Bone Gap

I first heard about Bone Gap, written by Laura Ruby, on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast as part of their round-up of National Book Award winners and I planned to write a post recommending from just about the minute I started it. So the fact that it just this week won the 2016 Printz Award for excellence in literature for young adults this week  makes this a very timely review (a rarity for me!).

Bone Gap tells the story of Finn, a teenage boy who lives with his older brother in a tiny, Midwestern farm town. Finn has a reputation as being a bit slow or spacey, and things have only gotten worse since the disappearance of Roza, a young woman who was living with them. Finn was the only witness to her kidnapping, but he hasn’t been able to describe the kidnapper and everyone in town (including his brother) has been looking at him askance ever since. Aaaand that’s about all I want to say.

I went in to this book knowing that it included elements of magic realism, and I’m going to tell you that much because I think our readers here more likely to pick this up if it’s got a bit of magic to it (Biblio-therapy readers are a fanciful lot). However, I also read the book summary on the inside of the cover and it gave me some details that I wish I hadn’t known. This story and its magic and its central mystery unfold so slowly and naturally that I think part of the joy of reading this is letting the story take you along at it’s own pace.

So, don’t read any online reviews, just trust me on this. Bone Gap is sweet and mysterious and sometimes dark and scary and sometimes small-town claustrophobic, and just all around interesting. It’s a book that cast a spell on me.

Kinsey’s Three Word Review: Magical small-town mystery

You might also like: I almost hate to make recommendations here, since anything I suggest is going to telegraph the ultimate tone of Bone Gap. But I can’t stop myself from telling people what to read, so, Alice Hoffman and Francesca Lia Block are two authors that do magic realism well. I like them both, although Hoffman’s books tend to tip towards middle-aged women and Block’s really speak to angsty 14-year-olds. Another option is Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King, a book with an element of magic that splits the difference and would appeal to a wide range of folks.

Awards Season

In addition to Oscar season, it’s also American Library Association Youth Media Award season! Am I the only one who remembers being gleeful when the Newberry Medal was announced each year? I didn’t care about the Caldecott (didn’t like picture books then, don’t like graphic novels now), but the Newberry was a highlight of my year. Would it be something I’d already read? Would it be a history book that wanted me to learn something (Lincoln: A Photobiography) or a story so fun I still reread it as an adult (The Westing Game)? The 2012 ALA winners were announced this week, although since I am actually not 10 years old anymore some of their other awards capture me more than the Newberry.

The Printz award is given to YA books, and we all know how I feel about YA. This year’s winner was Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. The Honor Books were:

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman
The Returning by Christine Hinwood
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I haven’t read any of those–in fact, the only one I’ve heard of is The Scorpio Races. My experience with Maggie Stiefvater (fun fact: her last name means stepfather in German) is through an entertaining but slightly cheesy trilogy of werewolf books that starts with Shiver, but the reviews I’ve been seeing of The Scorpio Races are in another league so I’ll have to check that one out. Another fun fact about the Honor Books: Daniel Handler is also Lemony Snicket of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, so he’s doing well on several fronts.

Another award category that caught my eye is the Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences. For 2012 the list is:

Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin
In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard
The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston
The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo

I have to say that I’m not entirely sure I understand this award. Looking at the award policies, it doesn’t appear that the authors have to think that teenagers will like their books, the awards committee simply gets to decide which are the 10 best books each year that have a special appeal to teen readers. But as former teenager who read lots of adult books, and as a current adult who reads lots of teen books, this award seems like it was made to give me a reading list. I think that Ready Player One might be up next.