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Reviews of the 2017 Printz Award winners

Winner:

Lewis_Marchbk3star2 March: Book Three
by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illus. by Nate Powell
Middle School, High School  Top Shelf Productions  254 pp.
8/16    978-1-60309-402-3    $19.99    g

This final volume (March: Book One, rev. 1/14; March: Book Two, rev. 5/15) includes the expected and necessary set pieces from the civil rights movement: the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and the murder of four young girls; Freedom Summer in Mississippi, from voter registration drives and slain volunteers to Fannie Lou Hamer, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and the 1964 Democratic Convention; the iconic march from Selma to Montgomery that roused the nation from its complacency; and, finally, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But these events yield to smaller and lesser-known moments of violence, injustice, and helplessness — beatings and lynchings, political and judicial indifference — that are no less painful to read about. Since he was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during this period, Lewis has a unique perspective from which to recall these events, and he does so with intimate familiarity and bracing honesty. As the narrative progresses, there is a palpable sense that the mounting obstacles are not only taking a serious toll on Lewis but that indeed the entire movement is fraying under the strain. Powell’s kinetic, fluid black-and-white illustrations create a relentless cascade of words and images that assaults the senses and underscores the brutality of the period. From Maus to Persepolis, graphic-novel memoirs have accounted for a large share of critical acclaim for the comics format, and now that this trilogy is complete, it can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of them. JONATHAN HUNT

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor Books:

o'neill_asking for itAsking for It
by Louise O’Neill
High School     Quercus     336 pp.
4/16     978-1681445373     $16.99

[review to come]

 

 

berry_passion of dolssastar2 The Passion of Dolssa
by Julie Berry
Middle School, High School    Viking    482 pp.
4/16    978-0-451-46992-2    $18.99    g

Berry (All the Truth That’s in Me, rev. 11/13) tells the story of (fictional) Catholic mystic Dolssa de Stigata after she escapes being burned as a heretic in 1241 Toulouse, France; mostly, however, it’s the story of Botille, an enterprising young matchmaker from a tiny fishing village who rescues Dolssa from starvation and detection, and thus puts herself and her village in mortal danger. Berry constructs her novel as a 1290 account by a monk, and employs both first- and third-person narrations — from Botille to Dolssa to the vengeful Dominican Friar Lucien who pursues Dolssa, and more. If this makes the reading experience choppy at times, it doesn’t matter: Botille’s spirited, down-to-earth character and style, the heart-rending suspense of the events she relates, and the terrifying context of the Inquisition in medieval Europe all render the novel irresistibly compelling. So too does the female solidarity Berry portrays among Botille and her sisters (tavern-keeper and fortuneteller) and their loyalty to the woman they rescue. Berry writes in short sentences with relatively simple language, conveying complex historical and religious matters fluently and accessibly for today’s readers. Her thoughtful, sober historical note places the story’s thirteenth-century issues in a valuable modern context; also appended are two glossaries (for Old Provençal and Latin words), a list of place names, and a bibliography. DEIRDRE BAKER

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

shusterman_scytheScythe
by Neal Shusterman
Middle School, High School    Simon    435 pp.
11/16    978-1-4424-7242-6    $17.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-7244-0    $10.99

With new technology, mortality has become a thing of the past, with one exception: “scythes” are responsible for “gleaning” — that is to say, killing — their fellow citizens to restrict population growth to a sustainable rate. Teens Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch are both horrified and intrigued when Honorable Scythe Faraday selects them to be his apprentices, to train with him for one year and compete to see which one will become a scythe. Neither wants the role, but: “‘Therein lies the paradox of the profession,’ Faraday said. ‘Those who wish to have the job should not have it…and those who would most refuse to kill are the only ones who should.’” But then a dangerously radical scythe, who does enjoy killing, insists that the winner must glean the losing apprentice, setting off a cascade of events that leads to a much more personal, and deadly, contest. Using diary entries and character musings, Shusterman explores aspects of death, including the ways mortality lends meaning to life; his canvas is large enough that he can entertain both gruesome and humorous aspects, while the central question — could you kill if required to do so? — will keep readers transfixed. As events wind up, Shusterman’s moral questions become more and more pointed while the stakes become higher and higher, leading to a philosophical exploration of life and death packaged as a Jason Bourne–like high-action adventure. ANITA L. BURKAM

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

yoon_sun-is-also-a-starstar2 The Sun Is Also a Star
by Nicola Yoon
High School    Delacorte    349 pp.
11/16    978-0-553-49668-0    $18.99
Library ed.  978-0-553-49669-7    $21.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-553-49670-3    $10.99

New York City high school senior Natasha believes in science and rationality. An undocumented immigrant from Jamaica, she and her family are facing immediate deportation thanks to her father’s DUI arrest. Daniel believes in destiny and poetry. Burdened with his Korean-immigrant parents’ expectations, he is appeasing them by applying to Yale, where he will study to become a doctor. But when Natasha’s and Daniel’s paths cross unexpectedly, and repeatedly, over the course of a day, Daniel is convinced: he is experiencing “love at second sight…the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them.” Soon, it’s a twelve-hour race against the clock: can Daniel get Natasha to fall in love with him before their time together ends? Can Natasha get the help of an immigration lawyer to stay her deportation? And what will happen if she really does have to leave the country that night? The teens’ alternating first-person narrations are fresh and compelling, and interspersed throughout are relevant third-person omniscient musings on various histories, from the past and future histories of some of the book’s secondary characters to the chemical history of love to a quantum theory of multiverses. Fans of Eleanor & Park (rev. 5/13) and The Fault in Our Stars (rev. 3/12) are destined to fall for Daniel and Natasha as quickly as they fall for each other. KAZIA BERKLEY-CRAMER

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2017.

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