Wednesday, November 13, 2013
I have to admit that every time I read about someone trying to define what makes a good read for anyone other than themselves, I slowly back away and think happy thoughts until the coast is clear.  Those people are most dangerous for my reading motto:  Books for all, and all for Books!  Catchy, right?

But as much as I avoid them, I'm equally concerned about those lovely opinionated people who are labelled "nice" or "mean."  I mean, THANK YOU for even having an opinion!  Wouldn't it suck if we all agreed?  Oh, you don't think so?  Okay, robot, have a nice life in robotville.

It concerns me when some of you say on twitter that you find it hard to write positive reviews and hate writing negative reviews.  And some of you are scared to say anything at all in case someone gets offended.  Being a reviewer of books is a rare skill.  When I'm out looking for an opinion on a book--not because I want to be told if something's for me or not--I'm looking for discussion.  I'm looking for like-mindedness and Contrary.  I'm looking for truth.  That's what makes a good review for me. 

For instance, this week I finally got around to reading Shannon Messenger's LET THE SKY FALL.  I enjoyed her Middle Grade, KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES.  I didn't think KotLC was particularly original--it had echoes of another famous read.  (In fact, this review is almost exactly how I felt and I appreciate that someone wrote about it).  So I wasn't surprised to find the same with LET THE SKY FALL. 

The plot, rather than the details, reminded me of other stuff.  I can't tell you if that's "good" or "bad" because it's both.  I think some readers like formulaic (my son is one of those) and some like unique (I'm in that camp), but even more of us like a twist.  And that means having a bit of both.  I will say that LET THE SKY FALL is a twist on a genre...and kept me reading by the promise of a kiss.  (A book must be read until the kissing; the rest is optional). 

But something about that story stayed.  I think my son would really like it, even if I do not.  Books for all, and all for Books!

On the other hand, I just started reading THE LAST KINGS OF SARK by Rosa Rankin-Gee, which hasn't debuted in the US yet.  I knew from the first sentence that this book was written for ME.  Going to go right ahead and be greedy.  It is everything, to be specific.  ;)  And I feel giddy when I find a good reading match.  And isn't it perfectly reasonable that this book might not be for you?  It might not tick all your boxes.  I'm not going to tell you that it will or won't.  But I promise that it might.  I can tell you that I have a good feeling about it, spreading out from my center.  And I feel slightly responsible for telling you so.  But the best thing is that if this book isn't for you, I guarantee another one will be. 

Books for all, yo.


Unknown said...

If there's one thing reviewing has taught me, it's that peoples' tastes differ vastly. As a reviewer, it's a little hard because you have an opinion, and you hope your opinion is of some use to somebody else, so you say things that are concrete ("little action", "under-developed characters") and sometimes I feel like I'm spewing such BS. I like what I like, and other people do too. What keeps me reviewing is that there is no universal opinion; mine is the only opinion I have to offer, and it doesn't really matter if people agree or not.

It's still a little scary sometimes to put thoughts out there, especially with for review books. :p Great post!

-P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

Kristan said...

Love this post, Sarah! Love P.E.'s comment, too.

You guys are both so, so right. "Good" and "Bad" are fairly pointless labels when it comes to any kind of art. What it's about is whether or not each individual makes a connection or not. So, when it comes to reviewing or recommending, all we can really do is talk about whether or not we connected, and why, and hope that that helps someone else figure out whether or not they should try.

Going to try to keep this in mind as I discuss books in the future...

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I always try to be very careful when I review to mention how personal my opinion is-I adore epistolary novels and books with sisters, for example, so if a novel has either or both, I'm more prone to like it than someone who doesn't like epistolary novels or who doesn't have a sister and thus doesn't identify with that experience. It's "good" to me because I like reading about those things but it may not be such a positive experience for someone else.

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



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The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
The Fault in Our Stars

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