Smackdown Books 2017

Arlene's smackdown17 book montage

The Memory of Things
Hour of the Bees
The Gospel Truth
Ultraman, Vol. 1
The Bunker Diary
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy
The Hired Girl
An Ember in the Ashes
The Porcupine of Truth
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Goodbye Stranger
Beautiful Blue World
The Blackthorn Key
All American Boys

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Day the Library Was Too Loud


The Smackdown thus far has been pretty quiet. You can tell by the name that that is not what Arlene and I were looking for when we started this project 5 years ago. We get busy, we read a post, we mean to comment but it just disappears in a disgusted, out loud comment at our desks.

It was, then, fantastic to get 5 ABM teachers (Team One) together to “discuss” whether Nazi Hunters or Midwinterblood should move on. A quiet library was shattered by teachers hurling insults like:

You have weird opinions,
I’m going to come across the table
Just enjoy it…you don’t need to understand it.
Dial it back!
Dial it up!
Have some tea Granny!

This continued with teachers grabbing students and the books and demanding they say which book they would read and howling with joy or frustration depending on the answer. Now this is the Smackdown we envisioned!

What was all the fuss about? Same thing it always is. Neither of these books seemed to fall under definitions of YA. For Midwinterblood there were hardly any YA characters and the non-fiction Nazi Hunters picks the capture of Eichmann which also doesn’t focus on young adults. YALSA wrote an article Brad Smilanich linked by twitter to the blog that mentioned this quasi definition:

Currently, young adult literature is defined most often as being written for teenagers from 12-18 years of age. These are often coming-of-age stories, where characters come to an understanding about not only themselves, but their place in the world. 

It was argued that non-fiction easier breaks these bonds by providing explanations for the world around them and sometimes that world doesn’t have a young adult in it. It was also argued that the folk-tale/eternal love story of Midwinterblood is more accessible. This argument led to saying maybe we should be talking about the educational value, at which point many heads exploded.

I hope people read these books – they’re good but as Andrew opened our meeting with neither are outstanding. I would agree, as would Holly. Lisa would tell you Nazi Hunters should absolutely be read, Arlene would tell you Midwinterblood is a book she intends to do as a bookclub and she can picture how ecstatic the participants would be (very, it turns out). I would tell you the best thing happened today…teachers sat around a table and argued with passion about what, why and how students read.

In the end…Annabel vote pushed any possibility of a tie off the table. Nazi Hunters moves on. 


  1. Huh. Well, given the love for _Midwinterblood_ in round one, I was really looking forward to reading it. So...#2 book that I need to read before making a well-considered Zombie Pick.

  2. NOOOOOO!!!! I *loved* Midwinterblood. After finishing it, I had to just sit with myself for awhile to process my feelings. Being with the characters (in their various incarnations) throughout the time periods really added to my feelings of loss, I think. And I LOVED that I still had so many questions, and that there were missing details I wished I knew... And, AND, I loved that it left me going down a rabbit hole of further "research" (*cough cough Wikipedia cough*) on Norse mythology, and the painting from which the book draws its name.

    Nazi Hunters had better be AMAZING. *grumbles*

  3. Dear Chandra: There is always the Zombie pick. And my Zombie pick will, most certainly, be for _Midwinterblood_. Unless _Belzhar_ is REALLY somethin'.