I was very excited to get to this award because it is filled with books that I’ve been wanting to read but just haven’t had the time. So for my Printz Award selection, I chose two books. The first, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta is the 2009 winner of the Printz Award. The second, Going Bovine by Libba Bray won the 2010 Printz Award.
Both books were so good that I can’t decide which was my favorite. Jellicoe Road is about Taylor Markham, a girl who was abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was 11. Now Taylor attends the academy there and is participating in a territory war between the Cadets and the Locals. It surprised me that the territory wars between these three groups of teens were rather violent, but it seemed fitting because along side these wars, Taylor finds friendship and romance and also learns about her past and her mother’s past. It was beautifully written and I cried more than once.
Going Bovine is a story about Cameron, a teen who likes to drift through life, not living, but just living on the margins. Living on the margins, that is, until he is diagnosed with mad cow disease. What happens next? Taylor meets a punk rock angel, befriends a dwarf, goes on a road trip to find a mysterious Dr. X and save the planet, and ends up saving a yard gnome on the way. Libba Bray mixes realism with fantasy and brings an unexpected and not necessarily happy ending but it wouldn’t have worked any other way.
Now that my reviews are done, I think what struck me most about these novels and the Printz Award the most is the amount of content that some would consider adult. This award is where the term crossover comes in to play. What makes think that teens are ready for this material? I for one, would thrust this stuff into the hands of any teen that asked me for a good book. The Printz Award is given to a book that exemplifies literary excellence in teen literature. In an interview about the award, Bray states that she had planned to do a rift of Don Quixote, a novel written in 1605, is still an example of literary excellence. Going Bovine is also riddled with satirical comments about American culture and our constant desire for happiness, reality television, and much more. Both of these books deal with sex, love, violence, and all the emotions that one feels as a teenager. Jellico Road deals with a very important theme, one that I think is very much a part of the relationship between adults and children and reading. In Jellico Road, Taylor has to understand her relationship with her birth family and her family that she chooses/is chosen for her. These are two separate families but at the same time they are intimately tied to one another. In an interview on the novel, Marchetta states that “I think responsibility and grief and guilt play a big part in the way we interact with children.” These books do make a statement about how adults treat and view teens. Both of these teens are filled with courage, friendship, loyalty, and a sense of intelligence that we sometimes don’t attribute to the real teen.