Yesterday I posted what I thought might actually win the 2016 Printz but here are the books I would personally award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature for 2015.
Before I get to my picks, here's a little about what I've learned regarding my reading tastes through my choices:
Agatha Christie has always been my favorite author. I rarely read whodunits any more, but I think what always appealed to me with her novels is still evident in my current taste: masterful control of craft (in her case, plot, in the case of the books below, plot, yes, but also definitely theme) and the ability to constantly surprise the reader.
Clearly, my favorite type of books are those that have an "aha!" moment: books that are possibly ambiguous and confusing at first but finally reveal themselves to be profound in a way you never first expected; books that make you believe they are totally one thing, and then finally reveal themselves to be something completely different and more profound; books that can convince you that the way in which they are written, no matter how outrageous, is the ONLY possible way in which that story could be told. I love when authors make everything fall into place in a way in which either
1.I feel very clever for figuring out what's happening or
2.I can do nothing but stand back in awe.
I like books that make you wonder "What in the world is going on?" and finally answer back "more than you ever imagined."
So without further ado, in what I thought was a very good year for YA fiction, here are my choices for the 2015 books most worthy of awards:
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: I've written about this novel before, but to sum up, I think Bone Gap says more in a more compelling way than anything else this year. It's vivid and mysterious and frightening and beautiful. Roza is a character for the ages.
I've picked all novels this year because I did not read as much non-fiction as I should have, and no graphic novels really knocked me out.
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman: Deals with mental illness in a way that at first seems bizarre, but eventually reveals itself to be the best possible super-long metaphor.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera: It takes a gimmicky format and convinces you that the gimmick is the most organic way to tell this story. Hard to believe it's a debut with such a masterful control of plot and voice.
The start of Me and You by Emery Lord: I have not once heard this talked about as a Printz book, but I think there is a very important place for poignant relational YA books and this is one of the best I've ever read. Every point where you think it's going to be tropey and familiar, it twists in a way to be unique in its authenticity while still giving you the story you want in a book that has this type of cover. Here's my sort-of review.
The Tight-Rope Walkers by David Almond: I've written about this one too, and I still don't *quite* understand how a book filled with some absolutely loathsome acts, some despicable characters, and so much prosaic nothingness can be so beautiful. A book you must read all the way to the end to truly appreciate because the genius is the way in which the plot, themes, allusions, and characters twist around back on themselves to make a striking symmetry. Masterful.
Honorable mention to:
This Side of Home by Renee Watson: Some of the most fascinating themes of the year and great characters and setting, just came off as a little too didactic to me.
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel: I LOVED this book so much, but I can't make an argument that even convinces me that it's YA. I'm sad that it won't be eligible for the Newbery because the author is Canadian. SOOOOO deliciously creepy.
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge: I love everything about everything Hardinge has written, but this is thoroughly MG to me. (Hardinge lives in Britain so is also sadly ineligible for Newbery)
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: I really really like this one, and I do think lighter books should be awarded much more often than they are, but I just don't see quite the level of distinguishedness here that I saw in my honor choices. If I could pick 10 it would TOTALLY be on the list. here's what I wrote about it,
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma: I think this is the most literary YA novel I read this year. The writing is beautiful but the story was just TOO vague. The plot is ambiguous, yes, but in a sense so were the characters. I just felt the story held me at a distance and I couldn't drum up the passion for the phenomenal writing that I could for the novels I chose. Here's my original mini-review.
Some books I never got to but wish I had:
Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King
Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian
The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones
Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn
All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kiely
The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
That's about it. What are YOUR choices for the best YA had to offer in 2015?