History, Horror, and More Top Contenders | Pondering Printz

It's that time, again—will Sabaa Tahir's All My Rage, already a winner this season, win the Printz? Works from Tiffany D. Jackson and Candace Fleming are also among this year's contenders.

It's that time, again—will Sabaa Tahir's All My Rage, already a winner this season, win the Printz? Works from Tiffany D. Jackson and Candace Fleming are also among this year's contenders.

Sabaa Tahir’s All My Rage has already deservedly won both the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the National Book Award. What are the odds that it can also win the Printz and complete a Triple Crown of sorts (a feat only previously accomplished by The Poet X)? History may not favor the pick, but I do like its chances. Nevertheless, here are some books that could give it a run for its money.

With only a trio of books in the Printz canon (Heart to Heart, Black Juice, and Midwinterblood), short stories aren’t wildly popular with teens either, but it has been a historically strong and deep year for the genre with collections from both popular authors and exciting new voices alike. The cream of the crop, however, is Man Made Monsters by Andrea L. Rogers. Through the lens of the horror genre, it chronicles an extended Cherokee family through 18 stories over 200 years from 1839 to 2039; Rogers powerfully employs genre tropes to illustrate the devasting impact of the sociopolitical persecution of American Indians.

Since her debut novel six years ago, Tiffany D. Jackson has emerged as arguably our preeminent author of mystery, thrillers, and suspense. She veered into horror territory with White Smoke last year and continues to flex her horror chops with The Weight of Blood, a reimagining of Stephen King’s Carrie. A viral bullying video leads to a school’s first integrated prom, but the biracial protagonist has a surprise of her own. Like Rogers, Jackson uses the trappings of horror to explore the dynamics of race, prejudice, and violence in a contemporary setting.

In a year where anti-Semitism unfortunately dominated headlines, it was refreshing to see a trio of strong Jewish fiction: Sofia Pasternack’s Black Bird, Blue Road; Isaac Blum’s The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen; and Sacha Lamb’s When the Angels Left the Old Country. The latter two sit comfortably in the upper end of the Printz range and feel like true contenders, but I’d give the edge to Lamb. With echoes of Jewish folklore, two supernatural beings leave their village in search of a missing emigrant in America at the turn of the 20th century. The superb storytelling elements, strong third third-person narrative voice, and resonant themes of love and identity make this book feel both timely and timeless.

Candace Fleming's Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime is the gripping story of a shocking murder. In 1924, on the southside of Chicago, two wealthy teenage boys—Leopold and Loeb—kidnapped and murdered a third boy just to see if they could get away with it. Their subsequent capture and trial forms the basis of Fleming’s narrative, true crime at its finest. In retrospect, it seems inevitable that Fleming would take this direction; think of the kidnapping and murder of Lindbergh’s infant son in The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh or the execution scene in The Family Romanov. Fleming is easily our most underrated nonfiction writer; it’s a mystery that the Printz has never shown her any love. Is this the year that changes? Time will tell.

Jonathan Hunt is a coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He has served on numerous award committees, including the Printz. Follow him on Twitter @jhunt24.


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