Mysterious, complicated, and running on at least two parallel narrative tracks, Jellicoe Road, to say the least, is not for everyone. That’s the main reason why the announcement of the book as the winner of the 2009 Michael L. Printz Award (administered by ALA Young Adult Library Services Association and sponsored by Booklist) was such a shocker. With such critically acclaimed juggernauts as Nation, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and Tender Morsels (yep, we’ve got acceptances speeches from Pratchett, Anderson, Lockhart, and Lanagan, too) as the Honor Books, how did this sleeper sneak its way to the top?
Jellicoe‘s coronation is but the latest in Printz’s proud tradition of shucking the curve (let’s not forget other underdog champs like Postcards from No Man’s Land and Looking for Alaska). Marchetta comments upon this in her speech, mentioning a blogger’s reaction of “Melina Who? Jellicoe What?” as liberating. After 17 years of publishing, it was nice to feel new again.
Marchetta is well aware of the love it/hate it takes on Jellicoe; furthermore, she loves to read about it, even when it’s “not always good.” That’s the real gift of the Printz Award, she says: more readers will read her work and talk about it, and isn’t that all an author really wants?
And for those of you with a “30-page rule,” Marchetta hopes you will reconsider. “I’d like to think there’s so many wonderful surprises on page 31 of someone’s story,” she says. She’s right, of course, and Jellicoe Road is the perfect example of such a story. Whether or not the book is your cup of tea, you’ve gotta hand it to the Printz committee: they’re going to get a lot more readers to reach page 31 and beyond.
Read the entire speech here.
[The Printz Award speeches appear on Booklist Online with the permission of YALSA.]