A few weeks ago, we got the dish on the Vancouver, WA FYA Book Club's Mock Printz short list for 2014. And now, chapter leader Becky is here to give us the deets on their Mock Printz meeting. Take it away, Becky!
This month, the Vancouver, WA FYA Book Club turns three. Three! Can you believe it? If you do the math, you’ll realize that we have been FYAing in the Couve since before FYA Book Club was an international phenomenon. Though totally, obviously inspired by FYA (if you dig around in the comments of some post from early 2011 you’ll find my book club announcement), our book club has then been doing our own thing with our own bookish traditions. In October, we read a scary book and dress as a character from a book we read in the previous year. In January, we do a Mock Printz.
For the uninitiated, the Printz Award is the literary award for young adult fiction awarded annually by the Young Adult Library Services Association. Our Mock Printz begins at our November meeting, where I present the group with my ten book short list of candidates. By skipping a book discussion for December, this gives us two months to read as many from the list as possible before we meet just before the Youth Media Awards are announced at the end of January.
Okay, to be honest, our Mock Printz begins far before our November meeting, because that short list doesn’t write itself. Luckily, I am a youth services librarian and obsess about YA literature not only as a hobby but also as a job. I start thinking about the next year’s potential candidates basically immediately after the Printz award is announced. I follow Mock Printz blogs, I keep track of books with a lot of critical acclaim, and I read as much as possible. This year, I put together a spreadsheet of books listed on Mock Printz and best of the year lists to help me make the hard decisions. I crossed off books I’d already read and didn’t think would make it all the way and stubbornly kept on a book that people had apparently stopped talking about (more on this later). In the end, I’d read only half of the books on the short list though.
(l-r) Becky, Karey, Dave, PJ, and Megan
We met January 26, the day before the awards were announced. To begin, I read aloud the award’s criteria, and then we dive in. This year, of eight participants (Karey, Megan, Jennifer, Chrissy, PJ, McKenzie, Dave – or “Dad” as other people call him, and myself) THREE had read all ten books, and there wasn’t a single book that everyone had read. Each book’s discussion starts with someone giving a synopsis of the book and then we discuss its literary merits – including the question of what literary merits actually are. There seems among our group a general consensus that a literary book stays with you and inspires critical thinking in some way.
(l-r) Karey, Dave, Jennifer, PJ, and Megan
After a couple of hours of discussion, we vote. Our voting is more or less modeled after how the real committee votes, except much abbreviated. Book Club members are given highly official ballots, which are usually scraps of paper dug out of my purse, and on each ballot each member votes for his or her top three. First place books get five points, second place three, and third one. I add these together and the book with the most points wins. Then we have a very short discussion of honors, since it’s Sunday night and time to go home. This year we gave our Mock Printz to Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt and an honor to Winger by Andrew Smith. Votes for those two blew all the other books out of the water, so we stopped there and went home.
Official ballot tallies - note how I called Leonard Peacock "Leonard Park"...
Uses for Boys was the book I kept on the short list despite its lack of attention by other Mock Printzers and best of the year listers. I thought – and still think – that it is really something special. But it’s gritty, it has graphic sexual language, it is not an easy book to read (not exactly, book clubber Jennifer pointed out, the best reading material for her beach vacation). I’m not surprised, given how awards are always a bit political, that it was overlooked or set aside. I was really pleased, though, that my fellow book clubbers felt the same way I did.
The next morning I woke up at 5 AM to watch the Youth Media Award live feed from Philadelphia. The Printz went to Midwinterblood, with honors for Eleanor & Park, Maggot Moon, The Kingdom of Little Wounds, and Navigating Early. Our top choices weren’t honored, but three of the books we discussed were, which I am very happy with. In our first year our short list and the winners might as well of existed on separate planets. Last year, our winner Code Name Verity won an honor. Maybe next year we’ll call the winner. I hope you join us.