Q: What makes you qualified to write this blog?

A: I am a high school librarian who has had reviews published in School Library Journal, as well as the Bay Area Young Adult librarian website. Prior to being a librarian, I was an English and History teacher, and have red-penned (OK, I mostly used purple) many an essay and story to help students improve their writing.  I am also a recovering English Major so I do tend to approach books analytically. But you don’t have to agree with my analyses.

Q: It’s easy for you to critique books. But writing is hard! Why can’t you give authors a break?

A: Totally. I did NaNoWriMo for the first time in November 2011 and it was ridiculously hard. (I’ve been spinning my wheels to revise what I wrote. Because it is hella difficult).  So I have nothing but admiration for published authors. But all media products (books, movies, TV, comix, blogs) are fair game for critique. I hope that the reasons I give will justify my viewpoints. Also, see below.

Q: You are totally off-base with your reviews! I LOVED that book that you hacked to pieces and/or that book you gave all those hearts to totally SUCKED! Why are you so totally wrong? No wonder you call yourself LitHacker – you’re a total hack!

A: Woah, woah, woah. Let’s all calm down here. First of all, that was a terribly obvious pun/insult.  But hey, of course, every reader has a different view about which books “work” or not, and I definitely have some biases and pet peeves.  Here they are:

  • I like books that treat the reader – whether teen or not – like an intelligent person who can figure out stuff for himself.
  • Fantasy books must have robust, coherent world-building.
  • I require multifaceted characters,  especially well-realized adult characters in YA books. Multidimensional sidekicks, villains, and tertiary characters FTW, too.
  • Showing > Telling
  • It’s nice if it feels like stuff is actually happening, and that it makes some kind of sense. Sounds like a low bar, but you would be surprised… “Stuff” doesn’t necessarily have to mean seat-of-your pants action, it could be emotional development.
  • I like a good dystopian novel or fantasy battle scene, but not so much unrelenting grimness.
  • Really good writing, or a really unique narrative voice, goes a long way with me.
  • In historical fiction, accuracy = awesome. I’m not down with anachronistic events* and unrealistic characters, such as the Spunky Girl in an Time Oppressive to Women Who Gets Away With Everything With No Comment From Anyone  [*OK if in an alternate historical timeline]

Hey, my preferences are mine…so please feel free to suggest your own hacks in the comments!

Q: Do you accept ARCs from publishers?

A: Sure! You can contact me via gmail at my handle: lithackerblog

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