This month, we welcome Laura Simeon, our new Young Adult Editor, to Kirkus Reviews. Below is Laura’s first column. Welcome, Laura!—Claiborne Smith, editor-in-chief
For the past 14 years I’ve been working at the coal face, putting books directly into the hands of young readers at a kindergarten through eighth-grade school near Seattle. I had the satisfaction of getting honest and direct feedback from them about what they liked (or not) and why. One readers’ advisory question I often heard, phrased in the characteristic honesty of youth, was, “Do you have any good books in here?” While it made me chuckle inside, I was careful to take the question seriously and to heed advice I received early in my career: never tell a child, “You’ll love this book!”
Due to the power imbalance between adult and child, it’s easy to set up the expectation that you, the grown-up who has selected all the titles appearing on the shelves, know more about what makes a book good, than they, the audience of intended readers. Asserting my authority over theirs would have shut down conversation, with the result that I would have missed out on understanding the crucial whys behind their preferences. However, I took equally seriously my role as a guide who could gently entice those who were reluctant and stretch the horizons of ambitious readers who could soar even higher.
Moving into my new role as young adult editor is a huge transition that I’m thrilled and honored to take on. While it is a step into a different world, I think it is important to remember these principles from my former role. Openness to different perspectives will be important, along with using my awareness of the book universe to draw readers’ attention to titles that could delight.
Here’s to a great year of reading in 2018!
Laura Simeon is the young adult editor.