This year’s Printz Award and Printz Honor books are all quite unique: man-eating bugs, Irish romance, artistic twins and more! It can be hard to find books that are similar, but if you are enjoying reading the winners for the Hub Challenge and want to hold on to the feeling of a particular book, read on and give these read-a-likes a try.
Maggie Lynch is navigating a new life in Ireland. In the midst of dealing with family struggles, boys, and tentative friendships, she is shocked by the death of her beloved Uncle Kevin who introduced her to the music of Kurt Kobain and the grunge movement. When Kevin leaves her two concert tickets to see Nirvana she makes it her mission to come through for her uncle and ends up learning about herself along the way.
In Five Flavors of Dumb, as in The Carnival at Bray music drives the plot, but comes to stand for much more. Piper, whose parents decided to spend her college fund on her baby sister’s cochlear implant, is also struggling through some tense family situations. Like Maggie, music becomes a means of escaping the ordinary when Dumb, her high school’s rock band, hires Piper as their manager. Though Piper is deaf and unable to hear Dumb’s music, she grows to love rock music through reading biographies of Kurt Kobain and Jimi Hendrix, and getting caught up in the energy and adrenaline of recording studio and concerts. Readers who enjoyed viewing Maggie’s road to self discovery through the lens of music will love watching Piper come into her own.
Emily Beam is left devastated in the wake of her boyfriend Paul’s suicide. As she tries to shift through her feelings she moves to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, and finds comfort and connection in the haunting poetry and the painful life of another Emily, the poet Emily Dickinson. Feeling a deep need to express her grief, Emily writes her own poetry and begins to heal.
Read-a-Like: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Like Emily, Wolitzer’s protagonist Jam Gallahue is dealing with her trauma and grief. She seeks a fresh start at the WoodenBarn, a boarding school for troubled teens. When Jam is selected for the mysterious Special Topics in English class she discovers the writings of Sylvia Plath. In both books the girls connect deeply with specific authors whose pain echoes in their words through the decades, and helps them feel less alone. Readers who appreciated Hubbard’s delicate handling of grief and her commentary on writing as a means of recovery will find much to love in Belzhar.
Printz Award: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Twins Noah and Jude are talented artists whose rivalry, mother’s death, and long kept secrets have driven a rift in their close relationship. Alternating between each twin’s point of view, and between the past and the present, Noah struggles with his sexuality and Jude struggles with her guilt. Told through the eyes of not entirely reliable narrators, readers slowly come to see the events that shaped the twin’s past and how they move forward into the future.
Read-a-Like: My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr 2003 Printz Honor,
2006 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults
Ellen, like Jude, deeply loves her brother Link. However when she finds herself attracted to her brother’s best friend, James, Ellen slowly comes to realize that James and Link have been secretly in love for a long time. As James slowly returns Ellen’s feelings and grows apart from Link, betrayal and confusion cast a shadow over the sibling’s relationship. Readers who enjoyed the complexity of familial bonds, and the sensitive treatment of sexuality in I’ll Give You the Sun will find much to love in My Heartbeat.
When Austin Szerba is not busy chronicling the history of his family and his town, he’s wondering whether or not he is in love with his girlfriend Shea or his best friend Robbie. To complicate matters a rash of giant man-eating praying mantises have descended upon the town and begun devouring the residents. Even as he struggles to figure out his hormones and his history, Austin makes a desperate attempt to save his friends and neighbors in Smith’s strangely engaging novel.
Readers might argue that Grasshopper Jungle is unprecedented in its strangeness. However, A.S. King gives carnivorous bugs a run for their money with her own uncanny ability to make her characters and readers suspend their disbelief. Like Austin and Robbie, Glory and Ellie are struggling through their boring small town lives and their own contentious friendship. As in Grasshopper Jungle an element of the truly bizarre shakes things up, this time in the form of a petrified bat that may be God. The girls decide on a whim to mix the bat with beer and drink it, which gives them the ability to look into a person’s eyes and see their infinite past and future. Readers who loved Austin’s mix of self-deprecating humor and profound insight, but wanted better female representation in their absurdity, will enjoy Glory’s distinctive voice.
Set over the course of a single summer vacation, Tamaki’s graphic novel has a feeling of relaxed melancholy. Rose and Windy have spent every summer in neighboring beach houses and shared their thoughts on growing up, family problems and the drama surrounding the local teens. This book takes on a lonely feel as the quiet sadness of past summers slowly unfolds, and as readers realize that Rose and Windy are growing apart and beginning to view the world differently.
Helene’s story of bullying and loneliness is told through similarly melancholic but evocative illustrations as in This One Summer. Readers will feel similar isolation as Helene loses and gains friends and finds consolation in reading Jane Eyre. Britt’s narrative also shows a huge amount of empathy for Helene’s mother just as Tamaki did for Rose’s mother. Older teen readers who can both appreciate the young girl’s and the older mother’s perspective in This One Summer will enjoy Jane, the Fox, and Me too.
-Emily Childress-Campbell, Currently Reading Lockwood & Co. The Screaming Staircase by Johnathan Stroud