“The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves” by M. T. Anderson

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II Book Cover The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II
M.T. Anderson
Juvenile Fiction
Candlewick Press
December 21, 2010

Michael L Printz Honor Book 2009

Sequel to the National Book Award Winner! Fearing a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape through rising tides and pouring rain to find shelter in British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows — the College of Lucidity, the rebel cause — Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he is soon to learn of Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces. In Volume II of his unparalleled masterwork, M. T. Anderson recounts Octavian's experiences as the Revolutionary War explodes around him, thrusting him into intense battles and tantalizing him with elusive visions of liberty. Ultimately, this astonishing narrative escalates to a startling, deeply satisfying climax, while reexamining our national origins in a singularly provocative light.

So, this book. This is the book that derailed me. I really enjoyed the first book in this duology (The Pox Party), but this book was such a slog. And it was a slog in a way that made me feel guilty about not liking it. The first book was very compelling — there’s so much history that we never learn about, voices and stories that go untold, and reading about a character who was a slave during the American Revolution, was fascinating.

This book….I just couldn’t care about what was going on — it was another important part of our history, that I didn’t know anything about, which is why there was a lot of guilt on my part for not liking the book. Octavian Nothing escapes Boston and ends up in Virginia, joining up with Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment — slaves were offered freedom if they joined up with Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia.

As you can imagine, it didn’t really turn out well. The book was a diary of the horrors the former slaves endured, and of course, they never really did get their freedom.

I wish I could have enjoyed this more, I think it was me, not the book, though I’ve read other reviews that expressed similar sentiments.

Finishing it was a relief, and now I can move on.

“The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks Book Cover The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
E. Lockhart
Juvenile Fiction
August 25, 2009

Michael L. Printz Honor Book -- 2009

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father's "bunny rabbit."
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take "no" for an answer.
Especially when "no" means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew's lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

The reviews are mixed on this one: it seems like readers either liked it or loathed it — some thought it had a great feminist message, others thought it’s message was terrible.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and found myself wanting to put it in the hands of all of the teenage girls I know (and I know a lot of them….).

Is it perfect in it’s feminist message? Probably not, but what I found compelling was the questions Frankie asked — questions that I wished more girls ask about the status quo and about boys and the way the world works.

It helped me that it was funny (at least, I thought it was, my sense of humor isn’t entirely mainstream…), and that it was a boarding school book — I’m a bit of a sucker for those.

I borrowed this one from the school library, and need to see if I can suggest it to a few girls of my acquaintance.

“Jellicoe Road” by Melina Marchetta #printzproject

Jellicoe Road Book Cover Jellicoe Road
Melina Marchetta
Abandoned children
Harper Collins

Michael L Printz Award Winner 2009

I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs—the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother—who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

The moving, joyous and brilliantly compelling new novel from the best-selling, multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca.

Not that anyone’s wondering, but I have continued to read, even though I pretty much completely stopped posting. I’ll be honest: I got completely bogged down by a book, and let it derail me. I’ve also been reading some other stuff.

(My arbitrary reading goal for 2015 is 100 books. I’m at 93 and it’s just the end of September….)

This book, “Jellicoe Road” — I had a hard time with this one to start. I did NOT get the appeal until I was about halfway through and then I couldn’t put it down. It was about that point that I realized that the ebook edition I was reading was lacking in formatting or notation that would have made things make a lot more sense. The book switches between different narrators, from different time periods, and there was absolutely NO delineation. I believe that in the print versions, the text was set in different typeface (or italics, or something?) — what a difference that would have made!

It’s been almost 2 months since I actually read this, and I see that when I marked it in Goodreads, I only gave it 3 stars. In the time since, I guess I have reimagined what I thought of it, because I was sure I had rated it higher.

So here’s the struggle with having waited so long to write about this book: I’m not sure what to say! It was good, it was award-worthy, and if you do read it, make sure you read it on paper, so that you aren’t completely confused for half the book about what’s going on!

“Nation” by Terry Pratchett

Nation Book Cover Nation
Terry Pratchett
Juvenile Fiction
Harper Collins
ebook and audiobook
Oyster and owned

2009 Michael L Printz Honor Book

The sea has taken everything. Mau is the only one left after a giant wave sweeps his island village away. But when much is taken, something is returned, and somewhere in the jungle Daphne—a girl from the other side of the globe—is the sole survivor of a ship destroyed by the same wave. Together the two confront the aftermath of catastrophe. Drawn by the smoke of Mau and Daphne's sheltering fire, other refugees slowly arrive: children without parents, mothers without babies, husbands without wives—all of them hungry and all of them frightened. As Mau and Daphne struggle to keep the small band safe and fed, they defy ancestral spirits, challenge death himself, and uncover a long-hidden secret that literally turns the world upside down. . . . Internationally revered storyteller Terry Pratchett presents a breathtaking adventure of survival and discovery, and of the courage required to forge new beliefs.

This was a reread for me — I had listened to the audiobook version read by Stephen Briggs in 2013. I started listening to the audiobook again, but then decided to switch to the ebook. Pratchett is an author that I find I enjoy best when I listen to someone read it to me — I can’t skim, and have to listen to every word, which, with Pratchett is important. (When I switched to reading it, I did try to be conscious of slowing down my normal pace…)

It’s a little hard for me to separate what I think of this specific book from my feelings about Pratchett’s work as a whole — he’s one of my favorite authors, so he has to really mess up for me to be disappointed. This book did not disappoint. I hope the fact that this one is categorized as “YA” or “teen” doesn’t leave it off of adult’s reading lists, because it would be foolish to dismiss it for that reason. (To be honest, dismissing a book because it’s marketed as YA is just plain dumb, no matter the book, but that’s a different argument.)

I really love this story and what it has to say about death and civilization and friendship and science and magic.

I love Pratchett’s humor and wordplay. I have a few of his books that I haven’t read yet, and I’m not in any hurry to read them, because when I finish reading the final book, there won’t be anymore Pratchett books.

The super exciting 2008 Printz winner’s summary post

Am I overselling it with that post title? Possibly.

This was another eclectic year for honored books. Two were underwhelming to me (One Whole and Perfect Day and Reposessed). Another was a delightful and unusual book of poetry (which reminds me, I still haven’t read any Sylvia Plath. Too many books, not enough time….). Dreamquake was not as good as the first book in the duology, but I still enjoyed it — but caution that you do need to read both, you can’t just jump in to the second, award-winning book.

This year’s winner, The White Darkness, was a strange and uncomfortable read. I’m not sure I would have picked it up, based on the description, but I’m glad I got the chance to read it. I think that’s why we need passionate librarians, who can get to know their patrons and encourage them to read interesting books that they might not choose on their own.