobody was talking about it. Sedgwick won a Printz honor for Revolver. Midwinterblood had a Horn Book star. Neither of these are guaranteed, or even likely markers of a potential winner, but both at once gave me definite pause.

But we were all still busy talking about Eleanor and Park, The Summer Prince, Fangirl, and Winger. Buzz books.

Blinded by the buzz? Or just having more fun talking about the fun books?

So this year, I’m wondering less about which books are sure-winners and more about which books we should be talking about and reading. Props, as usual, to Someday My Printz Will Come for their comprehensive longlist, which I consulted more than once while crafting this post. I’ve narrowed down the potential Printz playing field (SORRY) to the following categories:

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The Alumni

Honored once, honored again? The Printz has only been around since 2000 – the pool of past winners is modest, and the pool of past winning authors even smaller. Does one Printz – either award or honor -beget another? These 2014 books are all written by previous awardees. There’s no reason that these books should win over other 2014 titles, but I feel like they should be on the table. A good place to start – a way to take the collective temperature of what is going on this year in YA.

I’ve only read two of these – The Impossible Knife of Memory and We Were Liars. I’m not sure Impossible Knife will stand up to the competition – Laurie Halse Anderson does maintain her well-earned reputation with her latest YA realism venture, but I feel like this one screams “Problem Novel!” a little too loudly to be a real contender (edit: says she three days before the NBA longlisted this one…)We Were Liars has a better chance – so well-constructed, with effortless literary allusions and such STYLE (sorry, E. Lockhart fangirl in the house) – but I think the reliance on such a sensational plotline (not to mention the relentless marketing push… FOR THIS ENTIRELY DESERVING BOOK *cough*) may be a distraction.

Now I’m moving on to Purely Printz Postulation (…) but I don’t think the Lynch or the Myers are likely contenders. Like Ms. Anderson, it’s been a long time since either of these authors saw any Printz love and I don’t think there’s anything exemplary going on in either of their 2014 novels that would make them stand out. The Yang I’m a little iffy on as well because Yang didn’t do the artwork for The Shadow Hero.

Of the rest, I can’t really comment, except that I have a tingly Spidey-Sense feeling around The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean.

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The Morris Alums

I’m not really into statistics-related math, at least in my blogging-free-time, so please forgive me for making unsupported statements… however, I would hazard a guess that the Morris to Printz corrollation is not as strong as the Printz to Second Printz correlation. This could be because the Morris is a slightly newer award and, by nature, honors first-time writers; perhaps we will see more Morris to Printz winners as these new authors keep at it. However, I think that reading the latest work by Morris winners is another good way to get a feel for what is going on in YA in a given year – these particular books might not be Printz-worthy, but it’s likely that whatever wins will be at LEAST as good as this little stack.

I have sadly read zero of these books, so I have no firsthand insights on any of these particular books, but I could see Jenny Hubbard and Stephanie Kuehn making a Printz appearance this year.

 

 

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The Otherwise Awarded

These authors are not Printz winners or honors, but they’ve still medaled in other divisions. Schrefer, Johnson, Sheinkin and Griffin are all National Book Award nominees. Sheinkin tore up all sorts of other awards with Bomb a few years ago, and both Sheinkin and Smith earned Boston Globe-Horn Book nods this year.

And what’s more, Schrefer, Sheinkin, and Smith just landed on this year’s National Book Awards long list! Holy cats!

Maybe too much buzz will work against these books in Printz discussions – that’s probably not a kosher thing to say about a supposedly impartial book award committee, but it’s still a possibility – but the Printz isn’t the only game in town. These authors have proven themselves elsewhere; they should surely be part of the Printz discussion.

 

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Buzz Queens

These authors and books may not have any YA specific award pedigree (well, except for 100 Sideways Miles, now!), but they are the ones you’ve heard of this year, by authors who’ve built solid reputations. Wolitzer and Maguire earn accolades for their adult fic, so a foray into YA is worth noting – Egg & Spoon feels a little young-ish for YA, but I feel like that’s probably one of the more common ways we dismiss a book’s Printz-worthiness and then sometimes we get Navigating-Early-ed. Same goes for Brown Girl Dreaming. I’ll Give You the Sun and Afterworlds have a lot of industry buzz behind them, but will that translate to literary acclaim? A reader-friend I trust totally panned I’ll Give You the Sun, so we’ll see how that one does.

I’ve read Belzhar and Brown Girl Dreaming. While I enjoyed Belzhar a great deal, it feels like an awards longshot. Brown Girl Dreaming, however, feels like it could be a big winner in any category you want to put it in.

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Wild Cards

The wild cards. The debut authors. The modest buzz. The starred reviews. The sleepers. I think these four books could have a shot at making the Printz list even though they don’t have the frenetic buzz that so often surrounds a YA novel. I’ve read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and it might have the right combination of fanciful literary language and magical realism that beguiles an awards committee. Gospel of Winter seems like the kind of quiet problem novel that might slip under the radar but could stand up to some of the more buzzed-about books. Everyone was talking Pointe when it pubbed in April for Colbert’s engaging story, multifaceted characterization, and socioeconomically and ethnically diverse cast of teen characters. This One Summer has been very warmly regarded – SIX STARS! – but I haven’t sensed that awards-push that surrounded, say, last year’s Boxers and Saints. Graphic novels have a tough go during awards season, but this one is definitely deserving. And six stars! Seriously!

So there you have it, guys – not any predictions, really, but a rough playing field for January’s awards. I think all that’s left to say is… um… get reading.

 

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