Literary award season is upon us! We are eagerly anticipating ALA’s announcement of the 2018 Michael L. Printz award winner and honor books on February 12. The Printz award recognizes one winner and up to four honor books as the best young adult titles published during each year.
Award season always generates many predictions among readers regarding which titles are most likely to win. Here are the thoughts of JCPL staff considering which books are most deserving this year:
2018 Printz Honor Contenders
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds is well-known as a charismatic author of juvenile literature, and his young adult novel Long Way Down is one of the most talked about books this year. It won 6 stars and was on the National Book Award longlist. Long Way Down looks at the cycle of gun violence through free verse poetry primarily set during a single ride down an elevator. Library staff are unsure whether this book will hold up against the other contenders due to the unconventional format of the novel. Can a verse novel win? Some critics debate the quality of the poetry, but the symbolism in the novel is undeniably powerful and pushes this title to the front of the race.
Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
This slim sci-fi novel made up of a series of vignettes received mixed opinions regarding its Printz status. M.T. Anderson is no rookie among the award crowd, having received two Printz honors for both installments in The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing in 2007 and 2009 and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Feed in 2002. Landscape with Invisible Hand has received 5 stars and is listed as a Kirkus Best Book of 2017 in the Teen category. Critics praise this title for its timely allegorical themes but struggle with the lack of character development due to the short length of the novel. Regardless of mixed opinions, it has been noted as one of the most inventive YA novels this year.
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Far From the Tree won the 2017 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. It is the story of three young people navigating what it means to be family after they discover that they all share the same birth mother. JCPL’s Teen Librarian, Katelyn Wolfe says “Far From the Tree is one of the most powerful young adult novels I have read. Robin Benway beautifully weaves together three points of view to demonstrate the courage required to become a family. Benway shines a much needed light on adoption and foster care in young adult literature.”
Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
One novel we are surprised that has not generated much Printz buzz is Maresi, the first installment in The Red Abbey Chronicles. It has been pitched as a “Handmaid’s Tale for teens.” Youth Services Librarian Hannahlily Angus says “The one book I read this year that I immediately thought ‘this feels like a Printz book’ was Maresi. It has some prickly thematic maturity like Midwinterblood. The Printz committee always seems to skew as old as possible, which would be a good thing for books like this.” Maresi, the titular protagonist, is a novice at the Red Abbey, a haven from abuse and oppression for women and girls. But the dangers of the outside world soon follow her into this sacred space. Unfortunately, Maresi received minor critical acclaim with only one star (which is such a shame!). But we are holding out hope that it could still be recognized!
2018 Printz Award Winner Prediction
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This novel has hands down received the most buzz this year and we have barely been able to keep it on our shelves! The Hate U Give is Thomas’ debut title and received 8 starred reviews and was on the National Book Award Longlist. This novel tells the story of Starr Carter and discusses difficult themes such as police brutality and systemic racism. It is acclaimed for Starr’s emotional and self-aware voice and its timely and culturally relevant subject matter. JCPL librarians note that is it clearly the favorite of the year. But can its popularity serve as a force strong enough to win the award?
And there you have it! Have you read any YA titles this year that you think deserve a Printz award or honor? This year has surely given us an abundance of quality young adult literature. Stay tuned for ALA’s announcement of award winners on February 12.