But What About The NON Reluctant Readers? (this is actually a give away post!)

As librarians we bend over backwards for our reluctant readers.  We salivate at the idea that a book is perfect for reluctant readers, that it’s so appealing that kids who don’t like books will LOVE it.  We preen with delight when non-readers tell us “I loved this book and I never read books.”  We feel an indescribable thrill when we talk about how we connected reluctant readers with the right books.  We champion books that are not all that well-crafted because we know, we know, that they will speak to a reluctant reader, that they will suck in some teen who doesn’t read often or widely.

This is something I am proud of in our profession.  This is a particular reward, a particular task that takes particular skills, in our profession.  Not everyone is good at it and it takes time and skill and patience.  It takes the ability to, at times, squash down that voice inside you that wants to prostrate yourself at a teenager’s feet and scream, “NOT TWILIGHT!  THERE’S SO MANY *GOOD* BOOKS YOU COULD BE READING INSTEAD!”  And that is a lot harder than you might actually think, when you are a person who loves good literature so darn much.

But we push through that!  We reach out for reluctant readers, we constantly assure them that we are there for them, that our collection is for them, that we won’t give up on them.  And I’m damn glad we do.

Only sometimes, sometimes, I wonder about what happens when we forget about our non reluctant readers – those teens that can’t get enough, that read dozens of books and still want more, the ones that walk out of the library with a huge pile of books and a big smile.

What happens to them in our giant stampede of “THIS BOOK WON’T HURT YOU, I SWEAR!” reassurances?

I think I know.  It’s not that they stop coming into the library, not quite, it’s that they stop coming to us.  They go to the adult section, you see, and fall in love with Harry Dresden and Daenerys Targaryen.  And while that is totally awesome – nothing breaks my heart quicker than to see a 15 year old, a bright, voracious reader look right at me and say, “Yeah, young adult books are just boring, I’m not really interested anymore.”

When we, and here we means librarians, teachers, writers, publishers, publicists, all of us who are involved in this industry, when we encourage the dumbing down of young adult fiction, we tell this 15 year old they’re right.

We say: “Yup, you had a good run here with us, you really loved those kid books!  But now you’re way too smart and sophisticated and mature as a reader for all this stuff, this baby stuff, so you might as well go find real books!”

And I don’t want to be in an industry that says that.  Do you?

When I am doing training and workshops for librarians I inevitably come up against the Octavian Nothing issue.

Here I am, having just spent an hour telling them all the latest zombie-romance-vampire-killing-non-stop-action books that are sure to fly off their shelves and now I stand before them and tell them that, with limited budget, they need to buy Octavian Nothing – a dense, historical novel that wrestles with huge, hard questions and is written in deliberately stylized prose meant to evoke the 18th century.  They stare at me in bewilderment.  Who am I?  Can they trust anything I say?  HAVE I GONE MAD?

So then I tell them the most important part: Octavian Nothing is not for all your teen readers.  Octavian Nothing is the kind of book you have to sell to your teen readers, the kind you have to work to connect with the right teen.  And maybe Octavian Nothing is right for one teen out fifty.  But for that one, this is the kind of book that can change their life – the kind of book that can open a world of possibilities in them, that can make them think and wonder, that can make them say, “Yeah, young adult literature is awesome.”

Don’t you want that?

And yes, they nod, thinking about Octavian Nothing, thinking about the American Revolution and questions of liberty and freedom and justice and moral right.  That seems profound, that seems like a higher calling.  Yes.

But what if that same question was posed about a book where monsters rip people’s faces off, where the blood flows copiously, and there are very nasty things that go bump in the night?

Would it be so easy to nod then?

The Monstrumologist is that book.  It’s not for every reader.  It’s not for many reluctant readers (though there are some who will be drawn in, much to their surprise!)  It’s sophisticated, smart, classically structured, dense, and detailed.  The Monstrumologist is a book for the teenagers who think that young adult literature doesn’t have anything left to offer them.

The Monstrumologist tells the story of young Will Henry, who is apprenticed to Pellinore Warthrop, the monstrumologist of our title.  Dr. Warthrop is an amazing character, full of sharp edges and determination – a man who never flinches from his duty, even when his duty is dark business indeed, he springs off the pages with clarity.  Will and Dr. Warthrop, as I am sure will come as no surprise to you, encounter and do bloody battle with a great number of monsters, both of the human and inhuman variety.  The books are richly plotted, detailed historical pieces and, oh yeah, they’ re rip-roaringly-turn-on-the-lights scary and stomach-churningly gory. 

This blog is not a review of The Monstrumologist series, per se, Bear already handled that for me a few days ago  And if you want to read a great one try out Liz’s review of the first book (she has great reviews of all three titles in the series, Curse of the Wendigo and Isle of Blood.) or you could read the professional reviews, which were glowing.  (Booklist said it “might just be the best horror novel of the year.”)  I wasn’t lucky enough to get an AR of Isle of Blood but I can’t wait to read it next week because this is a series that has only become richer and more fulfilling with each volume, as you come to know all the characters and their world better.

When I heard that Simon & Schuster had declined to pick the book up for a fourth volume, I felt YA lit grow poorer.

But!  Now we know there will be a fourth volume and THAT makes us all richer.

To celebrate and because I hope this series of posts has convinced at least one of you, dear readers, that you absolutely MUST start this series today, I’m giving away a copy of The Monstrumologist so that you too can be taken in by Will and Dr. Warthrop (and so that you too can have nightmares!!) All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this blog and I’ll randomly select a winner!  The contest is open extra long since I’m currently out of the country on vacation – so you have until September 19 to enter.

If you can’t wait that long, head out to your library to get The Monstrumologist right this second.  I promise, you’ll be richer for it. (and probably a little scared too…)


“The Monstrumologist” by Rick Yancey, reviewed by Bear Schacht…an actual teenager!

Recently, there was a bit of online outcry when it was announced that Simon & Schuster had decided not to continue Rick Yancey’s Printz-Honor winning series The Monstrumologist.   After much protest from fans, word came down that there would be a fourth book in the series, huzzah, good work fandom!

BUT!  Fandom must never rest!  A group of bloggers, myself included, decided it was still really important to get the word out about the publication of the third book in the series, The Isle of Blood so that, hopefully, new readers would find their way to this amazing series.   The Isle of Blood goes on sale September 13. As a celebration (and publicity push!) we’re all taking turns posting about how amazing The Monstrumologist is.

You can read posts all this week and next week at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, The Book Smugglers, and Stephanie Reads.  And here at my blog, the rest of this week is a Monstrumologist party up in here!  Tomorrow, I have a super-special guest post from Rick Yancey himself discussing the origins of  the series and on Friday will be a blog/review from me and a chance for you to win your very own copy of The Monstrumologist so you can start the series and see what everyone was so excited about.

Today, however, I’m going to post a special guest review of The Monstrumologist, one sure to get you psyched for the giveaway  … one written by that rarest of creatures (gasp!) an actual teenager. 

I don’t even remember the first time I met Bear, but I am sure we were thick as thieves from the very first moment.  Bear is one of those teenagers you cross your fingers for, the kind you go into library services hoping you’ll get to serve.  He wants to talk to you about books and movies and the world.  He’s bright, inquisitive, clever, and an influencer on other teens.

Bear is also a voracious reader who reads across a variety of genres.  Bear is the kind of reader, the kind of patron, it’s actually rather easy to forget about.  Teens like that, after all, don’t need that much help from us, right?  They find books, they read no matter what, we don’t have to worry about getting them through the doors!

And yet!  Bear wants and needs just as much reader’s advisory as any reluctant reader.  So when I have the chance to connect him with a book, I know that an actual connection will be made – that this is a book that will be relished and analyzed and loved.  

Putting The Monstrumologist in Bear’s hands gave me that sweet rush of anticipation and pride you always get from good reader’s advisory.  “This,” I thought as he checked it out, “is why I do what I do.  This is gonna be true love.”

Thanks to Bear for being a patron that makes  my job worthwhile, for insisting I read Leviathan, and for writing this review and letting me share it with all of you.  Find your patron like Bear at your library today and put this book in his or her hands.

It’ll be true love.

Mon-strum-ol-o-gy    n.

1: the study of life forms generally malevolent to humans and not recognized by science as actual organisms, specifically those considered products of myth and folklore

2: the act of hunting such creatures

It was a spring night in 1888 when Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, was called out of bed by the arrival of a grave robber who had found something more gruesome and terrifying than anything the twelve year old boy had yet experienced in his year of working for the doctor. The find launches them into a case of nightmarish monsters, some human, and some very much not.

There were so many things I loved about this book; I almost don’t know where to start. The cast of the story included some really interesting characters, characters that not only stayed interesting, but got more interesting as the story went on.  Doctor Warthrop struck me as being similar to Sherlock Holmes in many ways, if Holmes hunted monsters instead of criminal masterminds. You also get the sense that there is something more to Will Henry than meets the eye, though I can’t really put my finger on what it is. Of course, Dr. Kearns (if that is his real name) is the scariest character I have encountered in a long time. He definitely knows about monsters, and you know how they say it takes one to know one…..

Then there was the gore, something that you can’t ignore with this book. I have the habit of eating while I read, but if you are at all weak of stomach I would not recommend doing so with this book. I am not usually the biggest fan of gore and horror, but this was different. The way the story was told had the perfect blend of emotion-capturing horror as well as the slightly detached journalistic reporting of facts. With these two flavors of storytelling working together, even the most over the top grotesque parts of the book seemed more believable and less gratuitous than other horror I have read.

I could go on about this book some more, but I would much rather go read the sequel now. I guess that means you will just have to go get the book and read it for yourself, but remember that “Yes my dear child, monsters are real. I happen to have one hanging in my basement.”

(you can also read Bear’s review at Check It Out!, my library’s teen review blog, where he has written MANY other reviews.  But since that blog isn’t open for comments, I wanted to cross-post here.)