Every year, the Michael L. Printz Award honors the best books written for teenagers, honoring four books and selecting one as the winner. For a book to be eligible, it must be published in the year proceeding the award and must be classified by the publisher as a young adult book.
The recipient of the 2014 Michael L. Printz award, Marcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood, features seven stories that are tied together by a number of common threads and themes. The story begins in the year 2073 with a reporter visiting Blessed Island and proceeds into a series of stories that span decades and covers a number of genres. The novel is beautifully written and comprised of many complex characters that keep the reader intrigued as the stories unfold. While it can be disturbing at times, it is a proper fit for the Young Adult genre.
Published in February, Eleanor and Park follows the title characters as they struggle through a single year of high school in 1986. While the plot appears basic in the early chapters, the complexity of the characters set this book apart from the average novels that feature high school angst. The characters are well developed and fairly easy to care about and Rowell does a great job of focusing on their lives outside of the relationship they find themselves in. Despite being a perfect fit for the Young Adult category, it is fairly accessible to older readers who enjoy the genre.
Award winning author Claire Vanderpool’s second novel, Navigating Early, follows a young man named Jack Baker as attempts to cope with massive changes in his life. Set in the World War II era, the novel could be classified as historical fiction with a bit of action and adventure. The early parts of the story are rather slow but it does not take long for the plot to come together. There are numerous emotional thematic elements in the story and it is deeper than the average adventure story but it is a fairly interesting read for both teenagers and adults.
Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon takes place in a totalitarian alternate version of Britain redolent of the World War II era. Bleak and disturbing, the novel is beautifully written and features very compelling characters. Despite the cover art, this book is not a story for children. The story is not only comprised with violent imagery but very complex, possibly too much so for readers on the younger end of the Young Adult genre.
Published in October, Susann Cokal’s The Kingdom of Little Wounds, is probably the darkest novel to receive an honor this year. At first glance, the plot appears fairly simple and there are quite a few aspects to the story that lead the reader to believe it might be another take of a number of classic fairy tale tropes. It does not take long, however, for it to become very obvious that this is not a typical fairy tale. The themes are dark and many disturbing things happen to the characters throughout the novel. The book is brilliantly written and it is not difficult to see why it was selected to receive a Printz Award honor but readers should be warned that this is not a light read and might be quite disturbing for anyone that is sensitive to upsetting or triggering topics.