Every year at the end of January, the American Library Association announces a list of top books, audio books, and video for children and young adults. One of the awards listed is the Michael L. Printz award for excellence in young adult literature. The winners and nominees share a higher level of literary quality than some of the more “trendy” YA novels. If you are looking for a novel that is challenging, innovative, or just exceptionally well-written, try one of these Printz winners or finalists.
(Please note: Many of these reviews have been posted previously in this blog; they are simply collected here.)
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2011 Printz honoree)
This novel is set in a post-oil world, following an apocalyptic world disaster. Now, the world’s few remaining wealthy people sail the oceans on enormous hydrofoil ships, and the many poor scavenge old shipwrecks and destroyed buildings for whatever they can sell. Nailer, the main character, is scavenger whose job is tearing up old hulks of ships, living day to day, until a rich girl arrives to change his life.
Going Bovine by Libba Bray (2010 Printz winner)
All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through life with a minimum of effort. It's not a lot to ask. But that's before Cameron finds out he's sick and going to die. Dulcie, an angelic hallucination tells Cam that there is a cure, if he's willing to go in search of it. With the help of a video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother-of-all-road-trips through a twisted America to find his quest. (Some mature language and content)
Stolen by Lucy Christopher (2011 Printz honoree)
It’s a parent's nightmare: 15-year-old Gemma is drugged and kidnapped in an international airport, the crime crafted so carefully that her kidnapper is able to pass her off as his girlfriend. It takes Gemma days to realize that she has been taken to a place so remote and oppressive that she will not be able to escape. Gemma fights, with whatever limited means she has, to resist her captor's twisted plan, and to take back her life.
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2004 Printz honoree)
Mattie Gokey lives in upstate New York at the end of the 19th century; she has a suitor, and it seems that a life of marriage and family has already been decided for her. When she takes a summer job at a nearby lake resort, she learns the truth about a suspicious murder case; her findings help her to step out into a life of her own design.
Looking for Alaska by John Green (2006 Printz winner)
At his new boarding school, Miles Halter experiences a new life: academic challenges, lack of parental supervision, and, for the first time, friendship. One of these new friends is Alaska, a clever, funny, messed-up girl with a penchant for pranks. In the end, Alaska’s pain wins over her spark, and her friends are left wondering why. A somber read that somehow ends up being hopeful. (Some mature language and content)
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick (2014 Printz winner)
On a remote Scandinavian island, we begin to read the story of a photographer there to document a mysterious plant. Within pages, his story ends; another abruptly begins. Soon, we delve into seven seemingly disparate, but cunningly intertwined, short stories about the power of the midwinterblood.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2013 Printz honoree)
Julia, formerly a wireless operator for the British, is being held captive in France by a sadistic Nazi interrogator. She has supposedly "sold her soul" in exchange for small bits of freedom. Interspersed with the story of her fierce fight for survival is a different tale: that of how she came to be in France and of her friendship with Maddie Brodatt, a British civilian pilot. In the second half of the book, Maddie narrates, telling of her desperate attempts to rescue her friend and revealing both the truth of what happened to each of them, and the truth of Julia's bravery.