Thursday, June 26, 2008

With great print runs comes great responsibility

I wasn't going to blog today except to say that I'm leaving for ALA tomorrow and won't be around for a few days, but a post on YALSA-BK today brought back some memories and thoughts.

At my first job out of library school, a woman approached me at the reference desk one night. Somehow we got to talking about Harry Potter and she went on a short rant, telling me that she couldn't believe J.K. Rowling had allowed Cedric Diggory to die. Rowling was writing for children, said the patron, and she had a duty to think of the children and she owed them a happy ending.

I was so stricken by the narrow-mindedness of this patron regarding what authors do and don't owe to their readers that I changed the subject. I could have gone in a couple of directions, I suppose. I could have told her that E.B. White didn't feel he owed it to children to keep Charlotte alive, or that J.K. Rowling owes absolutely no one but herself any particular ending, but I didn't.

Oh, the things we do in order to avoid patrons calling our directors.

Lately there's been talk on YALSA-BK about liking or disliking popular books. Personally, I don't care what books people like or don't like. To every reader his or her book. (For the record, I loved Harry Potter, thought Gossip Girl was just okay...although I'm loving the Carlyles series, and did not love Twilight at all.) The conversation is starting to die down a little, but today's post from author Dina Friedman had to be blogged about. Part of it reads:

Not that I don't sometimes "hate" other people's work, but I'm careful not to say that publicly, i.e. on Goodreads or other social networking sites, or on my blog, knowing how hard it is to write a good book, or even a not-so-good book, and recognizing that taste, as so many of you have expressed, is varied and opinions are subjective.

However, YA writers do have a responsibility to audience--multiple audiences. It's interesting that the subject line here is liking/disliking *popular* books, not just any book.

I realize this is an author's perspective and authors need to be much more careful about what they say in their blogs regarding what books they like or don't like than librarians do. Not a problem there. I am sort of perplexed by the sentence that begins, "However..." though. I wish she had gone on to explain exactly what is the responsibility YA writers have to their audience, or multiple audiences. I've always been of the opinion that the only thing YA writers owe to their audience is a good story with believable characters. Notice I did not say likable, heroic, virtuous, or morally upright characters. Faulkner once said, "If the story is in you, it has got to come out." Isn't that why writers write? Because they have a story to tell? If telling a story is the basis for the creation of a book, what does an author owe to his or her audience besides that story?

Authors are not public property, and neither are their books. The same could be said for bloggers: I don't owe anyone a blog post on any particular subject. For every book, there will be people who love it and people who hate it. What, exactly, is an audience owed?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yes, yes, and yes!

YA literature needs all the good press it can get (I know, next I'll be telling you water is wet and fire is hot), so I was very pleased to see this feature on NPR: Three Books for Teens Who Hate to Read. What most impresses me is that, the interviewee, a contributor to Teens Read Too, manages to get diversity among the 3 titles. One protagonist is male, one is female, and one is male with a strong female influence. None of the books are heinously long, and they all deal with issues important to today's teens. I loved Violet on the Runway and Thirteen Reasons Why, and I'm sure Spud is a good fit with those two.

Well done, NPR and Amber Gibson.

Article in RA News: 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy

I wrote this quarter's featured article in Readers' Advisor News: 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: Guy-Centric YA Romance. I had much fun writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Many, many thanks to Melissa Rabey of the C. Burr Artz Library of the Frederick Co., Maryland Public Libraries for her title help and wisdom.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Not all models are Airheads

Who doesn't love Meg Cabot? She's witty, friendly, cool, and her books are a ton of fun to read. Her latest offering, Airhead, breaks away from her usual breezy chick-lit-with-a-slightly-serious-twist. Instead, it delves into science fiction and of course, offers a dead main character because dead characters are the new black.

The plot: Emerson Watts couldn't be more average. She's smart and kinda geeky, but she's nowhere near as popular or pretty as her younger sister. She's crushing on her guy best friend and thinks that maybe, just maybe, she's got a chance with him. That is, until she saves her sister's life.

Em's sister Frida drags Em to a musician's signing at a Stark Megastore (think electronics, music, posters, etc.), which is also attended by supermodel and spokesmodel for Stark Nikki Howard. It's so not Em's scene. Not long into the event, Em saves her sister from a falling plasma tv, pushing her out of the way just before Frida experiences Death by Stereo. Em is knocked out in the confusion and wakes in the hospital months later.

That's where things get weird.

Em is delighted to be awake and all right and to see her family, but the strangest things keep happening to her. Like, she now has a craving for wasabi peas instead of ice cream. She's got a manicure. And best friends she doesn't know. But most of all, she can't figure out why everyone keeps calling her Nikki.

Why you'll love it: Because it's Meg Cabot. Okay, so you need a better reason. Because Em is a really cool person, caring and honest, but she's also not afraid to manipulate her newfound identity to get what she wants (and what she thinks will be best for those she cares about). Cabot shows that modeling has its ups and downs, and that someone like Em, who never considered herself beautiful, now has a lot to think about now that the world sees her as someone who epitomizes the standard of beauty. There's also a mystery, here: Em thinks someone is spying on Nikki, and she has to figure out who and why. I flew through book one and can't wait for book two.

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's true: Some people just don't get it.

I love Editorial Anonymous, the blog of a children's book editor. Yesterday's post on answering the question of "Who is your book for?" led to some fascinating comments, one of which made my head spin so much that I had to respond to it here.

Direct link to the comment is here: What an idiot.

First, this: I'm not yet published, but I have 2 books done and 1 almost done in a series. Not a normal series because the main characters get older in each book.

That's called a bildungsroman, and it's not uncommon, definitely not since Harry Potter. It is neither normal nor abnormal to have the characters get older in each book. It does not make you edgy to age your characters, it just means you chose a different form for your series. The Pendragon and Uglies books do this.

Second: I know exactly the type of reader these are for. I knew that before I wrote any of books. I wrote for the age of the reader for the book. Adults won't get some of it because I didn't write it for them.


Knowing the type of reader your book is for is great. It helps us purchasers and reader's advisers immensely if you can say something like, "My book is for teens who love historical romance." If you knew it before you wrote your books, okay, I can't argue, because you're the writer and not me, and if that helped you focus the book more power to you. But don't you DARE say that "adults won't get it because you didn't write it for them." Here's the major problem I have with writers who write children's books with that attitude:

Who do you think is going to buy, publish, publicize, review and sell your book?

Here's a hint: It's not children.

I am forever sick of being told that I don't "get" a teen book because I'm an adult. First, didn't an adult WRITE this book? Second, I think that a reader "getting" a book depends much more on the writer than on the reader. It's the writer's job to convey his or her ideas in a fashion that will make it clear to the reader what's going on. If a writer writes a book that no adult will understand, how will an adult literary agent sell that book to a publisher? How will an adult editor edit? How will adults in the publicity department get copies out to adult reviewers who write for review publications read by adults? I am curious as to how this anonymous commenter thinks the book will ever reach any kind of an audience if adults can't read it and sell it to child readers. Unless, of course, s/he envisions some kind of wunderkind Utopia over at 1745 Broadway, filled with the most brilliant minds under the age of 18.

I am not stupid and non-understanding of children because I am an adult, and if your book is written so adults "don't get it," that is your problem, not theirs.

Third: I am going to have a hard time "selling" this to a publisher. Of course.

Well, you said it, I didn't. But really, why do you think that is?

Probably my most beloved publishing blog of all time is the late, great, Miss Snark. Miss Snark wrote about the business of acquiring and selling fiction. No matter what questions most authors had about their books, one thing always seemed to be the theme: Good writing trumps all.

There are many YA books that are hard sells because they don't booktalk easily. Holes is one of them. The Book Thief, Impossible and everything John Green has ever written are prime examples of this. All of those books have one thing in common: The writing is absolutely stellar. None of these authors said that adults wouldn't understand books. They wrote the best story they could aimed at a YA audience. Publishing is a difficult industry to get into, yes, but in the end, it's all about how well you write. Good writing will be recognized by children and adults alike.

Also, why is "selling" in quotation marks? You sell a book. Period.

Interestingly, I have heard the "adults just don't get it" argument from an author who blogged about the reasons his book got a bad review in Kirkus.

Fourth, this gets my Ridiculous Line of the Day Award: I hated Harry Potter. She killed a teen aged boy and there was cruelty in the books.

J.K. Rowling killed someone? When? Why was she not sent to jail?

Ohhhh, because she killed a fictional character in one of the sharpest, most honest moments in the entire Harry Potter series. I will argue until the end of time that Cedric Diggory's death was an absolutely instrumental plot device, turning the entire series. And if it was wrong to kill Cedric Diggory, does this anonymous commenter also have it in for writers like Katherine Paterson, Jerry Spinelli, and E.B. White? How guilty can any of us feel about what we do to fictional characters?

And there was cruelty in the books! One would think that without J.K. Rowling all books for children would be perfectly safe stories of children frolicking in rainbows and playing with butterflies and puppies. Because there was never cruelty chronicled in children's books before Harry Potter, oh no.

Look, no one has to like the Harry Potter books. I certainly liked them but if someone gives them a chance and decides it's not for him, that's fine. To every reader his or her book. That's why libraries have thousands of books and trained reader's advisers. Feel free to hate the books because you thought Cedric Diggory should have lived, but don't hold Harry Potter to a different standard than the rest of the genre.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Galleys: They're the new "So, you come here often?"

From my favorite blog to love and hate, Gawker: Getting Laid with Book Galleys.

I always seem to have a galley with me. Between my reviewing gigs plus what I get from publishers (thank you, thank you, thank you!!) I'm usually reading something that won't be out for a couple of months. Gawker, however, only mentions galleys of adult novels. So that makes me wonder:

Do children's galleys hold the same amount of intrigue as adult galleys? To be fair, I don't see any galley of any children's book standing up to the OMGWANT of the upcoming Chuck Palahniuk to anyone over 21. But I have to wonder: Would a galley of a YA novel hold even more mystique than a galley of an upcoming adult novel? Because not only would there be the mystique of "how did she get a galley?" there would be the mystique of "how did she get a galley of a book by an author I've never even heard of?" Would the relative lack of knowledge about YA that the general book-reading adult population, and certainly the Gawker-reading population, has make the reader of the YA galley even seemingly harder to get?

Okay, so the answer is "probably not." It's fun to wonder, though.

Editing to add:
It seems the New York Observer is all over this, too: The Status Galley: How to pick up girls with the new Roth. Still doesn't answer my question about YA galleys, though.

Librarians aren't going to buy your self-published book

and we don't like it when you cite Eragon as a reason why self-publishing is really the way to go.

I don't feel like talking about the Frank Cottrell Boyce "YA ghetto" wank, so here's something else that bothers me about books. Please note that small publishers are not a part of this entry. I am specifically talking about self-publishing and vanity presses where money flows from the writer to the publisher. There are many quality small publishers who produce books that librarians wish we knew more about.

In 100 words or fewer, here's how books are bought for libraries: Whoever does collection development for a given library reads a review in a professional journal. The review makes the librarian believe that the book is a good fit for the library/library system. The librarian usually buys the book through a company like Ingram, B&T or BWI because those companies give discounts and take returns. If a book is in demand but not available through one of the wholesalers, sometimes we'll buy it from Amazon. The books are shipped, cataloged, and shelved. Hooray!

This, in a nutshell, is why librarians don't buy self-published books.

1. They're not available for review. If someone comes into a library and wants a book removed from the shelves, a librarian's first line of defense is always the professional reviews that state why this particular book is a worthwhile buy. And due to the small print run of self-published books, we can't even give them to our colleagues to review.

2. They're expensive. We get no discount on them. If a book comes to us from B&T printed upside down with pages missing, we don't worry because we can return it and exchange it for a new one. Not always the case with self-published books.

3. They're not edited. Enough said.

4. Review copies are not available. Often, I'm happy to take a review copy in lieu of an actual review. But in the case of a self-published book, neither one is usually available.

Too many people, authors and librarians and parents of precocious teens, like to forget that Eragon is the exception, not the rule. Name three books that were self-published before they went on to be huge commercial successes. Bloggers who get book deals don't count; that's a different sort of beast. Publishers do not like to buy self-published works. Among other things, they send the message that your work wasn't good enough to get an agent in the first place. Self-publishing is not the way to subvert "the man" that's keeping writers down in the evil, evil publishing industry.

There is a place for self-publishing. If you want 100% control over the distribution of your book or if your book is meant for a very small niche audience, self-publishing is the way to go. A nonprofit group I used to work with used Lulu to publish a collection of papers from a conference it held. It was a collection of interest to a very small group, and publishing the papers through Lulu was the best option. Self-publishing is probably the best thing you can do if you want to write about your family history or a subject of local interest. and iUniverse are two vanity presses that are quite good at what they do and make no bones about their purpose. But despite these bonuses to self-publishing, your local librarian probably won't want your book.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Scenes from my office

I pick up the four packages the UPS man delivered, and one of them was a box from Scholastic.

It has the upcoming Coe Booth title, Kendra, and the upcoming Matthue Roth title, Losers, in it.

See me do my happy dance!

I loved, loved Tyrell and Never Mind the Goldbergs. I can't wait until I get the chance to read these two offerings.

How to ditch the boring book you're reading and pick up this one instead

If you feelin' like a jock, girl, go and brush your fairy off
Walk everywhere girl, go and brush your fairy off
Fairies is crazy, baby, don't forget Fiorenze told you
Get that fairy off your shoulder

(With apologies to Jay-Z)

Today's book: How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier, coming in October 2008 from Bloomsbury.

The plot: In a slightly alternate world, many people have fairies. These fairies allow their humans to have one special power. Some fairies make their humans adept at finding loose change. Charlie's (short for Charlotte) mother has one that allows her to always know where her children are. Charlie's best friend Rochelle has a clothing fairy, meaning everything looks great on her and is always on sale. And Charlie? Well, her fairy is useless as far as she's concerned. She's got a parking fairy. If she's in a car, that car is guaranteed to get an amazing parking space. Quite useful if you've got a driver's license or you live in Bergen County. Useless to Charlie, who can't even drive. Charlie's fairy has become the bane of her existence, so she hatches a plan to get rid of it by walking everywhere and therefore starving the fairy of having anything to do. It works until a school bully kidnaps her and forces her to ride around with him so he can get great parking spaces. Now Charlie's fairy is back to full strength. In order to ditch her fairy, she hatches a plan with her sworn enemy, the popular-but-only-with-boys-thanks-to-her-fairy Fiorenze. Charlie and Fiorenze find what they believe is the perfect solution to ditching their fairies and getting new ones.

But we all know the old saying: Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

Why you'll love it: First, it's funny. There is never enough humor in YA, and HTDYF is not only funny, but it's a smart, sarcastic kind of funny. Charlie is a prickly yet completely endearing character and Justine makes you feel sorry for her fairy plight. She is loyal to her friends but even more so to her personal cause of fairy-ditching, making her a great self-centric teen. (This is a compliment, I swear!) The world Justine has created is fascinating, too: It's a mix of different world slangs and educational system. Charlie attends a sports-centric high school and loves being an athlete, and there's a whole hierarchy of different kinds of high schools and how cool you are depending on which one you attend. I can see wide appeal in this book. It's for those who love humor, for those who love romance, for those who love (or hate!) urban fantasy, and for those who really like to see the bad guy go down in the end. This is definitely a book to keep an eye out for.

(My personal fairy is a never-forgetting-the-books-I-read fairy, which I find to be fairly useful in my line of work. My youngest sister has a parking fairy, but as far as I know she's never tried to ditch it.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The horror! The horror! (Finally!)

On one of the hottest days of 2006, I trekked with several friends to Radio City Music Hall to hear John Irving, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling talk about their books and do a question-and-answer session. It was worth every penny of the ticket price, especially when one man got up to ask J.K. Rowling a question and OMG, it was Salman Rushdie. (Alas, Padma Lakshmi was not with him.) The best part of the evening, though, was not hearing J.K. Rowling, although she was wonderful and had on some incredible shoes. It was hearing Stephen King.

We should all love our jobs as much as Stephen King loves his. This man who has made a fortune on scaring us clearly takes great joy in life and in writing. He read an excerpt from "The Body" and at one point paused, looked up, and said, "Can you believe they pay me to write this stuff?" with a huge grin on his face. His editorials in Entertainment Weekly are always plain and observant, written by someone who takes himself and the craft of writing seriously and knows how to use just the right words to communicate with a wide variety of people.

Then this afternoon I was at the Mock Newbery discussion session at Closter, and I noted that horror is FINALLY making a comeback in children's publishing. I am a huge fan of horror books. It occurred to me during the meeting that for the past 7 years or so, no one except Darren Shan has really made a big splash in teen horror. Now, I adore Darren Shan's works. I think they're incredibly appealing. He writes great action and knows just how to hit his readers in the gut. I also had the opportunity to see him present at the Elizabeth Public Library a few years back and like Stephen King, Darren Shan speaks with an unbridled joy and pride in what he does. His presentation got the teen audience involved, and he jumped around and spoke with lots of exclamation points. The teens loved him, and he was very nice to the librarians who attended. A winning situation for all. It seems that authors are FINALLY starting to join Shan on his deserted island, writing stories about ghosts and zombies and not-glittery vampires. Horror is coming back in all its blood, guts, and cursing glory. And I, for one, am excited. Or scared. Whichever is the appropriate response. In short, I love reading horror as much as Darren Shan and Stephen King love writing it, and I hope a new generation of teen readers does, too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Let's get together and maybe read a bit.

All three authors (Jane O'Connor, MAC, and Scott Westerfeld) have interesting things to say about their books and summer reading, but I just HAD to blog about what Scott said.

One of the things I've really been working towards with Talk It Up! and Speak Out! is getting librarians to emphasize the social aspect of the program. Two libraries in BCCLS are doing this especially well, incorporating games, movies, and food into their book discussions. Dumont does a program that has participants watching movies along the same theme as the book they're reading; for example, when they read Jacqueline Woodson's Hush they watched Sister Act. Rutherford emphasizes a relaxed, social environment where it's great if you've read the book before the meetup, but if you haven't you're still welcome to stay. Scott emphasized this idea when asked how reading can become a more popular activity (I paraphrase), the idea that reading is important, yes, but it's just as important as being part of a group and discussing a book. Books grow as more people read them. My absolute favorite part of being a book discussion group leader is seeing all the different perspectives and interpretations teens bring to the group regarding a single title. That's also why I hated high school English, but that's for another post.

Reading as an activity is important, yes, but I think in order to succeed with as large a number of potential readers as possible, we need to recognize that there are many ways to read, not just many books.

Editing to add: The publicity department at Toasted Coconut Books linked me to M.A.C.'s blog, where she's got even more suggestions for creative reading. The ideas are fantastic; I just wish she had added "or library" to "Check out the local bookstore." Many libraries host author visits and other cool book events, plus we have trained, knowledgeable professionals who can help young readers choose their next book.

Life imitates YA lit!

A perennial YA book group fave is Janet Tashjian's wonderful The Gospel According to Larry, about a teen who becomes a huge star by advocating anti-consumerism. One of Larry's big life rules is that he only allows himself to own 75 items. I know I could never do that. I own a thousand BOOKS!

But it looks like Larry's ideals have jumped off the page and into real life: How to Live with Just 100 Things, from Time Magazine. The article focuses a little more on simple living and decluttering than anticonsumerism, but we of the YA lit world know that Larry did it first.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Is this a boy book or a girl book?

It's that time of the year again, the time when reluctant readers are dragged kicking and screaming to their local libraries to get those required books for summer reading. This can be a painful process for librarians, teens, parents, and teachers because those least enthusiastic readers have mastered the art of the shrug with the downcast eyes and the muttered, "I dunno," when asked if they'd read and enjoyed any book in the past year. Over the years I've become pretty good at getting books for reluctant readers that they don't hate too much, but there is one question about summer reading books, usually asked by parents, that always makes me tense up a little.

"Is this a boy book or a girl book?"

There's no hiding the gender of the main character of a book, unless maybe you're reading Cycler or Freak Show. 99.95 percent of YA books have a main character who's definitely male or definitely female and that's it. And 99.95 percent of parents of boys are convinced that their child is not going to want to read a book with a female main character. They've bought into the media's idea that all YA books with female main characters are a theme and variation on Gossip Girl. And really, if they don't read YA otherwise, why would they think it wasn't?

One day in the stacks, I had a moment of genius. Holding a pile of books for a would-be reader and his mother who had obviously dragged him by the hair to the library (I'm being melodramatic here), I said, "There is no such thing as a boy book or a girl book. There are only books you like and books you don't like."

I was floored when the mother said, "You know, that's a good point." Not so much because I had a good point, but because she agreed.

It's clear to anyone with eyes that there are many YA titles obviously marketed to a female audience. I can't imagine most boys being interested in most of Meg Cabot's books for the covers, for example, because they're usually some combination of pink, purple, sparkly, or featuring a fashionably dressed woman. But there are many more books out there with covers that are less gender-specific, and those are not a difficult sell to boys. I haven't met a boy yet who's been able to resist my Heir Apparent booktalk. I think boys in Talk It Up! this summer will really enjoy Magic or Madness, which features magic, urban adventures, math, and a female protagonist. Through my work, I've become more and more convinced that it's about the writing and the characterization, not whether the main character is male or female. Prospective readers are willing to give you ten seconds to talk about the book. They're willing to hear what the story is about and if the concept of the book sounds interesting enough, boys won't have a problem going for a female protagonist.

A pink cover, on the other hand, is a little bit harder to work past.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Anarchy in the UK! (Age banding)

One of my biggest pet peeves in library teen services are public libraries who split their YA collection into "middle school" and "high school" or somesuch. (Note: This peeve does not apply to school libraries.) I've always felt that this discourages not only reading on the part of the teen patron, but an effort to do your job well and know the literature on the part of a librarian. If you work hard at your job and read the literature and know the books, you shouldn't have to separate your collection. You should be able to hand-sell the right book to the right reader without breaking down the collection. It's not that I don't support dividing a library's collection into picture books, easy readers, middle grade, YA, and adult, but I don't support breaking it down any further than that.

Apparently, British publishers disagree with me. For the linkphobic, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, and other British authors have come together to protest age banding, a practice that will start this fall that will mark the front covers of books with age designations: 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ and 13+/teen. Many authors and librarians (myself included) think this is a terrible idea and have established No to Age Banding in protest.

One of the comments to the Telegraph article reads: There are certain types of material that young children should not be exposed to before they have the emotional or intellectual resources to deal it. Why are these authors so reluctant to protect the young could it be they are greedy or have political agendas?

I think this commenter is missing the point. He doesn't seem to understand that every child has a different level of emotional and intellectual resources. Some kids are ready to babysit at eleven while others still need to be babysat. That's where librarians come in. We have the knowledge and the resources to interview each reader and suggest books that he or she will enjoy. My favorite book when I was in third grade (eight years old) was The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger. Cassie, the main character of that book is thirteen and in eighth grade, concerned with her average looks, class president elections, her mother's superficiality, dating, and parties. In short, things most third-graders don't deal with. But I loved how honest and witty Cassie was, how much she cared about her best friend and her little brother, and how open she was about her anxieties. That book would probably carry an 11+ age branding but at eight, it spoke volumes to me. Would this commenter think that Paula Danziger, bless her, was reluctant to protect me? Maybe, but it wasn't Paula Danziger's job to do so. Because I learned to read at an early age, I had a lot of autonomy when choosing books. I often asked the librarians at the public library (Sharon Levine, I will never forget you!) for suggestions, and they were able to recommend books based not on my age, but what kind of reader I was.

Personally, I think age banding is a great way to encourage unhealthy competition in both parents and kids, to discourage those who don't read as fast or as well as their peers from reading at all, and to have publishers make decisions that are best made by parents, children, librarians, and booksellers. But that might just be my greedy political agenda.

Editing to add: Printz winner Meg Rosoff thinks age banding is a good thing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Which is more important, professional reviews or teen reviews?

Anonymously, I take a lot of crap. You see, I am a member of one of the most hated groups in children's publishing: I review for Kirkus. As a reviewer for Kirkus, I have been told in indirect terms that I am a moron, that I didn't "get" the point of a book, that I am cruel and harsh and it doesn't matter what I think, anyway, because I'm just a dumb adult and the really important reviews come from teens.

I swear, if I see one more author blog about how it's teen reviews that really matter and professional reviews, especially from Kirkus, are of little consequence, I'm going to throw something. Here's why:

What librarians know very, very well and what too many authors seem to miss is the question of how those books get into teens' hands in the first place. If teens want books, they have three options, more or less: a brick-and-mortar bookstore, the library, or Amazon/other online retailer. Now, Amazon is a different sort of beast than a bookstore or library. They can and do carry just about everything, and a customer can decide if she wants to buy a book based not just on professional reviews, but user reviews as well. Of course, one has to wait until the book is widely available to get those reviews. The biggest difference between online retailers and concrete institutions is the amount of space available to house books. No bookstore or library has unlimited amounts of space or money to purchase books, and that's where professional reviews come in. Because I have never worked in a bookstore, I'll talk about the value of professional reviews to libraries, and how (or how not) teen reviews matter.

Like most librarians, I'm used to buying books for a collection on a tight budget. In order to make the most of what little money I have to spend, I cannot justify buying a book if I can't answer "Yes" to the question: Is this book going to circulate? The answer to that question is different for every book in every library. I know of libraries where Gossip Girl sits on the shelf and collects dust. In order to decide if a book sounds like a good fit for my collection, I have to read its reviews. I have decided not to buy more than one book based on its marginal reviews. Thing is, I can't wait for all those books to be out long enough to garner multiple customer reviews on Amazon. In order to keep patrons happy, I need to have the newest books on the shelf as close to their street date as possible. After all, that's only good customer service. If I'm getting information about books prior to their release, I want those reviews to come from people whose judgment I trust. Those people I trust would be my colleagues, fellow industry professionals who work with teens and can evaluate a book for quality and popularity. The short version: If a book doesn't get good reviews in the professional journals, its chances of actually making it into a teen's hands are decreased because a book with bad reviews where the author is not already a big name is less likely to be purchased for a library's shelf. So in this case, professional reviews matter way more than teen reviews. It's true that I've bought books with bad reviews because I knew they were going to be popular, but that has more to do with serving my library's population than who the important reviewers are.

Do adult reviewers read books differently than teens? Heck yeah. Does this mean their reviews count for less? NO. It's just a different perspective. Not all reviewers agree on all books. Look at reviews for books like Wicked Lovely and King Dork. To say those reviews are mixed among the professional journals is an understatement. In cases like these, I read as many reviews as possible and see if the book is a good fit for my population.

I don't think teen reviews of books are a bad thing. Far from it. Stellar reviews from teens means that a book is speaking to its intended audience. But authors, please do not discount the importance of reviews by us grownups. We're a big part of the reason you get teen reviews in the first place.

(Now, the author who complained that the reason Kirkus gave his book a bad review was because s/he was reviewing from a galley is another post altogether, starting with the fact that Kirkus's reviews have to be in 2 months prior to the street date of the book...)