As always, I have multiple books going at once. I’m trying to catch up on books that people have nominated for the Pyrite Printz. I have already read seven of the ten formal nominations:
- Code Name Verity
- The Fault in Our Stars
- Ask the Passengers
- The Brides of Rollrock Island
- Every Day
I’m about halfway through The Raven Boys on audio. I’m about halfway through The Diviners in print. And I haven’t started The Drowned Cities, although it has been sitting on my nightstand.
Plus, I’m also reading Dodger and listening to A Confusion of Princes. And I have a book you have been championing all year–We’ve Got a Job–also waiting for me to read.
I actually started The Diviners back in July, but then put it aside for other books, and am just now getting back to it. I’m not sure why I didn’t get back to it before now. The interesting thing about it, though, is that I picked it up last night, and I was able to start reading from the place I left off several months ago. The fact that I could remember who the characters were and what was going on actually says a lot about Bray’s ability to create strong characters, plot, and settings. So I really will finish it this time.
Of the seven Pyrite nominees above that I have already read, there are two that I have read twice. I read Code Name Verity once in galley and once on audio, plus I thumbed through the finished copy. I still think this is a very well-written book, but despite all the love it is getting, I’m not convinced it is the best YA book of the year.
Right now, my vote for that goes to The Brides of Rollrock Island, which is the other book I have read twice. And I was even more impressed with it on the second time through. Her language is beautiful, but not intrusive. I love the way she creates adjectives and phrases like “tipped-steep” [“Ann Jelly carried me down the cliff path, back and forth in a tipped-steep world.”] and “pearlycoated blubber-bulk” [describing the seals’ bodies]. And there were just wonderful expressions that made me smile, like “But Bee was snatched up too, in time, by Thomas Bolt in his brief moment of half-handsomeness and hers of nearly-beauty.”
The second time through, too, I saw more of the foreshadowings of what was to come, which just add pathos to the story. On page 27 (e-galley), Misskaella is looking at the seals on the beach, and remembers the picture she saw drawn on a sea-wall, of a woman rising from the skin of a seal, and realizes that this is “a history that might be repeated if such as I happened along.” It wasn’t as clear to me the first time through that this had happened before and, even more, could happen again. And it kind of makes the whole scene breathtaking to realize that she realizes what she can do and what it will mean.
And the whole section where Daniel Mallet is deciding about helping the mams go back to the sea: his discussion with his friend about being happy (“Was any of us ever happy, I’d like to know?”) and his decision to move forward:
“I woke in the morning knowing what I must do. I ached all over, from my hair ends in to my heart. I sat up and regarded the different ordinariness of my room and its furnishings, the spills of light on the wall around my window curtain, as I moved around my idea, considering it from all sides. It held good–as far as anything could be thought good on Rollrock, in Potshead. At the very least, it would move us on to a different dreadfulness.”
Oh, my. I can feel the pain, the sorrow, and yet the determination!
For the other books, I’ve been thinking of rereading Ask the Passengers. This is probably at the moment my other serious contender for best book of the year. I’m probably not going to reread The Fault in Our Stars, although I may page through it. I’m trying not to let the fact of its popularity get in the way of my critical evaluation of it. I definitely won’t reread Every Day, which I thought was clever, but slight. Seraphina and Bomb are among my top five, so I may well take another look at those.
There are books in that middle range that in my opinion are better than some of the top ten: Graffiti Moon, for one. Titanic. Chopsticks and Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone were two of my early favorites, but I don’t think they stand up to Rollrock, Passengers, Seraphina, Bomb, and Graffiti Moon. Or Code Name Verity, for that matter. But far, I’m thinking Dodger has a chance to crack the list.
The Wicked and the Just got write-in votes; I thought it was good, but not top ten. I thought Small Damages was an excellent book, but again, not top ten. In Darkness, on the other hand, is definitely top ten for me. It is really sticking with me. I noticed you’ve read it now; perhaps we can talk about it.
Seriously, though, I don’t envy the Printz committee. So many great books–and so many of them published near the end of the year! This is the committee that I appointed, and I’m just hoping that by January 28 they’ll still be grateful to me for appointing them, and not angry at me for giving them such a tough job!
And, of course, Morris and Nonfiction finalists will be announced this week or early next week, probably adding more to the pile.
So what is your recommendation for how I should direct my reading for the next month or so?