1. THERE IS NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL WHEN IT COMES TO BOOKS. My students will often gush over a book and remark that everyone should read this book. I now talk about this in class. There have been plenty of books, award winners in particular, that I just did not "like." For some reason, they did not work for me. That does not mean, by the way, that I cannot identify the characteristics that made the book an award winner. It just means that this book in particular was not one that struck a chord in me as a reader. More than likely, it was a "MEH" book: it was okay but it did not create a strong emotive response in me.
2. FOR EVERY BOOK THERE IS A READER. I try my best as I read to think about who the reader for the book might be. I use the general criteria of gender and age (to some extent) but I also consider interests, preferences, background experiences, and the like. I can handle a book in which a character loses a beloved pet. But I know there are some readers for whom this is traumatic (especially if there has been a loss recently). Some folks love scary and bloody (me, for instance) and others do not. Just yesterday I was talking about Barry Lyga's I HUNT KILLERS with a librarian and we were talking about making sure readers also liked intense, serial killer mysteries.
3. I DO NOT POST NEGATIVE REVIEWS. I have made few exceptions to this. I also will write an editor if I receive a book I feel I cannot review without being negative. It is one thing to talk about a plot hole or character inconsistencies; it is another to try to review a book that is a train wreck. Only once has an editor asked me to go ahead and write the negative review. I cringed, but did write it. Most of the time I ask for someone else to read it and consider it instead. I do not want to take up real estate here on the blog with books I do not think I can recommend. And while I realize this violates the preceding point (see #2), I am not the person to recommend or review or even blog it.
4. I WILL TALK ABOUT A BOOK I DO NOT LIKE. When I do booktalks, I will mention that a particular book is not one of my favorites. that sort of reverse psychology will often get a kid to want to read the book to prove me wrong!
5. I WILL FIND SOME ASPECT OF THE BOOK TO PROMOTE. I read mysteries for kids and teens. Sometimes I can guess whodunnit from page one. But I am an experienced reader, so I might include the book in a booktalk for kids knowing some of them will not figure it out in advance.
We must allow kids to reject a book, too. However, we must give them the tools they need so that they can state WHY they do not like a book. Yes, it can be personal. If I reject an award winner, though, I still have to be able to point out the reasons why I think the committee honored the book. I can say, "Hey, this won all sorts of awards. It does have rounded characters and language that is well crafted like.....but it is just not a book I care for." Let's teach kids how to voice their opinions.
P.S. Head over to the Nerdy Book Club blog and read Franki Sibberson's post today. It is excellent! Here is the linky thing: