YA Wednesday: 2020 Michael L. Printz Award Winners

Seira Wilson on January 29, 2020
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Earlier this week the biggest award for young adult literature was announced in Philidelphia.  The Michael L. Printz award was first given to Walter Dean Myers' Monster in 2000, and in the years since, the list has included many titles that have become modern classics for generations of teen readers.

This year the Printz Award winner is A.S. King's novel Dig, a surreal, haunting, and totally brilliant story of family, privilege, and a generation that wants to do better.  Besides the winner, the committee also chose four honor books this year and it's a really interesting list that includes a work of translation, a memoir, historical fiction, and a graphic novel:



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Dig by A.S. King

I first fell in love with A.S. King when I read her novel Please Ignore Vera Dietz years ago. It's still a favorite and one I recommend with some regularity. Her latest novel, Dig, is  King at her best.  The story of five members of the wealthy Hemmings family, each very different, and all trying to work out the complexities of legacy and expectation, white privilege, and an inheritance of secrets.  Dig is an intricate story, beautifully told, it leaves a mark on the reader and I was thrilled to see it win this important award.


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The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi

A young adult fantasy written by popular Japanese author Nahoko Uehashi this novel is perfect for readers who love magic, war, and tales of self-discovery.  The story follows a girl named Elin, who lives in a small village with her mother, a caretaker of dragon-like creatures called Toda. After Elin's mother is executed for failing to save one of the special Toda, Elin is sent to live elsewhere in the kingdom and there she discovers her ability to communicate with magical creatures called Royal Beasts.  Cathy Hirano is an excellent translator and it's exciting to see a work of translation take home the title of Printz Honor book.

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Lara Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki

Tamaki is not new to the Printz award list--her graphic novel This One Summer took home the medal in 2015 when it also made history as the first graphic novel to win a Caldecott Medal the same year.  In Lara Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, Tamaki explores the excitement and heartbreak of first love in a relationship that turns toxic but is still hard to let go of.  A queer coming-of-age story that explores questions of love and social pressure that many teens will relate to and take comfort in.

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Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

A memoir in verse from highly acclaimed poet and author Nikki Grimes, Ordinary Hazards is as powerful as they come. Grimes tells the story of her childhood, with a paranoid schizophrenic mother, her experience in multiple foster homes and the abuse she suffered at the hands of many who were supposed to care for her but instead betrayed her in the worst ways.  Grimes found solace in writing, and while her memoir is often heart-wrenching it is also a testament to resilience that is an inspiration to all who read it.


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Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

McCaughrean's novel is a remarkable story of survival based on a true event in the remote islands of St Kilda in the eighteenth century.  Each summer a contingent of men and boys are sent to a rock outcrop in the middle of the ocean to hunt the birds that gather there.  The journey is a rite of passage and an honor, but on this trip eight boys are left stranded when the boat to retrieve them does not come. The setting really comes alive and readers can almost feel the cold, hunger, and fear of McCaughrean's characters. An extraordinary tale of courage and endurance.

>See all the past and present Michael L. Printz award winners

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