Maureen Loves ALA Book Awards!

On January 23rd, the ALA awards, including the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz were announced. Because I care a bit too much, I watched the live webcast from Dallas. It was pretty neat to see the reaction from the people in the audience, and all the book lovers watching and tweeting.

Shamefully, I hadn’t and haven’t read the Newbery winner or either of the Honor books. But I have read four of the five Printz books.

What won:
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whalley

Honor books:
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
The Returning by Christine Hinwood
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Full disclosure: I may have screamed a little bit when The Returning and The Scorpio Races were announced. Both were among my favorite books of 2011 and I was totally on board with their Honors.

I hadn’t read Where Things Come Back at the time of the announcement, but I have now. It’s a strong book, well-written and interesting. At the same time, I feel like it has stereotypical Printz winner written all over it. It’s contemporary realistic fiction, with a self-aware male narrator and a plot that hints at bad things happening but ultimately resolves tidily.

More disclosure: I’m a huge fantasy fan and I think it’s a shame that the Printz award has never gone to a science fiction or fantasy book. You can make a case for last year’s Ship Breaker being science fiction, but I don’t tend to think of it in that category. (It’s still a fantastic book.) At any rate, here are a few of the books I think could have been Printz contenders, which ultimately weren’t honored. And either The Returning or The Scorpio Races could have easily won, in my opinion.

Chime by Franny Billingsley: Billingsley is a sadly under-rated author in my opinion. Chime, her second book, features a strong narrator, a mystery, and the intriguing first line, “I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.” Briony’s narration might put some readers off a bit, but I found it extremely compelling.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor: This one has been hugely popular since it was published, with good reason. Taylor’s writing is effortless and beautiful, and the depiction of Karou’s two worlds is amazing. However, it probably suffered from the fact that it was very obviously the first in a series, rather than a stand-alone.

Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: Johnson has been pretty much a contemporary realistic writer until Name of the Star, which takes a turn for the paranormal. It’s fairly light-hearted, despite the subject matter, but the mystery is wonderfully plotted and the characters are a lot of fun.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young: A gritty dystopia, more along the lines of Patrick Ness’s Knife of Never Letting Go than, say, Divergent or Matched. As with Chime, Blood Red Road features a narration style that not all readers will enjoy. But Saba is a fantastic main character, prickly and tender at the same time.

As I made up this list, I noticed that all of these books have a common thread. They’re mostly first person (Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the exception), by female authors and with female narrators. They’re all some brand of fantasy. So clearly, I have my own biases when it comes to YA books. Still, I think that choosing a book outside the comfortable stereotypes of the Printz award would open up the medal to a new audience.

Agree? Disagree? Have a book you think should have been awarded or honored? Tell us in the comments!