Monday, February 7, 2011

Printz Award Winners

I just finished Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and that marks the fifth and final Printz book of this year that I've read. I didn't really like or dislike any of them enough to review them separately, so I figured I'd go for a huge review instead.

The best two were Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick and Nothing by Janne Teller. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King was okay, and Stolen by Lucy Christopher was boring. Ship Builder just got a "meh."

Megan already reviewed Revolver so I'll leave that one alone except to agree with her that while this would not normally be a book I would pick up, it had a great story and good pacing throughout the novel. The main story unfolds in the course of two days. There were plenty of great details about the harsh life of northern climates and about Colt revolvers and they were never boring--I didn't feel like I wanted to skip over anything. This is a rarity as I am easily bored by superfluous descriptions.

Stolen, by contrast, I found incredibly slow and overflowing with details. After the initial kidnapping (I'm not giving too much away here) there really isn't any plot development. The novel just seemed to drag on until the end, at which point we're left with a confusing ending. Instead of illustrating the sparse beauty of the Australian outback, the book read like an encyclopedia. The one thing that I liked about this book was the depth that Ty, the kidnapper had. I thought Christopher did a good job at making him seem creepy and vulnerable at the same time, and she used weird personality traits in addition to a good back story to make him more believable.

The children in Nothing were incredibly believable, although it seemed more like a morality tale than a story. As a teen, I probably would have liked this book because of the escalating weirdness throughout, but as an adult reader and teacher who works with teens I was particularly affected by the influence that peer pressure had on the characters, eventually leading them to do unspeakable things. I don't want to give anything away so I'll just give the following synopsis: a group of children try to convince their classmate that life isn't meaningless by collecting meaningful things. As each child chooses for another what is meaningful things get out of control. I think this book would be disturbing for some younger readers so I'd say it would be appropriate for 14 and up only. Still, this book was definitely my favorite, despite (because of?) the creepiness.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz was okay. It reminded me a lot of last year's winners; books about quirky teens with major life problems. The storytelling was pretty good and the pacing was mostly great. The characters, especially the main character, just wasn't very compelling to me. I wanted to finish the book because it was so interesting but I never really felt anything for Vera. I actually thought the most interesting character was the crazy bad girl Jenny (I think Jenny walks the halls of every school in America!). There is a lot of language in this book and some mature content and I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone. I can't think of any niche it would fill.

Ship Breaker was pretty disappointing. It's another book about a Dystopian society and an underdog who tries to get out. Unlike Hunger Games, it doesn't have much of a plot; unlike Uglies, the world the author creates is pretty bland. Science fiction really can't work unless you build great settings--this book starts off okay but never gives us enough details about the world or society to make it really interesting. The ending makes it seem like this book will be a series, so maybe the author intends to reveal more later, but I don't know if I would read a sequel. The main character, Nailer, didn't really do much for me either. There is fair bit of language in this book as well.

Maybe I was just not in a good mood when I read these books, but I really didn't like them as much as previous Printz award winners! I looked over the list again tonight and saw amazing books that I loved; Monstrumologist from last year, the Book Thief, Jellicoe Road, Speak, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Octavian Nothing, A Northern Light... I was just disappointed in the books this year. Hopefully next year's winners will be better.


  1. I recently finished Ship Breaker and I would agree with many of the things you said. It was just an "okay" book. I am not even sure I will purchase it for my library. It's not bad, but it is not great. I like many other dystopian society type books better. I actually didn't think there was all that much language in it, but I might have diff opinions than Sarah there. All in all, I thought it was a decently clean book, but the book wasn't a page turner by any means. I am actually not even that sure why this book was the Printz winner. My only thoughts is that it brought in many political hot topics in a subtle (some may think not so subtle) ways such as global warming. Yet again, it wasn't bad... it just wasn't great.

    Already started Stolen by Christopher... I'll let you know my thoughts. Sorry I am not the speedy reader like Sarah. We all can't have her super powers.

  2. There was one quote that I did like in the book. "Blood is not destiny, no matter what others may believe." (pg 248) I like the message/reminder that quote provides. I guess you can feel inspired from even an "ok" book.

  3. Alright, I just finished Stolen by Lucy Christopher. I would have to say that Sarah hit the nail on the head with that one. It has a decent beginning, but then it truly just seems to drag on. Ty was an interesting character with depth, but the story truly lacked a plot. Sure, this could've been a short story, but something else needed to be there for it to be a Printz Honor book for me.