Thursday, April 29, 2010
Review: Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens by Rachelle Rogers Knight (T2T)
This guide-slash-journal to middle grade and young adult literature is an admirable compilation of recommendations and reader interaction. Writing a guidebook for a field that literally changes by the day is no easy feat, and while I had some issues with some parts of the journal, I still commend Rachelle for taking on this monumental task, and would recommend RRR as a great gift to give a bookworm.
Because this is not the usual type of book I review (i.e. er, it's not fiction), I will organize my review slightly differently, in a section each for Pros, Cons, and Concluding Thoughts.
The first half of the journal contains hundreds, if not thousands, of different lists of recommended reads: awards that range from the local to the national level, for pretty much every genre imaginable. The lists towards the end of this section are even divided up by genre and similar bestsellers (i.e. one of those “What do I read after Twilight?” things). And what’s especially happy-making for list-obsessed bookworms like me is that beside each title are spaces to mark if you’ve read it, want to read it, want to own it, and/or would recommend it to others. The organization of this section is, I think, ideal for book industry professionals in a role of recommending books to others: librarians, teachers, etc.
Following the lists is a good-sized space for creating your own lists: of books you read, your thoughts on books, books you’d recommend to others, and books you’ve lent out and would love to keep track of. The format can be a bit awkward, as the lines are narrow and the spaces fairly small, but I love the concept of this section and would’ve gone completely ga-ga over it as a tween, when I was obsessed with organization but, instead of preferring to make my own formatted lists, would’ve preferred to use something neat and premade.
And finally, in the back are lists of resources: websites to libraries, blogs, and author pages. There’s also a great appendix of basic-to-intermediate-level literary terms—handy for upcoming English tests!
As far as I can gather, all the lists in this book were taken from lists that other organizations had written—so, essentially, this book is like a well-organized compilation of other people’s works. This works if it’s what you’re looking for, but I couldn’t help but feel that this format creates a certain lack of connection for me. I would’ve loved to see some original lists written by the author herself, or perhaps somehow put a “face” to all the organizations whose lists are included in this compilation. Quotes from contributors, original lists created specifically for this journal by book lovers…that would’ve made the journal feel more personal to me, as I think a good journal should do.
Also, there are no descriptions for each book’s title, which for a fairly well-read YA reader is no problem, as many of the titles are either bestselling or destined to YA canonization, but for someone hoping to enter the wide world of YA lit may be a bit more frustrating and more work to find out more about the titles. Though I understand that including descriptions would’ve made this journal close to about a thousand pages, compilations like these are always a careful balancing of breadth vs. depth, with things being forced to be sacrificed somewhere down the line.
And finally, I would’ve loved to see a section explaining Rachelle’s “credentials” for and investment in taking on this enormous task of compressing the whole of YA lit into a manageable journal. I guess that being a blogger for over a year now has made me think more about the concept of objective authority, and whether it can exist for an industry that’s constantly changing. Anyone who takes on this challenge can obviously not make everyone happy: all they can do is to clearly define the place from which they’re coming. And I wanted to see where Rachelle stood, where she was coming from. To paint an example, I especially wanted to know how Rachelle created the Resources pages in the back, as those were the most original of the content in the book. But how, may I ask, is a list of YA book blogs complete without Lenore?? Alright, I’ll stop there before I continue to nitpick more.
Rating this kind of book is extremely difficult, as recommendation lists are always so subjective. I’m not fully convinced that this is the most exemplary and reader-friendly compilation regarding YA lit out there, but if you’re in that in-between stage, where you’ve read a handful of YA novels and have interest in reading more, or if you’re simply a lover of lists about books, this is definitely something need to check out.
Physical design: 4/5
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5
Sourcebooks / April 1, 2010 / Paperback / 352pp. / $15.99
Received from publisher for Traveling to Teens Tour. Don't forget to check out the tour's site for a list of other blog tour stops!
Guest post from Rachelle coming soon...