I am a Books for Youth reviewer for Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association, which means I have the privilege of reading 60 to 70 books a year for early, middle grade, and young adult readers before they’re published. Whatever the magazine sends me, I read and review. I get to read debut novels, works from authors just a few books old, and books from established authors. The fact that I am able to read so many of them before they’re published continues to tickle my literary bones because there’s such excitement in this world of books.
I can request to review a book when I learn it’s in the works, but my request is never guaranteed to be fulfilled. Sometimes, however, Booklist will send me a package that includes a book by an author I admire. Other times, I’m jealous that another reviewer was given the opportunity to read and review a book I’ve got on my “Get It When It’s Published” list – less because I’ll have to get it from the library or buy it at my local independent bookseller and more because the other reviewer got to read it first.
And so it goes. There’s always another book to read, and I’m happy to say that there have been very few that I’ve rejected (yes, I can do that because the magazine recommends books to “librarians, book groups and book lovers” rather than flood them with “don’t-waste-your-time” reviews).
In 2016, I went on hiatus from Booklist for the first half of the year – well, it turned out to be more like six-and-a-half months because a needed hip replacement happened toward the end – so my involvement with Booklist was sliced in half. Still, I’ve read many good books, rejected only one, and gave starred reviews to three, which is less than I would in a full year.
However, this is not about me; it’s about the books, and I want to share those “Best of 2016” starred reviews with you. Please note that the order in which I list them is by publication date of the review. [Read More]