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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Round 1, Match 2

Drum roll for the second match of this round: Boxers & Saints v A Corner of White, Judge Yuyi Morales

My prediction: “Having read Boxer & Saints, that’s what I picked.”

And guess what: ONCE AGAIN I WAS RIGHT.

BoB2014 MG R1 M2 Round 1, Match 2

Let me say one thing.

OK, it’ll probably be more than one thing. You know me.

One thing I love about SLJ’s Battle of the Books is that it’s opinion. It’s personal.

It’s not dry.

So when I began reading Morales’s opinion all I could think was, “this is like a GoodReads review.”

What I mean by that: there are, of course, all types of reviews and review styles on GoodReads. One thing I’ve noticed is that often, the reviews are deeply personal, and honest, and blunt. The level of reader response is such that I sometimes think that I find out more about the reader than the book.

And that’s what I thought as I read this decision: Morales unapologetically looks at and considers those factors important to her. Her own personal likes and dislikes out of what she wants in a reading experience.

She starts with the cover. THE COVER. Sputtering, one could think, but the author has no control over the cover?

To which I say — so what? There is no rule that says, hey, you can only consider the text of the book!

The rule is what matters to the judge.

And then, and then, and THEN the name thing: “but for people like me, narratives in English filled with names, many characters’ names, with first and last names, sometimes described first by the official name and then by how they are called (“His name was Giacomo Cagnetti, but he went by Jack… (she) was Annabel Pettifields (but she went by Belle)),” will almost surely call for extra measures, such as note taking, or second and even third readings, in order to avoid getting completely confused.

Man, did that piss me off. Most importantly, for the personal — it bugs me when I get that look / reaction that, wait, your name is ELIZABETH? I thought it was Liz. Or when I’m told that my business cards should be “Liz.” Because, you know, it’s confusing to people.

No. My name is Elizabeth. I can show you the birth certificate. Liz is a shortening of that name, not that uncommon. No more uncommon than, say, using Belle for Annabel. Seriously, you could not show me a less confusing example of nicknames for names.

Secondly, because, wait — note taking and multiple readings are “extra” measures? That’s like my standard operating procedure! I have about a decade of reading journals, with lists of names, sketched family trees, timelines, page numbers — and I did this before I started reading journals, just on scraps of paper that I didn’t save. And a second reading? I love when a book has me go back and do that, for a deeper understanding or to see more things or to have a better reading of a book.

See what I did there?

That’s just me being as subjective and personal as Morales, but in a different direction, and we are, of course, both right.

I love this decision because it’s an insight into how someone else reads a book. And because it makes clear what should be obvious:

This is personal. It’s one person’s choice.

You like what you like; you don’t like what you don’t like.

And that is why this Battle is fun.

And fingers crossed some other judges deliver equally entertaining decisions.

 

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Not gonna lie–at first Morales’ approach really took me aback. I mean, doesn’t everyone expect to go back and reread parts of a book? But then I realized that in fact, everyone does not expect that! And it was a really good reminder that different people read in different ways, and that those ways are valid experiences even if they don’t fit my idea of the “right method” of reading.

    (Never having had a real nickname, I’ve always been somewhat envious of the people who did. Mo is just not on.)

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