Color me unimpressed — “Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging” by Louise Rennison

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging Book Cover Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Louise Rennison
Juvenile Fiction
Harper Collins

2001 Michael L Printz Honor Book

Angus: My mixed-breed cat, half domestic tabby, half Scottish wildcat. The size of a small Labrador, only mad. Thongs: Stupid underwear. What's the point of them, anyway? They just go up your bum, as far as I can tell. Full-Frontal Snogging: Kissing with all the trimmings, lip to lip, open mouth, tongues ... everything. Her dad's got the mentality of a Teletubby (only not so developed). Her cat, Angus, is trying to eat the poodle next door. And her best friend thinks she looks like an alien -- just because she accidentally shaved off her eyebrows. Ergghhhlack. Still, add a little boy-stalking, teacher-baiting, and full-frontal snogging with a Sex God, and Georgia's year just might turn out to be the most fabbitty fab fab ever!


Originally published January 1st, 1999

So, I laughed at a few spots (out loud even), but generally? I thought this was really dumb, and the main character was needlessly silly and self-centered. There was no point (that I could discern), no growth (she was silly all the way through), and I can’t figure out why this was considered deserving of a Printz honor.

I know I’m not the target audience, but this felt to me like the worst of what YA has to offer — the kind of book that gets held up when people want to pooh-pooh YA.

As I said about a previous book, I don’t necessarily have to “like” a character to care about them, but in this case, not only did I not like Georgia, I didn’t really care about what happened to her.

From looking at reviews and ratings, I can tell that plenty of other people did think this book was pretty great. I won’t hold it against them, I guess.

Time for 2001 — “Kit’s Wilderness” by David Almond #printzproject

Kit's Wilderness Book Cover Kit's Wilderness
David Almond
Juvenile Fiction
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

2001 Michael L Printz Award Winner

Written in haunting, lyrical prose, Kit’s Wilderness examines the bonds of family from one generation to the next, and explores how meaning and beauty can be revealed from the depths of darkness.

The Watson family moves to Stoneygate, an old coal-mining town, to care for Kit’s recently widowed grandfather. When Kit meets John Askew, another boy whose family has both worked and died in the mines, Askew invites Kit to join him in playing a game called Death. As Kit’s grandfather tells him stories of the mine’s past and the history of the Watson family, Askew takes Kit into the mines, where the boys look to find the childhood ghosts of their long-gone ancestors.

A Michael L. Printz Award Winner
An ALA Notable Book
Publishers Weekly Best Book

After a week of work, reading other stuff, and life, I finally finished the 2001 Michael L Printz Award Winner, Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond.

And by “finally” — I mean it took me all week to get through it, because it started so slowly for me. I think I had a bit of a bias, having found myself underwhelmed by Skellig, his first children’s book. I felt like I had to talk myself into giving this a chance, and am glad I did, because I ended up enjoying this quite a bit.

It’s a little bit magical? mystical? with beautiful turns of phrases. I think that’s the thing that gets me with a lot of books I read now, is watching the words, and how simple they are, but how complex and amazing they turn out to be when put together by someone with skill.

This is a lovely gem of a book, and I hope there are still actual teenagers out there taking the chance to read this book.

Done with the year 2000, my thoughts so far #PrintzProject


I know I read fast, but I also had a 3 day weekend and new project momentum spurring me on, so I’ve already read and posted about the first 4 (of 77 books) in my challenge to read all of the Michael L Printz Award winners and honor books.

Luckily for me, all four were books that I enjoyed reading. Enjoy? But Suzanne — you were reading about a teenager on trial for murder and about a 13 year old who was raped! To me, enjoy doesn’t mean…happy and sunlight and rainbows….it means…I had that feeling of being outside myself, witnessing something fascinating and interesting….it means….I cared about someone’s journey….and I learned about something outside my own experience. It means I was moved by beautiful writing (WHY, oh WHY can’t I write like that??)

Not having read any of the other potential candidates for honors in the year 2000, I don’t know why these four were picked over any others, but I don’t disagree that at least three of these were important books for teenagers. I have a squabble with the fourth, but I’m willing and able to admit that I really don’t know what I’m talking about.

I think it’s a hard thing for people to understand and differentiate between: “this THING isn’t for me, but I can see where others might like it” and “this THING sucked and anyone who likes it is stupid.” Most of the time, if you don’t like something, it’s the former, but too many always default to the latter. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do when I bounce off of a book in the list. It will likely depend on my mood and why I’m bouncing. I have reached a point in my life where I don’t have a lot of patience for reading a book I really don’t like, so…I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Some of you may be wondering why I’m doing this, what’s the point in a 42 year old high school secretary reading and writing about a bunch of award-winning books written for teenagers?? Well, I have several reasons, most of which I’m not ready to articulate and one which I will: because I want to. And I’m looking forward to continuing.

I don’t know why I avoided “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson #Printzproject

Speak Book Cover Speak
Laurie Halse Anderson
Juvenile Fiction
Listening Library
2006 (originally published in 1999)

2000 Michael L Printz Honor Book

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

While Monster was a book I had heard of, it was one that was just on my radar, but not as something I was either choosing to read or not choosing to read. (Gah, that sounds really stupid. What I mean is…I was neutral about it…). On the other hand, I have heard of Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, and had actively chosen not to read it. This is the final book from the 2000 Michael L Printz honored books list, and I had to read it, whether I wanted to or not.

I don’t really know why I was avoiding it.  For one thing, my TBR list is pretty epically long — but if I’m being honest, I thought it seemed like it might be too depressing, or too preachy (really, why did I think that?), or something. I knew about it mostly from the posts going up around the times when it had been challenged, such as in 2013 when it was labelled “child pornography.” Seriously. Now, when I was reading it (actually listening to the audiobook), I didn’t actively think about the fact that I knew it had been challenged, but afterwards, when I was poking around on the Internet, I was shocked to be reminded of this.

Because the people who think this is are completely nuts and in need of a reading comprehension refresher.

Will this book make a parent uncomfortable? Probably — there is some strong language, but it’s no different than what teenagers are saying to each other, and frankly a lot cleaner. And, of course, it’s about rape. There’s so, so much wrapped up in just that one little word. And the idea that kids shouldn’t read dark books is just…so…horrifying. Dark things happen to them. Every day. That’s the horrifying part. Reading about someone who has gone through something and come through the other side, maybe that will make them hopeful.

For a book about such a hard topic, there was quite a bit of humor. I chuckled a lot. I cried a little, too. I remember being in high school and feeling so many feelings. Looking back, I know that I felt like the social order in my school was just as rigid as the one at Melinda’s school. I was a chorus kid, we were pretty far down on the ladder. The part I get now, though, is that everyone, no matter which group they were a part of, was just as insecure as my friends and I were. No one had it figured out, even if they looked and/or acted like they did.

I work at, and my kids go to, a MUCH smaller high school. I graduated with 200 kids in my class. There are only about 150 students TOTAL in our high school. There are still dividing lines, but these kids have been together since kindergarten and they can’t quite get away from each as easily as you can when there are hundreds of kids. I don’t know which is better. Just different, I guess.

I didn’t realize until after finishing that this was Anderson’s debut novel. It’s wonderfully written, and completely deserves the accolades it’s gotten. I’m glad I took on this project to read the Printz books, as it got me to read a really amazing book that I shouldn’t have avoided for so long.

I loved “Hard Love” by Ellen Wittlinger #PrintzProject

Hard Love Book Cover Hard Love
Ellen Wittlinger
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster

Since his parents' divorce, John's mother hasn't touched him, her new fiancé wants them to move away, and his father would rather be anywhere than at Friday night dinner with his son. It's no wonder John writes articles like "Interview with the Stepfather" and "Memoirs from Hell." The only release he finds is in homemade zines like the amazing Escape Velocity by Marisol, a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee Lesbian." Haning around the Boston Tower Records for the new issue of Escape Velocity, John meets Marisol and a hard love is born.
2000 Michael L Printz Honor Book

While at first their friendship is based on zines, dysfunctional families, and dreams of escape, soon both John and Marisol begin to shed their protective shells. Unfortunately, John mistakes this growing intimacy for love, and a disastrous date to his junior prom leaves that friendship in ruins. Desperately hoping to fix things, John convinces Marisol to come with him to a zine conference on Cape Cod. On the sandy beaches by the Bluefish Wharf Inn, John realizes just how hard love can be.

With keen insight into teenage life, Ellen Wittlinger delivers a story of adolescence that is fierce and funny — and ultimately transforming — even as it explores the pain of growing up.

First Published 1999

Another new to me author, thanks to my self-appointed task of reading all of the Printz award winning and honored books. Published in 1999, this was an Honor Book in the first round of awards in 2000.

I flat-out LOVED this book. So much so, that as soon as I’m done with the year 2000 Printz books, I’m going to take a short detour to read the companion book, Love and Lies. I’ve had the window open to write this post since yesterday, but I can’t think of anything to say, which is stupid, since I liked it so much. I feel like “gah….it was SOOOO good….” doesn’t really do the trick when I’m trying to use this space to think and write critically.

I suspect that some readers might find the zine culture that informs the book to be dated. I think the experience of the characters is universal enough, that a smart reader ought to be able to get over that pretty quickly. I did find myself wondering, as I read all of these Printz books, about how different they’d be if they’d been written in the age of ubiquitous smartphones and social media.

This book, would probably be about Instagram and blogging (do kids even do that?), and Snapchat, and YouTube, I suppose. Oh wait — I know — TUMBLR.

I think what drew me in to this book was that right away on the first page, the main character said something that sounded like a lot of teenagers I know:

I didn’t bother to remind him that I don’t really go to this school. People think I do, but it’s only my physical body, not me.

That snarky attitude made me want to know more about John, and I ended up caring quite a bit about what happened to him and to his friends. I watched him set himself up for a huge crash, and suffered with him when the inevitable happened. I am glad that the book didn’t end up with a tied-up-in-a-bow happy ending, but it wasn’t a sad end, either. He went on a journey and changed, and that’s what we want from any book, isn’t it?

The title of the book comes from a song of the same name, written by Bob Franke. The lyrics are in the book, and of course I had to try to find it on YouTube.

So I’ll tell you that I love you even though I’m far away
And I’ll tell you how you change me as I live from day to day
How you help me to accept myself and I won’t forget to say
Love is never wasted, even when it’s hard love

Yes, it’s hard love, but it’s love all the same
Not the stuff of fantasy, but more than just a game
And the only kind of miracle that’s worthy of the name
For the love that heals our lives is mostly hard love

Love — and life — are hard. And shouldn’t be wasted.