More Blog Reviews, and on Reading YA (Updated)

While I was out at my RAMPANT signing in Tyson’s Corner, VA this weekend, a few more reviews of RAMPANT popped up ’round these here internets.

The Book Lover (quite adorably) gives it “four alicorns out of five” though spoiler warnings are in FULL EFFECT if you click through to the full review. Here’s a spoiler-free snippet: “It was an engaging novel with an easy-flowing story and I had it finished the day after I bought it. I was unable to find it at local libraries so I took a chance on it by buying my own copy. Sometimes a book that seems so good can not live up to expectations, but I’m happy to report that this one did not disappoint.”

The Book Scout rated it 48 out of 50 in an utterly spoiler-free review (yay!) and says:

“This was such an amazing book, it’s really hard to describe how I felt about it. To begin with, I thought the topic sounded so far fetched- I mean killer unicorns, come on! From the first page I was hooked. There was already a lot of action and I was learning things about unicorns I never in my wildest dreams would have believed. Peterfreund presents the idea of killer unicorns in a way that makes you believe in them. Her writing style has a nice flow, and the historical facts were great. I learned more about Alexander the Great and the Goddess Diana then I ever have in history class! Unicorns have always been something I would love to read about and this book just made me want to find out all I could about unicorns. Fast paced, exciting… this book had it all.

“Rampant took me longer to read then normal, because I was so caught up in school work and everything, but every free chance I had I was reading it. The ending left me wondering if there’s going to be a sequel! I really hope so. As I was reading I would shout out in surprise, stand up in shock (yes spilling my somewhat surprised cat onto the floor), and cheer with joy. I love books that draw emotions from me, and this book definitely did. I’ve been reading a jumble of book genres lately, but fantasy is one of my favorites, and this book was a refreshing look at how great fantasy can be. I would highly recommend this to anyone- even people who haven’t liked fantasy before.”

Gosh, I really loved this review. I mean, the fact that the reader (a high school freshman) liked the book and all is fantastic, but it really makes my day to learn that she liked it for the reasons I wrote it. I wrote this book for the teenage girl that I was — the one who was totally obsessed with Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, not just because of how it made me thrill and shout and cry and shudder, but also because it had all that interesting stuff in there about what it was like to live in medieval Britain and the religions of the time and all that stuff. I was taking Latin classes, I was a big mythology nut, and I liked books that addressed all kinds of interesting stuff — Druids, unicorns, whatever! — while telling a fun story. (Actually, that’s still what I like, so go figure.)

This one definitely goes in the rainy day pile.

And, since I am now the recipient of every unicorn-based link on the web, I share with you these rather cool and scary Arts & Crafts-style unicorn stickers. (via a librarian friend on Twitter — btw, I think librarians must know all the cool blogs to follow, it’s how I discovered Awful Library Books, too).

But I digress. In other YA news, great article here on reading YA novels by YA author Mary Pearson, who is somewhat unsurprisingly astonished to hear how many people bash them a priori. (Srsly, I just read a blog comment by none other than Laura Kinsale saying she assumed something was a YA novel because of its — faulty, in her eyes — simplicity. Grrrrrr...)

[UPDATED TO ADD: Laura has clarified her statement in the comments and apparently they were two different thoughts: she thought the book in question was simplisitic and, separately and due to other factors, thought it read more like a YA novel. Sorry, Laura! Also, everyone go buy Laura’s new book when it comes out from Sourcebooks next February! (or, y’know, FLOWERS FROM THE STORM or any of her other awesome backlist titles right now!)]

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — teenagers read far more complex books in school than the average adult reads on their commute. They are spending hours every day analyzing Shakespeare and Hemingway and Faulkner. They are in TRAINING to look deeply into books. That’s the whole reason that adults invented bookclubs, to try to get some of that back. YA books are not dumbed down. Go read FEED or SKIN HUNGER and then come back and talk to me about that one.

Of course, maybe these teen readers aren’t necessarily reading the classics. And why? because they get more “points” for reading Gossip Girl. I’m totally serious. here’s a sobering article from the New York Times about a system implemented in over 75,000 schools in which students are encouraged to choose reading materials not based on literary merit, or even what interests them, but instead upon some mystical “points” system (for an article so focused on the vagaries of the system, it is never explained WHO assigns said “points”):

“You have to read the Harry Potter books” [the writer’s daughter] said, exasperated. “They have all the points.”

She was right. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” topped out at 44 points, while “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” were worth 34 and 32.

Comparatively, Hamlet is 7 and Frankenstein 14. I guess it’s a word count thing? Must be, since Gossip Girl is 8.

I love Harry Potter as much as the next girl, and I’m not a fan of genre snobbery, either, but I can see why if you can get twice as many points for reading OOP, you might skip over the 22-point Sense & Sensibility. Is no quarter given to the fact that reading Hamlet might be, I don’t know — HARDER than reading Gossip Girl? And I know this system is usually in place for the students to choose extracurricular reading, and why shouldn’t that be fun, but it’s not just classics that are getting the low scores. A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan, both recent YA fantasy novels– just like Harry Potter –are listed as 14 pts. each. (My novels aren’t listed. Zero points, I guess, or maybe Rampant is just too recent to make it in there.)

As much as I loved reading, I would have analyzed that list and read the books that were the most bang for my buck, even if I wasn’t necessarily interested in them. What a flawed system.

Anyone know more about this and want to shed some light on the subject?

Posted in bookaholic, unicorns, vainglory, writing industry, YA

9 Responses to More Blog Reviews, and on Reading YA (Updated)

  1. My first reaction to the whole points thing was ‘WTF?’ Then I read the article and now its a combination of WTF and this another reason why I’m so glad I homeschool. Thanks for the link, Diana.

  2. phyllis towzey says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. I do think it makes sense to give credit (or “points”) to kids for reading books they want to read, not just the classics or assigned reading. I know my daughter is really getting tired of the depressing subject matter of her assigned reading books (she’s encountering the same ones in h.s. that she did in her honors language arts class in middle school – excellent literay works to be sure, but you can only take so much war, death, despair and man’s inhumanity to man). I think it’s a very good idea to encourage kids to seek out other reading choices for credit — I don’t care for the way the points were apparently assigned, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that I’d have difficulty coming up with a formula,

  3. Laura Kinsale says:

    Before I’m tarred, feathered and pilloried all over the internet for denigrating YA, I have clarified my comment at dearauthor about WOLFBREED. I can see how it could be read the way you read it, but I wasn’t bashing any genre, I was bashing the book. 😉


  4. Lisa S. says:

    My high school had the book “points” system (started my Sophomore year). My system was different though in that points were based on length AND difficulty. So Shakespeare was ranked a lot higher. But I still have to complain about this system. I loved reading. I would pick up whatever books looked good and devour them. When the point system was implemented I stopped reading for fun and started reading for points. Not even every author (example Madeleine L’Engle) or book was included ON THE LIST! Reading became tedious and I became worn out by reading difficult book after difficult book without breaking. I eventually lost interest in reading altogether.

    Years later my interest returned though when I realized I could read whatever I wanted again. Screw what other people thought, screw point systems, if a book looks interesting to me, I pick it up. The important thing is that kids be encouraged to READ! It doesn’t matter what, they should just read. There’s nothing wrong with English classes assigning more difficult books but don’t religate what kids read outside of class.

    Down to point systems!

  5. Alexa says:

    As a teacher( a British one though so I’ve never heard of this system) I do see the benefit of a points system to encourage reluctant readers, children love things like that. Hopefully once they’ve discovered a book they love the points will become less important. I don’t understand why they have to be rated though, couldn’t they just all be the same, especially if it’s outside of school reading and the aim is to encourage kids to read things they enjoy by assigning pints value aren’t they reinforcing the idea that everyone should be reading the same thing?

  6. Kelsey says:

    Wow, thank you so much for the nice words about my review! I’m so glad you liked it(:

  7. Katee R says:

    We had a point system in junior high (wow, that feels like a million years ago) and we had to read a certain number of points (and take a test at the end of each book) for a passing grade in English. But there were never any great books on there (in my mind at the time) and definitely no YA or books that I loved back then!

  8. Patrick says:

    My son’s school does some sort of point system. I haven’t delved into it completely. It does have to do with length, complexity, reading level, depth. I think it is a good thing to some degree. I don’t see the points influencing his choice, but now he knows when he reads the lighter, shorter books that he enjoys, he needs to read more of them.

    He can read Harry Potter, but has chosen not to at this point, though he loved when I read the first one to him and re-read chapters without me.

    Of course, this is second grade I am talking about.

  9. Hi,

    I know this is a really old post, but I was browsing your livejournal (Rampant sounds so interesting, and your posts definitely are interesting, and I can’t decide whether to Friend you there which is easier, or figure out a way to follow you here instead, which has more posts), noticed you’d gotten no comments on this post over there, came here to see if you’d been enlightened any more about how Accelerated Reader works, and since you really haven’t, I thought I’d link you to the long and detailed rant I made on the subject a few months ago. I don’t know if people can put links in comments over here, so I put the direct link to the entry in the “website” box above– I hope it works!