Friday, June 2, 2017

Impressions of Printz

I'm guessing it was three or four years ago when I slowly became aware of the Printz award for Young Adult literature. I noticed the sticker on a book I enjoyed, and then I noticed it on another book, and then I started to suspect that this award might go to good books. I still haven't sought out Printz winners specifically, but I did start factoring it in when making decisions about what to check out or read next.

Then I saw Carrie at Cat on a Bookshelf's discussion about whether or not awards matter, which in turn reminded me of Anne at My Head is Full of Books, who offers and participates in challenges specifically around the range of YA book awards that exist. I've tried to tackle her ALA Young Adult challenge the past two years, but really, I find awards more useful as pointers for what might be good than as guarantees that something will be to my taste, no matter how objectively "top quality" they may be.

Still, I as curious now as to what it would look like if I investigated how many Printz winners and honor books I've read. I pulled the list off their site, reformatted it because ARGH YOU CAN'T HAVE "BY" IN SOME YEARS AND "WRITTEN BY" IN OTHERS AND WHY ARE NONE OF THE TITLES UNDERLINED?, and highlighted the ones I've read.

Some observations:
  • Not only have I not read any of the 2008 winners, I haven't even heard of them. 
  •  On the other hand, I've read every single 2004 winner already.  
  • Authors with multiple wins: Marcus Sedgwick, John Green, M. T. Anderson (with a duology), Margo Lanagan, Terry Pratchett, and Markus Zusak.  It seems your odds are higher if your first name begins with "Mar" or at least an M.
  • I always find it interesting which of a prolific author's books win awards.  There are arguably more popular books by Green, Stiefvater, King, Yancey, and Smith.  
  • Awards are SO SUBJECTIVE.  There are books on here that I absolutely love and think are well deserving of every award ever.  There are books on here that I thought were good, but not unusually good. There are books on here that I felt were overhyped, and there are books on here that I have no interest in reading.  
  • The list has decent variety.  Magical realism, historical fiction, contemporary, sci fi, mystery, fantasy.  Graphic novels, nonfiction, novels in verse and even a few books with a sense of humor made the list.  
  • It is, however, a shockingly white list. Out of 79 titles, I only see 7 authors who are POC.  I may have missed a couple because I don't know every author on the list, but I know many of them well enough to say there's a definite lack of diversity and own voices represented.  I suspect the same would hold true if I gathered data on other types of diversity as well. 
  • All of the books, even the ones I don't care for, are well written and creative, the work of excellent writers.
  • I'd be super curious to know which of these are most popular with actual young adults, not just the teachers, librarians, and other adult book fiends who buy so much YA literature.

Which of these have you read?  Any favorites?  (Mine are Eleanor & Park, Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Scorpio Races, A Northern Light, House of the Scorpion, and about a half dozen others.)  Have you ever undertaken an award-based challenge?  Do awards have any influence on your reading choices?

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Honor Books:  
The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Honor Books:
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Honor Books:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

In Darkness by Nick Lake
Honor Books:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein;
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Honor Books:
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman
The Returning by Christine Hinwood
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Honor Books:
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Please Ignore Vera Dietz  by A.S. King
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
Nothing by Janne Teller

Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Honor Books:
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Punkzilla by Adam Rapp
Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973 by John Barnes

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Honor Books:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
Honor Books:
Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet by Elizabeth Knox
One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke
Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Honor Books:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v. 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Honor Books:
Black Juice  by Margo Lanagan
I Am the Messenger  by Markus Zusak
John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, a Photographic Biography  by Elizabeth Partridge
A Wreath for Emmett Til, by Marilyn Nelson
how i live now by Meg Rosoff
Honor Books:
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
Honor Books:
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Keesha’s House by Helen Frost
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers
Honor Books:
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
A Step From Heaven by An Na
Honor Books:
The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson
Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art by Jan Greenberg Abrams
Freewill by Chris Lynch
True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond
Honor Books:
Many Stones by Carolyn Coman
The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Honor Books:
Skellig by David Almond
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger


  1. What I've Read:
    I'll Give You the Sun is one of my favorite books.
    I liked E&P, but it's not my favorite Rainbow Rowell book.
    An Abundance of Katherines is my favorite John Green book (I know, I am in the minority on this one). Looking for Alaska was good.
    Angus, Thongs and the Perfect Snogging was so fun. Loved it!
    Sam @ WLABB

    1. I like Abundance of Katherines best too! But E&P is my favorite Rowell for sure. Well, other than Carry On. I think I'm the wrong generation to really love Fangirl.

  2. I’ve read all the Printz winners except this year’s (March #3 was the winner). I’ve also read a lot of the honor books. I pay attention to awards because I’m a writing snob, and award-winners are usually well-written, but there are a few Printz winners that I would have hated as a teenager. Teenage-me would not have willingly finished In Darkness, Where Things Come Back, Jellicoe Road, or Postcards from No Man’s Land. They were probably too dense/odd for me. I think teenage-me would have loved How I Live Now, Looking for Alaska, The White Darkness, and Midwinterblood.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. Thank you for linking to my post! I have seen the Printz award on books, but I have generally ignored it. I'm glad that it showed you some good books. Out of the books on this list, I've only read The Book Thief. Funnily enough, about ten were already on my TBR (some of them even sitting on my shelves). A suggestion: If you want to find more diverse books and authors, there should be awards like that for YA. They exist for children's books, so they should exist for YA as well.

    Carrie @ Cat on the Bookshelf

    1. Oh, they do! There's the Pure Belpre award, the Coretta Scott King award, the Schneider Family just strikes me as telling that the "overall" award is skewed so white, like that's the default.

  4. I haven't heard of any of the 2008 books---but I actually haven't heard of the 2004 books either, so ....

    I'm horrible about following awards or reading those "award-winning" books, but I was actually surprised that I have read some of the newer ones.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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