Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's the midway point: who're you predicting is Printz-worthy?

Since the year is now half over, Kim and I thought we'd offer up what we think is Printz-worthy so far this year. For those unfamiliar with the Printz award, it's the American Library Association's big award for young adult literature, and a boiled down list of criteria is available right here. We're going to throw a few titles each at you and our reasons why we think they'll be contenders. Moreover, we will only mention titles published before today, so no advanced titles are mentioned here.

Please share your comments after our post. We'd love to know your thoughts on our picks or what titles you've been thinking are worthy that we may have missed. And make sure you head over to Janssen's blog, too, as she'll be posting her Printz predictions today as well.


I have to be honest: not that many titles have screamed "Printz-Worthy" to me so far this year. So, be warned that some of my picks aren't ones I've read yet, but ones I'm going by on author reputation and other reviews alone. In no particular order:



Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere is one that I didn't much care for, but it has a lot of literary merit to it. The story is about loss and about love, and it has a timeless element to it. Yep, I'm putting a debut up for Printz consideration, and it won't be the only one on my list.


Last year, I think Marcelo in the Real World may have had the Printz stolen from it. This year, I think it might happen for Francisco X. Stork. You can read my review of this one later this week, but I was impressed with the writing and I think, again, we have something timeless here in terms of theme. And the issue of overcoming adversity is one that the committee likes to see if it's done well and a little differently (and it is here).

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver has gotten a lot of praise from reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and readers. Again, it wasn't my favorite, but it was well-written, and it has good appeal: one girl I work with told me she picked it up and read the whole thing in one night because it was so good. The writing is strong, and the story is a twist of a couple familiar literary tropes. I'd be impressed if this debut writer did snag the Printz, but I wouldn't be surprised if she won't honored, at least.


The Cardturner by Louis Sacher was a smart little book about Bridge. It was well written and clever, and Sacher's move from middle grade to young adult novels was pretty successful. He paints a good main character, and I think that the writing is worthy of Printz consideration.



Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick has garnered four starred reviews this year, and it makes me think it might be worth considering (the dark horse, perhaps?). This is an adventure-survival story set in the early 1900s just after the steampunk era that librarians seem obsessed with right now. The writing has been described as gripping and compelling, and the story is one that sounds like it contains elements similar to Adam Rapp's Punkzilla, which grabbed a Printz honor last year.




Two other titles I thought about included Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta and Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. The first I eliminated because Marchetta won for Jellicoe Road in 2009 and the second I eliminated since it was first published in 2007. I will also say I won't be surprised if Will Grayson, Will Grayson gets considered, since John Green is a perennial librarian favorite (even though this is far from his best work and not one I'd think worthy of this honor).

When making my list, I checked out the running list of starred reviews from professional journals, which is worth looking at. I have to be honest: I'm surprised just how many starred books there are this year when quite honestly, very few have been memorable or all that good so far. But I digress.

For a bonus, I thought I'd throw a couple of my favorites I think will be considered heavily for the Cybils -- a little less on the literary merit side and a little more on the teen appeal factors than those above. Some Girls Are, Dirty Little Secrets, and Harmonic Feedback all stood out to me this year as strongly written with compelling story lines and wide teen appeal.



The hallmark of the Printz award is literary excellence for teens, regardless of popularity or appeal.  This is what I kept in mind as I began to think about my Printz predictions.  Like Kelly, not all of my picks are books I have read - I'm going by authors whose quality of work I trust and also (but not as heavily) by amount of buzz generated.

Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher
While this was previously published in the UK, the American edition was published in January of this year, making it eligible for the award according to the ALA's rules.  While I was not a huge fan of the book, I can see it winning the Printz: it's maturely written, has a unique concept (a living prison), and is very complex.  It's also hugely long, and judging by last year's winner, Going Bovine, the longer the better where the Printz is concerned.


Monsters of Men, by Patrick Ness
This is a personal pick for me, very close to my heart. (It also hasn't officially been published in the US yet, so I'm cheating a little, but it HAS been published in the UK...so it's only half-cheating).  I loved the first book in Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and loved the second book, The Ask and the Answer, almost as much.  I've yet to delve more than a few pages into the third book, Monsters of Men, because I know that it will be an incredibly tense experience.  These books are not light reading.  The first two books both had fantastic plots and some of the best and most creative writing I've read in quite some time.  I'd be ecstatic to see Ness take home the Printz.

Fever Crumb, by Philip Reeve
I haven't read this one, but it's gotten rave reviews from four of the major review sources, and I've been very impressed with other books by Reeve.  Reeve's concept for his "Hungry City" chronicles, to which this book is a prequel, is unique, and it is backed up by outstanding writing.  I also have a weakness for strong female protagonists, and this book has been on my to-read list since I discovered it featured one.

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, by Francisco X. Stork
I'm in the middle of reading this one for our round-robin review (stay tuned!), and while I think the writing is good, the story just does not appeal to me.  Still, the book deals with some heavy themes (death, rape, violence), and for a lot of people, that's an automatic plus.  While I don't think the book's writing is stellar enough to make it award-worthy, I know that Stork's last book was a critical darling, so it wouldn't surprise me to see this one win.

I think these picks really show my biases - I read a LOT of science fiction and fantasy and tend to stay away from much realistic YA literature.  Still, I'm always thrilled when a "genre" book garners awards, and I hope the books on this list aren't overlooked.  A few other books I think might be in the running so far this year but which I did not include on the above list are:

  • A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner's newest set in the same world as her Newbery honor book The Thief, which I did not include because I'm not sure if it qualifies as a young adult novel;
  • Nothing, by Janne Teller, which I feel is a shoe-in for the Mildred L. Batchelder award; and
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson, simply because it's by John Green, who is a perennial librarian favorite, but an author whose work I have never read (I know, I know), so did not include.
What are your Printz picks so far this year?

9 comments:

  1. I was this close to adding "Fever Crumb" to my list as well.
    I *think* one of the things they look for is the stand-alone quality of a title. I've read a few reviews that the Megan Turner Whalen one doesn't stand alone well -- this from someone who hadn't read the other titles.
    I didn't realize that Incarceron was pubbed only in the UK first. And I agree 100% on Last Summer -- committees eat that stuff up. ha.

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  2. Nah, I liked Will Grayson, Will Grayson, so there's no way it's winning the Printz. :)

    Honestly, I can't think of many books I've disliked enough to think they might be Printz contenders. (I have a history of HATING the recent Printz winners. Going Bovine? I couldn't even make it through. Jellicoe Road? Wanted to throw it across the room. The White Darkness? It's maybe the only book in my whole LT catalog to get one star.)

    But, I will admit, I haven't read hardly any of the books you guys just mentioned, so obviously I need to catch up!

    As for Cybils predictions... My money's on AMY & ROGER... maybe THE DUFF... probably WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON...

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  3. This is just my experience, but John Green doesn't get much movement in my library....it's the librarians who love his books more than the teens. The teens like HIM (as do librarians).

    I didn't think about Amy & Roger..and I 100% agree on DUFF. I didn't mention that one yet since it's not out till September.

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  4. Nothing! Yes, I completely agree! I already suggested this to Patti at Oops...Wrong Cookie, and I have a feeling I'm going to be one of those really annoying people who, as the year goes on, keeps mentioning this one every chance I get. I didn't *like* the book, but, wow, it blew me away.

    For non-fiction, I'll go with Russell Freedman's The War to End All Wars. Haven't read The Called Themselves the KKK yet, but Susan Campbell Bartoletti was previously honored for Hitler Youth, so I wouldn't be surprised to see her name again.

    And, Abby, no mention of Revolution?

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  5. My vote is for You by Charles Benoit. And I would love to see As Easy as Falling off the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins win something. Oh, and Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. I also loved Fever Crumb. And I'd love to see Ness win something, but am not getting my hopes up since they passed over the first 2. But I could seen an honor for the 3rd.

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  6. Patti,

    YOU is one of my picks, but I didn't post it since it doesn't publish until August. I've got a review of it coming up next week :)

    I haven't read the Perkins title but it has gotten a lot of good attention, too!

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  7. I haven't read a lot of 2010 books, but nothing has really jumped out as a Printz contender yet. Before I Fall is probably my favorite choice so far, but not as the winner. I'm curious how the committee handles books that are part of series, like Monsters of Men, since the committee changes. It should be judged on its own merits, yet you can't really evaluate a part without evaluating the whole. There is a precedent with Dreamquake, which is the second in a series, and the Octavian Nothing books, so I don't think it would be a stretch for Monsters of Men to be a contender.

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  8. I know I'm chiming in late, but how about EVERY LITTLE THING IN THE WORLD by Nina de Gramont? Majestically told, real characters, innovative setting. I'd love to see teens get their hands on this.

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  9. I'd love to see A Conspiracy of Kings nab at least an honor but I'm not sure it stands alone from the rest of the series enough to get attention from the committee.

    I also think Finnikin of the Rock is a strong contender (along with Incarceron if it's eligible) although Marchetta did win last year . . .

    My ultimate, no chance whatsoever but I can still dream, prediction is Heist Society by Ally Carter. It has great writing and is so smart, but I haven't seen it getting enough critical praise to make me think it really stands a chance.

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