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At the moment, a debate is raging through the kidlitosphere about the authority of bloggers versus that of print (paid) reviewers. The debate began with Read Roger.. and continued with Jen, Fuse #8, A. Fortis, Liz B., and many others. I'll let my fellow bloggers defend our craft -- since they do it so well.

But, it got me thinking about why I started this blog... and why I keep blogging.

I never really intended to write critical literary reviews -- I prefer to think of them as recommendations, as a way of telling other readers: "I loved this book, and here's why" (or perhaps... "I didn't love this book, so don't waste your time"*). And yes, my "reviews" may come across sometimes as gushing... and sometimes they are. I love books. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't. So it's very rare that I actually strongly dislike anything I read.

Plus, I generally use the 50 page rule: If I can't get into the book within 50 pages, I move on and read something else. Take Octavian Nothing for example: Lauded by many critics, and winner of the National Book Award, I spent a week slogging through the first 100 pages and feeling guilty as my stack of Cybils ARC's kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally, after a week, I was whining to my boyfriend over the phone, and he said "Why don't you just read something else?"** So, when we got off the phone, I picked up The Rules of Survival and read it cover to cover. And it's not that Octavian Nothing was uninteresting, or badly written; I simply wasn't in the right mood. And I'm certainly not going to give it a bad review because of that.

But I had another reason, too. I was having a conversation with a co-worker who also reads a lot of YA (though her tastes run more towards fantasy), and I was trying to explain why I adored Looking for Alaska, and I couldn't put it into words. And this is something I want to be able to do, something I'm trying to practice through the writing of this blog. I want to be able to say something more that "I loved it" or "It was very interesting."

So, I'm blogging in hopes of becoming a better writer and a more critical reader, and to give readers one more place to look for recommendations and discuss titles.

I will also add that most of the titles I review (with the exception of most of the Cybils nominees) simply come from the library... so there's no "bribery" involved.

P.S. And if you're into the whole credentials thing: I have a BA (cum laude) from William and Mary in Hispanic Studies, and wrote my honors thesis on Children's/YA literature from Spain. I work as a para-professional in a public library, and I'm hoping to start an MLS in the fall. (And I've been reading YA for 10 years).

*But only in extreme cases like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

** Can you see why I love this boy?

2 comments:

Little Willow said...

Sounds like a good boy.

Looking for Alaska is BIGGER than a ten-second summary, more than its jacket flap. It's one of those books that I put in customers' hands, say, "Read this. Don't read reviews or anything which will spoil the ending for you. Just read this."

Another of these books: The Alison Rules by Catherine Clark

Another: Innocence by Jane Mendelson

Jen Robinson said...

I couldn't get through Octavian Nothing either.

I do like the idea of writing reviews as a way to get better at explaining why we like a book. I hadn't thought about it that way, but it's clear that writing more reviews, practicing, helps. Thanks!

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