Friday, October 12, 2012

Printz Watch 2013: The Seven Stars Edition

When a young adult novel is published, it often reviewed in professional journals, like School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and the like. (These are the kinds of peer-reviewed journals that your teachers beg you to cite for your English papers!) These reviews are used by teachers and your local librarians to decide if a book is a good fit for our collection.  When the reviewer and the publication deem a book particularly excellent, they give it a "starred" review.  The books that get multiple starred reviews are a casual (though not ever definite) indicator to readers in looking for potential winners for awards such as the Printz.

Y'all, this is the year of the stars.

Three young adult books published in 2012 have gotten SEVEN starred reviews so far.  That is off the charts.  I have read all of them and here is a rundown:

John Green is always a good bet.  He won the Printz award in 2006 for Looking for Alaska.  His next book An Abundance of Katherines was a Printz Honor book in 2007. He tops the bestseller charts every time he has a book release and teens line up for his books.  He's a steady vlogger and he and his brother started the whole "nerdfighter" phenomenon.  Dude's got serious credentials.  The Fault in Our Stars is about Hazel, a cancer patient, and Augustus, a cancer survivor.  It is compulsively readable. And it's poignant, of course.  Anyone who can read this book without crying like a wretch might not have a heart.  That being said, it's awfully unrealistic in some places.  Hazel might be facing her own mortality on a daily basis and Augustus might be extremely well read, but good grief they're ridiculously erudite and mature for their age.  RIDICULOUSLY.  The author that they come into contact with is also a bit too...textbook, for lack of a better description.  All of that taken into consideration, the Printz committe will have many, many, many discussions about this book and it's obviously literariness.  Also, it hasn't been checked in at Pearl since it arrived, so you'll need to get in line to get it.  Click here to request it!

Elizabeth Wein wasn't an author I was extremely familiar with.  She's written some Arthurian fantasy which I haven't read.  However, Code Name Verity is far from fantasy.  It's historical fiction, and it's set during WWII.  As a little aside, I'm not a huge fan of war books.  I never have been.  I read mainly to escape, and I don't like to escape into the darkness of war.  But I keep seeing reviews and blogs about how unbelievably good this book is, so I picked it up and promptly read it in one sitting.  This is the story of two girls and their friendship.  Both of them met while doing pilot and radio training in England at the start of the war.  One of them, however, has been captured.  She is telling her story, and the story of her friend, to buy herself time in Gestapo prison, though she knows that the Nazis will almost certainly kill her as soon as she has finished.  People, this book is breathtaking.  Told from two perspectives, the intricacy of the plot reminds me of the great Melina Marchetta. Seriously, it's completely brilliant. The climax will shock you and if you're anything like me, you will weep. The relationship between these two young women is the center and the heart of this book.  Their friendship is strong and true and lovely to watch.  This quote from the book sums it up beautifully: "It's like falling in love, finding your best friend."  The Printz Committee will love this one, and I'd be shocked it if at least didn't get an honor.  Click here to request.  You won't be sorry.

So about as different from books about cancer and war as you can get, the last seven-star book is about dragons. Seraphina, named for the main character is a half-dragon.  She carefully keeps this fact hidden. The peace between her country of Goredd and the dragons has been carefully constructed, and though dragons can walk through her country in their human form, or saarantas, they are still deeply mistrusted by the humans.  The anniversary of the treaty between the two peoples is approaching, and Seraphina, who has tried so hard to keep to herself and keep people from suspecting that her arm is covered in scales, finds herself caught up in court intrigue, a murder, and thrust suddenly into the spotlight because of her talents.  This world is beautiful.  The rules and the culture is spelled out brilliantly by Rachel Hartman.  And obviously, dragons=fantasy but the idea that while they are in human form, they can understand and experience the full range of human emotion is so novel.  And the vibrant way that Hartman illustrates Phina's struggle to understand herself and her place is marvelous.  This one will have a sequel, which I am thrilled to read.  Will the Printz committe love it as much? I'm not sure, as fantasy has not been a genre that has traditionally received a lot of Printz attention.  But don't let the word "dragon" put you off.  This one is lush and literary.  Click here to check it out.

There's your seven-star far.  It's only October, and we still have two and a half months of publishing that's eligible for the Printz.  Something may be published next month that gets just as many stars.  If so, I'll keep you updated.  Be sure to stop by the Pearl Library or your local CMRLS branch to ask about any of the books I've talked about here.  Happy reading!