I was thinking the other day about a book someone sent me a year or so ago. It was terrible. I won't mention the name, because I honor the effort even if the result is a dog's breakfast. But I have given it a lot of careful consideration, really seriously thought this over, and I honestly believe it to be the worst book I have ever read in my life. Of the thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of books I've read in my many years on the planet (and I got my own library card when I was 5) this was far and away the worst.
I don't say that lightly. I've read some really, really bad books. I've read several pirate books sent to me for review that were so bad I wanted to contact the authors families and tell them to make him or her stop. But nothing was as bad as this one.
The reason this comes to mind more than a year after the fact, the only point in writing this, is that two friends who also review pirate literature gave it tepid but approving critiques.
I was flabbergasted. It really was awful. I was so surprised by this I actually called them and asked, "How could you have said this was OK? Didn't you notice that the main character was the most unpleasant heroine in fiction? The nicest thing you can say about her is she's pigheaded. That's her best trait!"
Yes, they agreed, that was certainly true. The main character was awesomely unpleasant. Why anyone would want to spend the time to write such a character is a mystery.
"And the story was absolutely idiotic. Even if that could have happened, it couldn't possibly have happened the way she describes it! And no sane person would behave that way except because the author was arbitrarily forcing her to."
Again they agreed. And they agreed with another couple of points I made as well. In the end we agreed that the best thing about the book was that it had a good, strong binding. I know because I'd thrown it across the room several times and it held up. Really. It was that bad. The book took a licking and kept on sucking.
"So why," I asked, "did you give it such a good review."
"Well," they both said - in separate conversations mind you, they both said almost exactly the same thing. "It's for high school readers and they'll probably like it."
No no no.
Don't blithely say, "Oh, high school kids, they'll accept crap." Don't sit there and tell me that it's OK to write crap for them because they're young.
If anything, the middle school through high school readers are the ones you really want to court, give them the best stuff. Entrance them, beguile them. Woo them. You need to keep higher standards for them. You want to present them with books so well written, stories so well told, that they become hooked. They're readers for life.
But if kids are faced with too many pieces of crap like ... Well, I'd love you tell you the name, I really would. It was SO bad, deliciously awful. But I promised myself I would never do that. There's such a thing as karma. Seriously if kids, have to read too many books like that one, they'll give up. We could lose a whole generation of readers because someone said, "Oh, they're just kids. It doesn't really matter."
It does matter. It matters a lot.