Unlike high school, the YA community is remarkably supportive and welcoming. “Freaks and geeks welcome here.” Not so freaky or geeky? Well, come on in and have some lemonade anyway.

Which is why I don’t understand the motivations behind the most recent attacks on YA and it’s proponents–specifically, book bloggers. In an article published on SantaCruz.com, Daniela Hurezanu bemoans the changing demographics at Book Expo America (BEA) and the seeming demise of traditional book reviews/reviewers. She feels book bloggers do a disservice to readers by taking a less-than-critical approach when reviewing books sent by publishers. Are there plenty of “OMGILOVEIT!” reviews out there?

Sure, and there are several reasons for this.

  1. The site is more of a fan site than book blog. There’s nothing wrong with this. People who visit the site aren’t looking for a critical analysis of a book’s pros and cons, but a general reaction from a like-minded reader.
  2. The blog/reviewer is just starting out. It’s a flattering thing to receive an ARC in the mail from Big Name Publisher in New York City. You don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you sparkly, word-filled goodness. So you find all the things you love about the book and gush.
  3. This is by far the most common reason for “OMGILOVEIT!” reviews: YA authors pump out some phenomenal fiction, plain and simple. Good fiction = good reviews.

That said, there is a pretty hard-and-fast rule that YA book bloggers live by. It’s not written in code and there’s no secret handshake.

Here it is: No slamming.

 Even if you hate a book, it’s worthy of a proper review. Somebody poured their heart and soul into this book. They stayed awake at night, plotting their characters’ next move. They lived, ate, and breathed this book for weeks, months or years on end. And that accomplishment deserves respect. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, it might be someone else’s. It’s our job as reviewers to figure out who might enjoy this book and point out its strongest elements.

It’s easy to be a little too candy-coated, and this may be what Hurezanu is bemoaning. The true definition of criticism (and by the way, book bloggers never claimed to be experts in literary criticism) means looking at both the positive and the negative. It’s easy to do this and still be constructive. It’s not necessary to slam. There’s just no need.

Hurezanu writes:

The main difference between the new book bloggers and the old book reviewers is
that the former don’t have any literary “prejudices.” They are children of pop
culture and the mass media, and have transferred their interests onto the realm
of books. Their electronic chatter will soon cover whatever is left of book
reviewing.

Yes, we do have “prejudices,” by which I assume she means learned standards. We just don’t feel the need to foist our “prejudices” on others. To each their own.

Here’s the bit I find most offensive and bewildering, and which I’ve saved for last:

Book blogging has become a subculture whose members are mostly women between 20
and 50 years old, often known as “mommy bloggers” because they are housewives
who blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories and paranormal novels.
Many of them have hundreds of followers on Twitter, and the result is that they
have the power to establish new trends. And the publishing industry has started
to take them seriously. They receive review copies from publicists, and the
authors court them assiduously. At the Book Bloggers reception I met many girls
in their early twenties who already have hundreds of followers on Twitter ….
All these 20-year-old bloggers form a community that is replacing the
traditional book reviewers; they know each other, read each other’s blogs and
blog about the same books.

On “mommy bloggers”: I’m really going to try to keep snarkiness to a minimum, so stay with me on this. Many bloggers are mothers. Many are not. Some of those mothers are stay-at-home moms. Some are not. Hurezanu makes a dangerous insinuation that stay-at-home mothers are not qualified to review books or blog about them, as if issuing forth progeny is an automatic disqualification in The Book Reviewers Handbook.

On Twitter: Why such Twitter hate? It’s a popular mode of communication. Yes, it gives many of us the power to influence people–thousands of people, not hundreds. (If you’re going to be insulting, get your facts straight. Oh, sorry, that’s journalism, not book reviewing.) Anyway, I suspect the author is afraid of Twitter and eschews it as a defense mechanism. Not that I’m qualified to make that diagnosis.

On unfounded generalizations: We’re all different. Ain’t it grand? The variety in book bloggers is vast, and to assume all of them are of a certain age, only read certain genres,  and “blog about the same books” is unwise. Also, untrue.

On job security: Ms. Hurezanu, we’re not out to take your job or replace  you, though some of us are certainly qualified to do so. Even though we are 20-50-something mothers (or not) who use Twitter (or not) and know each other (or not), many of us (believe it or not) are professionals. We have educations and job experiences that make us qualified to review books. We just choose to do it via blog, rather than an established (read: dying) outlet. You can’t blame the demise of the newspaper or literary journal on book bloggers. That started long before we took over the world. Er, became popular.

And unlike you did in your article, we don’t feel the need to slam you. You’re entitled to your opinion, but there’s plenty of room for all of us. No need to be afraid of us. We’re really a welcoming community.

Now, let’s have some lemonade and discuss the allegorical complexities of The Hunger Games

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