Thursday, March 27, 2008

Oh Boya! A Review From VOYA!!

When I was in fifth grade, I had a teacher who was, to put it politely, kind of on the boring side, so one day instead of paying attention in class, I wrote a poem. Even then my ego knew no bounds, so at the end of the school day I showed my teacher the poem (I forgot to tell her I wrote it instead of paying attention though). My teacher liked it enough to submit it to a teacher's magazine, and they liked it enough to publish it, which made it my first national publication (and my last for the next dozen years).

I have a copy of the magazine around somewhere. The funniest part is the poem was credited to Susan Pfeffer, and I carefully hand wrote Susan Beth Pfeffer next to it.

I mention all this so you can see poetry, as well as a fondness for my middle name, runs through my blood. Thus, this morning, when I thought about how to approach this particular blog entry, my mind naturally turned to verse.

There are seven major publications aimed at bookstores, schools and libraries, that review children's/YA books. The inside cover of the paperback of Life As We Knew It quotes from three of them- Publisher's Weekly, The Bulletin Of The Center For Children's Books, and Booklist. The Amazon page for LAWKI quotes the School Library Journal (SLJ) review. Then there's Kirkus (which has a long history of hating my books), the Horn Book, and VOYA (Voice Of Youth Advocates). I lucked out with LAWKI, getting positive reviews from all seven publications (even from Kirkus).

My editor sent me the dead and the gone's first review from one of the Big Seven yesterday, and I woke up this morning working on blog entry title possibilities. The alternative would have been to get out of bed and clean the cat litter, so you can see why my mind turned to poetry. As a time saver, here are possible poetic titles as other reviews come in:

It's Kind Of Treacly From Publisher's Weekly

I'm Giving A Forlorn Look To What They Wrote In Horn Book

Hip Hooray For SLJ (unless it's a bad review, in which case I'll go with Oy Vey For SLJ)

I'm Getting All Misty From What They Said In Booklist(y)

Oh What A Jerk Is The Reviewer From Kirkus (who I sincerely hope is not reading this blog entry, and if said person is, well, I just couldn't figure out how to use Circus in the rhyme)

The Bulletin Of The Center For Children's Books will have to come up on a rhyme on its own; I know my limitations.

As you must have figured out by now, the VOYA review was all positive. Not a "but" to be found (and trust me, I looked). It's actually three reviews, one from a grownup (or at least someone I assume is a grownup) and two shorter ones from teen reviewers. They all liked The Dead and the Gone (their spelling). Here's a section of the grownup's review:

Alex's struggle for survival makes Miranda's in the first book seem tame. Vivid images of death and dying are forced into the spotlight. Pfeffer portrays a world of unimaginable horrors without ever losing sight of the compassion found in small gestures. Moments of affection and humor remind readers of the strength of human connections. The writing draws the readers in with palpable descriptions, allowing them to experience the fear, stench, numbness and grief alongside the characters. With its accessible language, rich imagery, and gripping premise, this book will appeal to readers who enjoy a wide range of fiction, from survival stories and apocalyptic tales to heartwrenching coming-of-age novels.

"Accessible language" has now become my new favorite euphemism. I knew there had to be a better way of saying, "A smart fourth grader knows more words than this author."

By jolly coincidence, on Sunday I'm having lunch with my friends Geri, Linda and Janet (throw Susan into the mix and you have Four Names That No One Under The Age Of Sixty Is Likely To Have). Since d&g is dedicated to Janet, I will have to commit to memory the entire VOYA review and recite it, oh I don't know, three or four times, until they feel the fear, stench, numbness and grief that comes from spending time with me.

Trust me. They have plenty of accessible language to protest with!


dd said...

Yay for the VOYA review! It was really good (but we all knew it would be!) :)

-Lucy :D

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Thank you softindierocker Lucy.

You can never assume a review will be good (well, I can never assume a review will be good), so I'm always delighted when it is.

One down and six to go. The next couple of months will be exciting and nervewracking (but mostly exciting, I hope).

Anonymous said...

Waiting for reviews must be so nerve racking. I tend to take things so personally that I don't believe I could handle the suspence, the need to know exactly WHAT they felt and how much they loved me for it, haha.

Good luck for all your future reviews. I have to say, the dead and the gone and LAWKI are both haunting me and I really can't wait to delve into their nightmare world further.

Anonymous said...

Stench stench stench stench
Palpable stench stench stench
(and one more) stench
Oh the fear
Oh the numbness
Oh the grief
Oh the palable joyful accessibility of it all.


Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Whitley and Poetic Anonymous-

Thanks for your comments. It is nervewracking waiting for reviews. I always think everything I write is a masterpiece, and then the reviewers do their best to convince me I'm completely and totally wrong.

Actually, I don't read bad reviews. I figure the book is already published, so there's nothing I can do at that point to make the book better. I'm always open to editors' suggestions (after I finish cursing their existence that is), because editors are frequently smarter than me, and can figure out how to make a book better. But reviewers, no matter how smart they may be, are kind of after the fact, as far as I'm concerned.

I'll certainly keep the blog up to date, at least on good reviews!