Ever since I started my blog, I’ve had middle grade and young adult book reviews mixed in with the other books I’ve reviewed. Most of these books have been ones I’ve selected to read for myself. Some are books that I’m reading with my daughter in mind.
I have no problem reading books for younger readers.
In her memoir A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle is asked “Why do you write for children?” She answers:
My immediate response to this question is, “I don’t.” … If it’s not good enough for adults, it’s not good enough for children. If a book that is going to be marketed for children does not interest me, a grownup, then I am dishonoring the children for whom the book is intended, and I am dishonoring books. And words.
Sometimes I answer that if I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children. This is usually good for a slightly startled laugh, but it’s perfectly true.
I have several books I’ve read recently, but am waiting on the review while I try to figure out what standard I should hold them to.
Some of them have language that seems noticeably simplified. Some have characters that are acting all too age appropriate. I can imagine that I’ll come across books that back off on subject matter.
Young Adult Books
The issues are different for YA books than for young adults.
I’ve had the issue of teenage characters acting like teenagers, and annoying me. That’s appropriate for the audience, and I feel I should give them some leeway on that.
On the other hand, the language should not be simplified, and subject matter should not be restricted for this age group.
I use my normal rating scale and call out any issues in my review. I’ll let the reader decide.
I’m having a harder time with the middle grade books. I don’t know that it is fair to hold them to Madeleine L’Engle’s standard.
The best of children’s books clearly are there. Even when reading the Harry Potter books, I never stopped to worry about any of these issues. I didn’t need to remember I was reading books written for kids. I just enjoyed reading them, even if I recognized flaws later. This has been true of other books as well.
It isn’t always the case. On the other hand, things that bother me can be complete non-issues to my kid’s book review partner, my 11 year old daughter.
I’ve decided not to assign a numerical rating to middle grade books, because I can’t reconcile decide what scale to use.
I’ll try to call out in my review whether an opinion is relative to an adult reader or a child reader. If I read the book because I wanted to, I’ll represent both views as best I can. If I read it as a book for kids, I may not bother with the adult view.
Books for younger audiences
In general, I’m not expecting to review books aimed younger than 3rd-4th grade. There are always exceptions, and I’ll deal with them individually rather than coming up with a general policy.
What do you think?
Is that enough? Is there anything else you keep in mind as a reviewer, or would like to read in my reviews? What do you do?