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YA Book Reviews by Amy

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YA Book Reviews by Amy: Thoughts on the Printz Award Winners

It is toward the end of the year and several thoughts jump through my mind when it comes to lists and books. I think about my favorite books of the year, my biggest disappointing reads, books that I wish I could have gotten to, my TBR, and this year, I started to think of award-winning books too. One of the most noted teen book awards is the Michael L. Printz Award.

Every year since 2000, the Michael L. Printz Award honors the best books written for teens as well as having around four honorable mentions. According to the American Library Association, the award is based entirely on literary merit. I like that the award is based on having a wide audience, but does not focus on popularity. The committee chooses books that can be widely talk about among teens, is diverse, and they have acknowledged that there is not a strict list of criteria that the book must follow; what they are looking for is “literary excellence.” The award recognizes that the qualities that make a great book might change, but that the quality is present.

Here are the past 8 winners of the Michael L. Printz Award and my thoughts!


2021:

Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

Khosrou, called Daniel by his classmates, weaves stories of the past, including his own. Classmates only see him as strange and cannot believe if his stories are true or not. Khosrou tells of the moments leading up and the aftermath of his family leaving Iran to stories that seem like tales out of a book. Based on the true story of Daniel Nayeri.

Everything Sad Is Untrue - Nayeri, Daniel

Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, this is the only Michael L. Printz Award winner from the past decade that I have not read since I have not gotten to it just yet. After reading the summary and the reviews for this book, I really want to pick it up. It sounds like an entertaining tale that has a lot of heart.

Available as an eBook on Hoopla and at the library* for checkout.


2020:

Dig by A.S. King

Five teens have seemingly nothing in common other than the fact that their families are falling apart and the mysterious wealthy Hemmings family is involved. The Shoveler watches his single mother struggle with money as he takes odd jobs here and there. The Freak has supernatural abilities that can transport her away from her sad family situation. CanIHelpYou? is a fast food drive-thru worker that is selling more than just food at her window. Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress talks to the fleas that flood her home. And First-Class Malcolm has been living between the United States and Jamaica ever since his father was diagnosed with deadly cancer.

Dig - King, A. S.

Dig is truly a strange tale that does not shy away as an uncomfortable read. What I really enjoyed about Dig the most is the mystery surrounding these bizarre characters and how their different storylines connect and intermingle. Reading the beginning of this book there are so many questions and the readers only receive pieces of the story. As the story continues these pieces come together into a whole story that is shocking. This novel is a very satisfying read and I can completely understand why this won the Printz Award.

Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.


2019:

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara expresses herself through her poetry that she writes in her journal. It is her religion when she begins to question her own. She writes about her life in Harlem, her righteous mother, her twin brother and his own secrets, the boy she is interested in, and so much more. When Xiomara notices that her school has a spoken word club, she wants to begin participating in slam poetry, but it interferes with confirmation classes. Will Xiomara pick her passion or disregard it for her mother’s goals?

The Poet X - Acevedo, Elizabeth

This is an amazing story that is incredibly powerful and very emotional. Elizabeth Acevedo wrote this book in verse to mimic Xiomara’s writing in her journal; the poems are so beautiful even when it is written about ugly things. This unsurprisingly won the 2019 Printz Award, and I think that it deserved to win because the writing was so good.

Available on OverdriveHoopla, and at the library* for checkout.


2018:

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Instead of going home during winter break, college freshman Marin decides to stay in the abandoned dorm rooms alone. She is awaiting her best friends’ arrival after months of barely talking. Marin left for college with a weight on her shoulders and secrets that have been kept; seeing Mabel will force Marin to face her past.

We Are Okay - LaCour, Nina

Loneliness is Marin’s only companion in these harsh conditions and Nina LaCour is able to reflect the emptiness of Marin’s emotions to the cold and barren atmosphere. Such a quick read that packs an emotional punch. It is not a surprise that this book won. Highly recommended for readers that enjoy lyrical writing and character-focused reads.

Available as an eBook on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.


2017:

March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

March: Book Three, 1963, the Civil Rights movement is in full force, but there is oppression: civilian terrorist attacks, the assassination of the president, voting violence, and even murder. This graphic novel was conceived and written by John Lewis, Congressman, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and key player in the Civil Rights Movement.

March. Book Three - Lewis, John

John Lewis’ account of those years combined with the art of Nate Powell really brings the Civil Rights Era to light for readers. An informational read that deals with difficult topics, but provides not only first-hand accounts, but also tells the story in a way many readers will understand through it being a graphic novel. This book has literary merit through the words and through the art; a great pick to have won the Michael L. Printz Award.

Available on Overdrive, Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.


2016:

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

When Roza disappears from Bone Gap, the townspeople are not shocked—they are used to this happening, but for brothers Sean and Finn, their lives are changed. Finn is convinced that Roza has been kidnapped by a man, but he cannot remember what the man looked like and it has been haunting him ever since. Roza is trapped in a strange place by a man that wants to make her suffer. Will Sean and Finn find Roza before it is too late?

Bone Gap - Ruby, Laura

I was pleasantly surprised with this book; I had heard raving reviews by some and ranting from others. I originally read Bone Gap for a school assignment because I had to read several winners of The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. I think that the plot is so original and compelling. Check this one out if you like a strange mystery.

Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive, eBook and eAudiobook on Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.


2015:

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Told through two siblings’ perspectives years apart, Jude and Noah are torn away from each other when Jude gets into the prestigious art school that Noah fought so hard for and Noah does not.  Noah’s part of the story tells of their younger years in which he and his sister seemed inseparable. Jude tells her story during present day; she and Noah barely talk to each other, their mother’s death heavy on their shoulders, and Jude feels like she does not belong anywhere. Will these siblings become close again or did the past ruin any chance for forgiveness?

I'll Give You the Sun - Nelson, Jandy

Jandy Nelson writes a fantastic story about two very likable characters that must reconnect. It is a tough and emotional read at times. I was originally reluctant to read this book because I heard too many good things about it and was nervous it would not live up to expectations. But it does live up to the hype. It was one of the stories that I reread some of my favorite parts as soon as I finished it. I’m glad that this book won the Printz Award in 2015.

Available as an eBook on Overdrive and at the library*for checkout.


2014:
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Seven stories told throughout time on the same mysterious island. Two souls continually meet through different lives, but are always taken away from each other. Their relationships are never the same, but they are connected. When an archeologist discovers curious findings, he begins to discuss with a woman on the island, not knowing that their past lives have been linked together for centuries.

Midwinterblood - Sedgwick, Marcus

This was a completely unique book. The stories were eerie, and I enjoyed the supernatural elements, and there was always a sense of unease in the pages. The dark mood of the story is one that will last long after you close the book. I really like that this book won the Printz Award because it truly feels like a different story that has so much going for it including: mood, tone, setting, and it reads like a gothic horror.

Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

*check the link for available copies or to place on hold

Amy

Hello everyone! I’m Amy and I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. When I’m not trying to reach my reading goal for the year, I like to talk about what I’m reading to my family, friends, and coworkers. You could say I am a little obsessed with reading Young Adult books. I enjoy most genres, but my favorites include: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Mystery. I am always looking for the next great book that makes me connect to its characters and hits me in the feels.