Under the radar Printz picks
I was going to wait until the weekend, but Betsy just came out with her ALA Youth Media Award predictions at A Fuse #8, so I’m moving this up. Although I agree with Carlie that I don’t think The Hunger Games will get an honor.
I’m not very good at predicting which books will win awards, but I also think past Printz Award committees have had a tendency to select books no one was expecting to win (either for the top award or an honor), picks that have seemingly come out of nowhere.
I mean, 2001? Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging getting an honor? Don’t get me wrong, I think the book is fabbity-fab and an absolute riot, but how many people would’ve predicted it would receive a Printz Honor? 2003—Postcards from No Man’s Land over The House of the Scorpion? Okay, so I wasn’t actually a YA librarian back then, and maybe these two examples weren’t shocking to anyone at the time. But then, 2007—American Born Chinese over both The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v. 1: The Pox Party AND The Book Thief? I thought, and it seemed to me that most other people thought, one of the latter two was going to win. And, again, last year? Leaving aside personal reactions to the individual works (I’ve already admitted I was not a fan of The White Darkness), how many people saw that set of books coming? How many people had even heard of One Whole and Perfect Day? Was I not the only person shocked that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was not recognized by the committee at all?
So with this in mind, here a couple of books that don’t seem to be getting much buzz in the various mock awards and discussions I’ve read, but which I can see receiving the Printz or a Printz Honor. There are a bunch of titles that pop up on most, if not all, of the lists I’ve seen (Octavian II, Frankie, Paper Towns, etc. See this list for a sampling), and I’m going to ignore them for the purposes of this post. I’m also going to limit my picks to books on the final BBYA nominations list, just so I don’t go crazy wracking my brain, and to books that I’ve read.
My I’m-not-saying-these-are-going-to-win-(after-all-I-didn’t-even-get-one-right-last-year)-but-I-wouldn’t-be-surprised-if-the-committee-selected-one-of-these-as-the-award-winner-or-as-an-honor-book picks in alphabetical order:
I Know It’s Over by C. K. Kelly Martin
Because I’m not the only one who thinks it’s great. It received several starred reviews and is a Cybils finalist. The characterizations are vivid and, more than any other book I read last year, real. I might want to be friends with Audrey (from Audrey, Wait!), I might consider Jonah Griggs (Jellicoe Road) and Dane Rafferty (Thaw) the most compelling characters, but Nick felt the most real.
On the other hand: it’s not a finalist for the Morris Award, which makes me think a Printz nod is unlikely.
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Yes, it’s a Cybils finalist. Yes, I love this book. Yes, it is now officially my favorite book of 2008 and, at this moment, my favorite YA book ever. But I can still be objective about it. Right?
Because… Okay, have you read this book yet? It is brilliant. It’s complicated, confusing, does not spell things out for the reader, and is ultimately more rewarding because of this. Yet even as you’re wondering what is going on, you’re still drawn into the story, still want to keep reading instead of putting the book down. In terms of its literary quality, I think it stands out in every way: voice, character building and character development, plot, structure, writing.
On the other hand: my favorite book of 2007? The book I loved more than any other from an emotional standpoint and admired more than any other for its literary merit, because of the character development, the narrative voice sounding like that an 18-year-old and dialogue that was realistic and conversational, and the structure, with the flashbacks, not flickers? With a couple of lines that just broke my heart? That had me telling people, “Oh my god, this book was so good! It. Blew. Me. Away.”? That was a Cybils finalist (and eventual winner—not that I’m making any predictions about what this year’s judges will pick)? That received a couple more starred reviews than Jellicoe Road? Boy Toy. Shut out completely!
On the other…hand? foot?: Marchetta is Australian (hi, Judith Clarke, Sonya Hartnett, Margo Lanagan, and Markus Zusak!). And as much as I love and admire Boy Toy, my reaction to Jellicoe Road is like Boy Toy x 10. Except as much as I gush about it, it’s a lot harder to describe to people than Boy Toy.
Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
I’ve only seen it on one mock Printz list, but it is a finalist in the Cybils graphic novel category. To quote the Cybils panel: “Atmospheric and intimate at the same time, this debut graphic novel about an angsty teen avoids the usual cliches through sheer sympathy and grace and the beautiful art lends it an unusual delicacy.” I wouldn’t count it out since a graphic novel has already won the award.
On the other hand: I think it’s been getting more love from graphic novel types than YA lit folks.
There’s also Would You by Marthe Jocelyn (nothing more than my gut on this one), Ghost Medicine by Andrew Smith (which I’m including largely because of the combination of starred reviews + I really struggled to get through it), and Me, The Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine (because it’s on the Morris shortlist and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal).
What about you? What are your under the radar picks for all YA fiction published last year, not just the BBYA nominees? Any non-fiction titles?