The Printz award will be annouced in two short months!! I'm very excited and I'm going to step up my blogging to reflect all the awesome titles that have come out this year.
Today, I'm going to talk about three books that I've read this year that I loved, but they didn't receive a lot of press. Which is a shame, because they're fantastic.
Miracle by Elizabeth Scott is the story of Megan, the sole survivor of a plane crash. She's a miracle, at least that's what her whole town is saying. Everyone--including her family, her friends, and her church--can only seem to see her as Miracle Megan. But she doesn't feel miraculous. She really doesn't feel much of anything. When the memories of the crash start coming back, she doesn't know how to deal with them. And her community is no help. They're so thankful that she is alive that they can't see what's happening to her.
This story is an unflinching look at post-traumatic stress disorder, though it never mentions the syndrome by name. Megan feels broken and she feels like there is something irreparably wrong with her. She feels guilty for surviving, and she is drowning. Her family is so grateful that she is alive that they can't seem to handle the fact that she is still struggling. Her feelings of grief and helplessness are drawn beautifully by Scott. Her interactions with Joe, the boy next door with a tragic past of his own, are awkward and painful yet ultimately cathartic. And her friendship with Margaret, a woman from church, is more helpful than anything anyone else has to say. The story has some flaws--Megan's parents are a little too desperate to overlook her anguish and believe she's fine--but mostly, you're willing to overlook it because it's so real. Well done. It was a relatively small book. It didn't get any starred reviews or buzz and somehow I have a feeling that the Printz committee won't have much discussion about it. But they should. And you should read it.
Small Damages by Beth Kephart is the story of Kenzie, who has just finished her last year of high school. She comes from a prestigious family, she's bright and ambitious, and she's in love with Kevin, who is bound for Yale. But she's also grieving the loss of her father, and she reckless chances, and she gets pregnant. Refusing to end the pregnancy despite the wishes of her stubborn mother, Kenzie finds herself shipped off to Spain for the summer to wait out her pregnancy and give up her baby to a Spanish couple.
Kenzie's story is quiet and sad and full of emotion. Her interactions with her mother and her boyfriend when she finds out she's pregnant are interspersed with her life in Spain. She is learning to cook from Estela, she is learning to be friends with Estaban, and she is trying to find out how she feels about the adoptive parents of her baby. She feels very alone but starts to find healing as she immerses herself in the culture of gypsies and bullfighting and orange groves. As a heads-up, this isn't an action-filled book. It's much more character-driven than plot-driven, and I know that drives some of my regular teen readers crazy. It's introspective and lovely and about how a young woman grows up. It got two starred reviews and I certainly hope there are some conversations about it.
Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara is the story of Wren. Wren Wells survived the car accident that killed her boyfriend. It tilts her world on its axis and sends her life completely off course. She moves to remote Maine to live with her sculptor father, to recover, but her grief threatens to overwhelm her.
Oh my gosh, THIS BOOK. First of all, the writing is gorgeous. Some of you poetry afficiandos will love this one, because the language is downright poetic. This isn't an easy book to read, because Wren's grief is palpable. It weighs her down and beats on her from all sides; it is relentless. The setting of Maine and the weather and the snow make her isolation seem even more extreme. Wren begins to work for Cal, which turns into a relationship. But it's not all happy--they are both broken people. One of the things that I love the most about their story is that Cal is not Wren's salvation, or vice versa. They're each trying to find their own way back to sanity. They're both trying to deal with their situations, and their families, and their pasts. Their interactions with each other are very real and very human. This one is not upbeat, but it is gorgeous. The second I finished this book, I wanted to start it over from the beginning. You won't regret this read. As for the Printz? I hope the committee reads it and rereads it and talks about it. Since it's a debut, I think it's a strong contender for the Morris Award (I may have nominated it already. Ok, I did.)
There you have it, three underrated gems. All three of these are available at the Pearl Library. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to reread these pronto.