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Reviews of the 2015 Printz winners

Winner:

nelson_i'll give you the sunI’ll Give You the Sun
by Jandy Nelson
High School   Dial   375 pp.
9/14   978-0-8037-3496-8   $17.99   g

In her much-anticipated second book, Nelson (The Sky Is Everywhere, rev. 3/10) delivers another novel of romance, tragedy, grief, and healing, told in poetic prose with the barest hint of magical realism. Jude and Noah are fraternal twins; once very close, they now barely speak to each other. The reasons for their estrangement gradually come to light over the course of the novel through the twins’ alternating voices from different points in time. Thirteen-year-old Noah narrates the story’s beginnings; an extremely talented painter, bullied for being gay, he finds himself attracted to the new boy next door. The later story is revealed from sixteen-year-old Jude’s point of view. Too focused on art school — including why she was accepted and Noah wasn’t — to think about boys, and haunted by the tragic automobile-accident death of their mother, she finds solace in conversations with their grandmother’s ghost. Despite some minor flaws — Noah’s voice never quite rings true as an adolescent male; and the present-tense stream-of-consciousness narrative occasionally dilutes the powerful imagery of the writing — the novel remains a compelling meditation on love, grief, sexuality, family, and fate. JONATHAN HUNT

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor books:

and we stay And We Stay
by Jenny Hubbard
High school     Delacorte     225 pp.
1/14     978-0-385-74057-9

After her ex-boyfriend’s suicide, sixteen-year-old Emily Beam is sent to an Amherst, Massachusetts, boarding school to start anew and heal. And through a friendship with her sympathetic roommate, connecting with local legend Emily Dickinson’s work, and blossoming as a poet herself, she starts to. Hubbard thrives in both prose and verse storytelling: interspersed within emotionally astute third-person-omniscient narration are Emily’s moving poems.

From the Fall 2014 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

 

foley_carnival at brayThe Carnival at Bray
by Jessie Ann Foley (Elephant Rock)

Review to come.

 

 

 

 

grasshopper jungleGrasshopper Jungle
by Andrew Smith
High School     Dutton     390 pp.
2/14     978-0-525-42603-5     $18.99

Unfortunate coincidences involving sixteen-year-old Austin and his best friend Robby lead to the unleashing of gigantic, ravenous praying mantises related to a diabolical scientist’s decades-old experiments. Austin’s love for and attraction to both his girlfriend and to Robby is the powerful emotional backbone of this intricate, grimly comedic apocalypse story, in which Smith proves himself a daring and original wordsmith. KATRINA HEDEEN

From the Fall 2014 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

 

tamaki_this one summerstar2This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki; illus. by Jillian Tamaki
Middle School    First Second/Roaring Brook    320 pp.
5/14    978-1-59643-774-6    $17.99

Rose Wallace and her parents go to Awago Beach every summer. Rose collects rocks on the beach, swims in the lake, and goes on bike rides with her younger “summer cottage friend,” Windy. But this year she is feeling too old for some of the activities she used to love — and even, at times, for the more-childish (yet self-assured) Windy. Rose would rather do adult things: watch horror movies and talk with Windy about boobs, boys, and sex. In their second graphic novel — another impressive collaboration — the Tamaki cousins (Skim, rev. 7/08) examine the mix of uncertainty and hope a girl experiences on the verge of adolescence. The episodic plot and varied page layout set a leisurely pace evocative of summer. Rose’s contemplative observations and flashbacks, along with the book’s realistic dialogue, offer insight into her evolving personality, while the dramatic changes in perspective and purply-blue ink illustrations capture the narrative’s raw emotional core. Secondary storylines also accentuate Rose’s transition from childhood to young adulthood: she’s caught in the middle of the tension between her parents (due to her mom’s recent abrasive moodiness and the painful secret behind it) and fascinated by the local teens’ behavior (swearing, drinking, smoking, fighting, and even a pregnancy; the adult situations — and frank language — she encounters may be eye-opening reading for pre-adolescents like Rose). This is a poignant drama worth sharing with middle-schoolers, and one that teen readers will also appreciate for its look back at the beginnings of the end of childhood. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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