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Reviews of the 2016 Printz Award winners

Winner:

ruby_bone gapBone Gap
by Laura Ruby
High School   Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins   353 pp.
3/15   978-0-06-231760-5   $17.99

Finn has always been considered a little strange, and now that Roza has disappeared, his small town of Bone Gap holds him responsible. Finn alleges that she was kidnapped, but he cannot offer up a useful description of the abductor. Roza had appeared under mysterious circumstances a year before, and was taken in by Finn and his older brother, Sean, who subsequently developed a crush on her — and now wonders if perhaps her departure was a voluntary rejection of him. But Roza has been taken by a dangerous stranger and imprisoned in a series of bizarre supernatural dwellings from which she cannot escape — unless she agrees to marry the kidnapper. As Finn tries to puzzle out how to find Roza, he develops his own romantic interest in the strongly independent Priscilla (Petey, for short), despite what the town may think. Kidnapped young women are not a new trope in YA fiction, but such books often read like mysteries or thrillers, while this one reads more like a fable, with the matter-of-fact inclusion of magical realism. Finn does find Roza, he does fall in love with Petey, and everybody — for the most part — does live happily ever after, but afterward the reader is left to ponder the strange events, quirky characters, and resonant themes. JONATHAN HUNT

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor Books:

sedgwick_ghostsofheavenThe Ghosts of Heaven
by Marcus Sedgwick
High School   Roaring Brook   358 pp.
1/15   978-1-62672-125-8   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-62672-126-5   $9.99

Like Sedgwick’s Midwinter Blood (rev. 3/13), The Ghosts of Heaven revolves (an apt verb) around a visual image — in this case, the spiral or helix. The novel comprises four related stories, and the four parts are divided into quarters — one for each turn of a full spiral revolution. The stories range chronologically from the prehistoric past; to rural Britain at the end of the witch hunts in the eighteenth century; to the early twentieth century, at an insane asylum on Long Island; and finally to a spacecraft in deep space and the distant future. In each, the image of the spiral is associated with violence, death, and horror. In the first three tales, it appears that “what goes around comes around”; almost from the first words, violent death is inevitable and predictable. Not until the final quarter, “The Song of Destiny,” in which the story’s sections are numbered according to the Fibonacci sequence, do we and the protagonist begin to see that the spiral movement through space and time makes repeated patterns, but is always moving forward. The conceptual elements of this final story are satisfyingly brain-teasing, which helps to compensate for the novel’s distant narrative voice and stiff characters. DEIRDRE F. BAKER

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

pérez_out of darknessOut of Darkness
by Ashley Hope Pérez
High School     Carolrhoda Lab     402 pp.
9/15     ISBN 978-1-4677-4202-3     $18.99

Two teens, Mexican American Naomi and African American Wash, fall in love and struggle to keep their relationship secret in racist 1936 east Texas. This novel weaves in the forces that led up to the 1937 New London school explosion, a tragedy rooted in the era’s violent abuse against minorities. A poignant, potent, and provocative historical drama steeped in well-researched factual details. RITA SOLTAN

From the Spring 2016 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2016.

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