Saturday, January 21, 2012

Annual Wild Guesses for the ALA Youth Media Award

I think I'm going to skip the live stream of the announcement this year. Largely because it's not on MLK day, which means I'll have to work, and getting up at 5:30 am on a workday doesn't sound as good as being able to go back to bed after the announcement. But we'll see.


The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf
Honest truth? I was bored out of my mind for the most part - and still flummoxed that anything about the Titanic could ever be boring, but this one managed it. HOWEVER, I can acknowledge that it is very literary. The biggest hurdle Watch will need to overcome is whether or not the committee thinks the enormous cast of characters is hindered by its sheer size. The fact that the reader spends so little time with each voice may result in less passionate arguments - and arguments that some characters are superfluous or under developed (not all, some were palpably wonderful, but they were buried in the avalanche of voices and struggle to be heard through the melee). The appendix is excellent and massively interesting, though, highlighting that the research was thorough. Watch will get bonus points for that.

Life, An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
So I'm a little unsure this is really a book for teens, despite it's publishing status. However, Peet has yet to be recognized by this award, and Life might be the book to do it. The fact that only a very small portion of the narrative is devoted to teen characters may hurt it's chances.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
I think the librarians who buzz about these things will be shocked if this doesn't get recognized. Shocked. I think that if there was gambling on the Printz outcome, this is likely the safe money. It transcends ilk in language, structure, world-building, and originality. It's ultimately a paranormal romance with angels, which you'd think would be kryptonite to adult readers of YA by now, but there's always an epic quality to Taylor's writing, and never moreso than here.

Rotters by Daniel Kraus
This is probably a bit of a dark horse, but I absolutely wouldn't be surprised to see this horror story get a nod. It all comes down to the composition of the committee, and whether they can stomach it (not that they aren't objective, they are, but... Rotters is gross. More on that later [as in I have a post-worth to say about it].).

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Buzz for this seems to have dropped off some, but including it, especially with the Wolf and Peet might be thought to balance out the list, and would represent only the second time a graphic novel has been recognized by the Printz. Anya's art is supurb, and the illustrations speak just as loudly as the words, which is exactly why this is worth looking at.

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
I confess that historically Marchetta and I don't jibe, and I have put off reading Piper because of that. It seems to me that the world of YA readers breaks down into those who love Marchetta, and those who do not. Those who do are rabid, and I'll concede there is a lyrical quality to her language and that her characters are robust, but her plotting dives me batty.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young
I'm not holding my breath for this to be recognized, but it was the Costa winner, and I loves it with all my hearts. Not a big fan of the cover (or title) of the sequel, though it won't stop me from reading it as soon as I can possibly get my hands on it.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
It has a lot of starred reviews, but while I haven't read it (it's next up), I've never warmed to Stiefvater's language. I wouldn't be shocked if it was announced, but... I don't know. My gut instinct doesn't go there. But perhaps I'd change my tune if I had/have enough time to read it before the announcement.


Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
Schmidt is well-loved and this one (which won my system's mock Printz) is definitely adored, despite an over-the-top ending that could seriously hurt its chances. While I believe the ending was a misstep plot-wise, I can't say that I wouldn't be anything but happy if this ends up with a medal. While it would be eligible for the Printz, I think it's chances are better with the Newbery.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I always though that Ness was British, but I guess he just lives there? If he's still a citizen of the US, then this is eligible, and stands a good chance. Would this be more comfortably set in Printz catagory? Probably, and then we wouldn't have to think about citizenship issues, which make my head hurt.

Hidden by Helen Frost
Likewise inhabiting that tough zone in between middle grade and YA, I think Hidden could find a home here. Frost got a Printz honor back in 2004 for Keesha's House, but despite that, I feel that she's largely underrated. She continually shows how verse novels should be done, and force you to take them more seriously than many of the popular free-verse examples would lead you to believe. She is innovative in form and structure. There's nothing wrong, and many thing right, with free verse, but Frost hammers home how much more the verse novel can do than simply be sparse. *ducks*

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
I don't know if this is a real contender, but it's sweet, fun, and clever, and I think it would be lovely to recognize this in the vein of Princess Academy. Regardless, I believe that someday George will get a silver or gold SOMETHING.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
To my recollection there aren't many National Book Award finalists that crossover to the Youth Media Awards, but this would be the one to do it this year.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Selecting Breadcrumbs would be a crowd-pleaser. I haven't read it yet, I'm still on the waiting list, but with at least three starred reviews and an entire community worth of Twitter buzz behind it, you know the committee has read it. I really do think I'm the only one who hasn't read it at this point. This probably has the best odds.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
In direct competition with Okay for Now, will this be an either or? Or will they split the vote and usher in a lesser-known? Of course, we've seen more than one girl-protag historical in one year before, so both would make it an amusing turn-around. But Gantos has more of the gross-out ground covered, and depending on how prim our committee is, Norvelt could take a hit.

I like I Want My Hat Back by J. Klassen and Where's Walrus by Stephen Savage. But let's be obvious here, my picture book cred is random and not to be trusted.

We already know the finalists. My imaginary money is on either Girl of Fire and Thornes or Where Things Come Back. I don't know why but I don't think it'll be Paper Covers Rock or Under the Mesquite. Which leaves Between Shades of Gray as a wildcard. My heart is with Where Things Come Back, as you probably know.

Coretta Scott King
Bronxwood by Coe Booth was good, but had a touch of the middle book syndrome, so look to Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri and Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson to be recognized.

I'm wracking my brain here and having a tough time isolating the titles I'm aware of that would be eligible. Stick by Andrew Smith comes to mind. There's way more in the abuse and other topics that take center stage, and there are ending issues (a common refrain this year), but Stick is noteworthy. I'd love to see Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt recognized, but it's much more about a daughter coping with her own issues that are triggered and magnified by her father's illness than about the dad's disease - which definitely meets criteria, but I think the focus is nevertheless unlikely to match with the Schneider. It is an absolutely delightful read, though. Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe, is utterly compelling, but the ending isn't as hopeful as these tend to be. And that's what I've got. That I can think of.


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Room by Emma Donoghue* are easy targets for inclusion on this list. I wonder if Ready Player One might be, as well, although I don't know if the heavy 80's references are a plus or a minus for its chances. I haven't read any of them, but I'm waiting for RPO's audio book to come in. A collegue enlightened me to the fact that Wil Wheaton narrates and that it is awesome in general and hilarious in specific when Wheaton is forced read aloud about himself.

*For some reason my brain forgot what year it was by the end of this massive post. Room was of course recognized by the Alex in 2011, as DDB pointed out on my Facebook link to this post. *faceplant*


Trisha said...

Oh yeah, I forgot about Sean Griswold's Head (which I also really enjoyed), but agree with you about its chances.

Not sure if you've been reading the Someday My Printz Will Come blog over at SLJ. I liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone and think it's got great language, setting, and worldbuilding. But it does have some flaws, as they point out, that make it hard for me to see this one winning/getting honored.

I agree with you about Okay for Now, about the ending and still not minding if it wins the Newbery. I've struggled with Schmidt's previous books, but this one I found very engaging.

And I haven't read Breadcrumbs yet, either. :)

Kelly Jensen said...

The Watch that Ends the Night is one that's stuck out to me since finishing it as one of the quieter releases this year with real Printz potential. More buzzed was Piper's Son but both of them have in common the lack of teen characters (though the Wolfe novel has one, she's hardly got page time). Life also has questionable teen-age characters in the novel. But I wouldn't speak to that one on authority finding it impossible to read.

I do think there will be some rioting if DoSaB doesn't get some kind of nod.

Can't speak as much on Newbery but think Okay for Now is a front runner and if it doesn't get a nod ... riots.

Jackie Parker said...

Trisha, I have sporadically been reading Someday My Printz Will Come, but not regularly. I like their analyses in general, but despite their qualms, I still think Daughter is a top contender.

Kelly, Watch had that group of boys that spoke in the columns - at least a couple of those were teens. Although they got even less screen time, since there were multiple voices in each of those poems.

Thanks for the comments, guys! I REALLY appreciate it!

Kelly Jensen said...

Yeah, I hardly thought the boys counted though.

Ali B said...

Now that we know the winners, I have a few new books to add to my queue. I was really pulling for Inside Out and Back Again to win the Newbery. In verse AND incredible. I loved it!

I wanted Rafael Lopez to win for The Cazuela that the Hand Maiden Stirred for Pura Belpré/Illustrator.

I thought the PB books up for the Caldecott were all engaging and well done.

I agree with you about Tuesdays at the Castle. I thought it was a sweet, girl-empowering adventure. I was bothered by the use of a handmade map in a castle that is always changing, but I got over it.