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Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His newest book is the novel STREET OF STORYTELLERS (Rootstock, 2019). His 15 previous novels for young adults include THE REVEALERS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools.

More of the most useful YA book blogs

Out here in cyberspace, hundreds of blogs are reviewing books for YA readers. Who has time to sort through all these, to find the blogs you might want to trust?

Well, I don’t either. We need a strategy! I figure a good one is to look for the YA book blogs that are written by librarians. After all, librarians are professionals in the field of sorting through new titles to find the ones worth checking out. School or youth librarians also tend to be very well-practiced at discerning which new books will really connect with young readers.

So here are three YA book blogs by and/or for librarians that are worth checking out  — plus an online professional book-review site that is gaining notice and respect, and a compendium site where you can take your own cruise through today's YA book-blogging world. That's what I did, and here are some standouts that I found:

TLT: The Teen Librarian’s Toolbox. You have to love a site whose motto is, For librarians who are short on time, short on money, but not short on passion! And TLT earns the love. They’re creative and proactive; along with reviews, they’ve created the Spark Award, for teen fiction “that inspires social change and ... showcases teen characters rising up to the challenges of life and deciding to be a force for good in their world.”

Also noteworthy is TLT’s #the2012project. “Let's SHOW the world that libraries are still a vital part of teen lives,” the site explains. “... Instagram, Twitpics, Facebook — social media is used every day and sends a powerful message, so let's use it.  Our goal is to get 2,012 pics of teens in the library or reading books during the year 2012.”

TLT is engaging in its look, professional in its content, and passionate in its point of view. So far, this is the most exciting YA book blog I’ve found.

Bunbury in the Stacks. Site compiler Heidi — “I am a librarian.  The awesome kind.  The kind that will stand up for intellectual freedom and your right to read whatever you damn well please” — has named her site for the made-up friend whom Algernon, a character in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, goes off to “visit” when he’s really escaping unwanted social obligations. To Heidi, bunburying is losing one’s self in reading fiction — and she’s an eclectic reader whose reviews are nicely in-depth. Here’s her take on Hugo, in The Invention of Hugo Cabret: “He, Isabelle, and the others seemed to lack a certain depth that is needed to build attachment. I am not saying that characters always need to be likable from the reader’s perspective, but they should be able to arouse some emotions so that we are more drawn into the story.”

Little Library Muse's attractive site leans toward paranormal romance. The Alabama librarian’s reviews are short, which can be helpful! Her newest post says that in Starters, author Lissa Price “has created a truly original concept that is beautifully creepy.” These reviews could be a little better edited, but they give you the gist with a personal flair.

Finally, the online New York Journal of Books tells us: “We have a reviewer panel that numbers in the hundreds, thousands of reviews of current titles, and all of these written by published authors, journalists, academics and other accomplished professionals reviewing books in their areas of expertise. The site, unlike most online reviews and book blogs is professionally edited and has won wide respect within the publishing industry as we endeavor to fill the void caused by the closure of so many quality print reviews.”

And the site is indeed an in-depth resource. Its YA section lists 20 “Subgenres,” from high-tech to historical, dystopian to sports. This site doesn’t have the passion and personality of a blog like TLT — but for professional-quality reviews you can trust, it’s hard to imagine a better place to go.

Finally, for a remarkably full compendium of YA book blogs that’s pretty easy to sort through, visit The YA Blogosphere. They’ve got brief descriptions of the blogs by the bloggers; this was my main resource for finding blogs that might merit bookmarking, by a busy person who cares about YA fiction. Like you? Well, like me, too.


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