This time of year is uber exciting for those of us who follow book awards. It’s that time when everyone is making their “2011 Best” lists and the best of the best finally get officially recognized.
Many of us
psychos can be found by the glow of our computer screens in the wee hours of the morning, making sure to get our first come-first serve seat for the live webcast to find out who will win the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott Award (for children’s lit and illustrations) and the Printz Award for Excellence in YA lit. This year’s Printz Award went to none other then There Were… no. Wait. That’s not it. Where They… something or other.
It’s Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. And OMG, do you know of this book?!
Yea. Me neither.
In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.
As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. Through masterful plotting, these two stories are brought face-to-face in a surprising and harrowing climax that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.
Now, I certainly don’t doubt Mr. Whaley’s abilities. Admittedly, I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it’s a very well written book. However, I do question whether or not a teenager would actually want to read it. I’m a librarian in my mid-twenties, and I won’t lie… I don’t think it looks all that appealing. But I’m willing to give it the ol’ college try (whatever the hell that means) for the sake of literature.
When I think of all the awesome books that were released in 2011, there are a few that come to mind that had more than enough merit to be considered for the award. If I had a say, these books would have gotten my vote:
- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (inspired by Siobhan Dowd) – I thought for sure this was a lock to win. This book is both haunting and heart wrenching, and you’d best keep a box of Kleenex handy. But it gives a strong voice to anyone who has ever watched someone suffer from terminal cancer.
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – Brilliant, hilarious, well-written, and Bray already has one Printz Award in her pocket with Going Bovine.
- Wither by Lauren DeStefano – DeStefano’s writing is like listening to classical music in book form, if such a thing were possible. Her kick ass writing mixed with an original and intriguing plot definitely qualify Wither as “excellence in YA lit.”
Oh, and by the way… The Fault in Our Stars gets my vote for next year’s Printz Award. If it doesn’t win, or at least get honored, you will see librarians riot in a way that will make the Occupy movement look like a small town bake sale.