Last year at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference, I attended a poster session that included the fun project called “Graffiti in the Margins”. It the was first year for the project, and sounded like a lot of fun. Librarians (and any of their patrons who were interested), signed up to be included on a rotation of new YA ARCs to be reviewed and sent along to the next reader. This wasn’t a typical book review project, however. Each ARC was to be written in –thoughts, problems with the story, drawings–and then sent to the next reader who would also include their own scribbles in the margins. At the end, everyone would get their original book back and be able to see what everyone else thought of it. I said, sign me up!
So, a few weeks ago, we received an email asking us to take a quick survey regarding our reading tastes. I’m doing this with another staff member, so we were each assigned a “code name” for the books we receive, so that no one knows who is reading when they get the book. Great idea, huh? And last week, our first books came in the courier mail!
To start, we get two books…one to write in, and one we can keep. According to our survey results, the books were similar, but just a bit different so that we could choose the one that appealed to us most. I got THE NIGHT WE SAID YES by Lauren Gibaldi, and FINDING AUDREY by Sophie Kinsella. Both were recently released, and I hadn’t read either, but I chose AUDREY simply because I was a HUGE Kinsella fan when her Shopaholic books came out!
I started reading this weekend, and found it so much fun to be able to scribble my thoughts on the pages, or do little drawings. It’s like being able to chat with someone while they read the book. At first, I thought it might take me out of the story too much to have to stop and write something, but I’m used to doing book critiques for my writer friends, so this worked well.
I’m not in love with the book, sadly. I had really high expectations for it because I hoped this first venture for Sophie Kinsella into YA would carry through from her previous books, and in some ways, it was true. There is the classic British humour, and she really drops you into the head of the main character with wit and genuine observation. But I found that this book sort of embodied everything we shouldn’t be doing when we write—Audrey’s story doesn’t really start until about 3/4 of the way through the book. Up until then, she’s simply telling her brother’s story. Her parents are VERY stereotyped (Mum says “you young people” about every half page…and the woman is only 38 years old!), and the adults are really the ones leading the story around. While FINDING AUDREY is about a young girl who experiences a very bad situation, and withdraws from life because of it, I found myself wanting Audrey to do things. Instead, she just sort of watched everything from the sidelines. And while I wanted to know what happened to make her this way (Kinsella was smart to drop hints throughout the book, but leave the reveal until the end), I didn’t feel like this was her story at all.
And even being a huge Anglophile, I had to look up tons of things she referenced…from different types of medicines, to shows, and much more. This was a bit distracting, and I don’t think a lot of teens would stick with something they’re not understanding, or not being able to reference. Similarly, I thought Audrey should have been a year or so older to appeal to real YA readers. While the content was safe and a nice transition from juvenile fiction, maybe, YA readers like to see themselves, but then read up. I’m afraid a 16-year-old wouldn’t pick this up simply because Audrey is only fourteen.
So now, I send off my book to the next reader in the library system. They’ll make notes and do the same. In several months, I’ll get this book back and see what everyone else though. I’m excited to see what’s coming for me next, too! Graffiti in the Margins is a great project, and I’m thinking about ways to incorporate this type of idea into my own library, either as a project with our Nerd Herd teen book club, or young writers.