Strong, readable reviews are still a rare find today maybe more than ever, despite the overabundance of wannabes out there on the World Wide Web. So to stumble across a book such as Shelf Discovery is a real treat and something to be treasured. It is comprised of 74 reviews of young adult lit books that were originally written for Lizzie Skurnick’s column Fine Lines on Jezebel.com. Since this is basically a blog turned into a book, things have to be fleshed out by adding essays and categorizing the reviews by type (Here are the tear jerkers; here are the ones about raunchy sex; etc.) Granted, a historical tour of young adult lit is not high on everybody’s reading list, but this one should be. It has an aggressive intelligence and enough insights to forever change the way you read.

The only glaring flaw here is the proof reading, as typos kept popping up throughout. But hopefully that should only truly annoy the most anal readers out there. Less forgivable is the mislabeling of a chapter. In the table of contents chapter 6 review 2 is listed as "Little House on the Prairie," but the review itself is actually about "Little House in the Big Woods.” Sure, that book is part of the Little House series but a mistake of that magnitude should never slip through the cracks in professional publishing.

Male readers should be forewarned; this is a book almost exclusively by and for female readers. Skurnick is not out there hating men, or burning bras, but she does present a strong female perspective that she refuses to shy away from. Also, pretty much all of the books reviewed are either aimed at females or are gender neutral. So Harriet the Spy is there, but no Hardy Boys; lots of Judy Blume, but no Matt Christopher (known for his male orientated sports novels). In case that wasn’t proof enough, the chapters are called things such as "Girls Gone Wild" or "Danger Girls" or "She’s at That Age." Stopping by to lend a hand are a few of the today’s young adult lit divas such as Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries) and Cicely von Ziegesar (Gossip Girls) who occasionally provide an alternative perspective.

As with any book of this type the more you have read going in, the more likely you are to enjoy these beautifully written, snarky-as-all-Hell reviews. But no matter, it can be seen as a launch pad for the next step in a person’s reading evolution. After reading this you will undoubtedly be itching to dive into the world of Madeleine L’Engle or start poking around Lois Duncan’s occult infused universe. Anyone who ever only knew Judy Blume as the author of squeaky clean kid lit such as Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing will be shocked (!!) to learn about Wifey, Blume’s foul mouthed, dirty minded exploration of the psyche of a tragically repressed housewife.

As the book chugs along, it becomes obvious that Skurnick’s only point is to not over analyze every book she read in her youth. She is driving at something more personal, somewhat autobiographical, as she shows how these books mirrored, shaped and influenced her life. It is with that that this book becomes more than simply a study of young adult lit – it becomes indispensable. Luckily for us, the journey continues on after you read the final page as her she continues to write her column to this day.

Author: Lizzie Skurnick

Pages: 448

Publisher: Avon A

 

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