We at Bickering Books felt it was necessary for us to reply to VOYA’s review of Kody Keplinger’s Run and VOYA’s (Voice of Youth Advocacy) response to the criticism of their review.
We reviewed Keplinger’s book at the beginning of August. Sarah enjoyed it more than Becky who thought that it didn’t quite live up to Keplinger’s other books. You can watch the video below.
VOYA labeled “Run” for only mature readers. I can agree that there are some mature themes in this book. Agnes has a disorder that is causing her to lose her vision. That would be scary for younger readers. Bo’s mother is neglectful and her father doesn’t want her. That may be scary for a younger reader. Agnes loses her virginity to Bo’s male cousin. That is a concept that is for mature audiences. However, that is not what VOYA cited for their reasons behind the suggested age guideline. The journal cited Bo’s bi-sexuality. And here is my confession. Before the VOYA controversy I didn’t even remember this aspect of the book. This element which should put librarians and parents on alert is so inconsequential that two months later I only have a vague recollection of it’s existence. It’s impact was so great on the story that it is forgettable. The fact that I can’t remember this offensive element makes me question if this review was unbiased or if personal beliefs were involve. Now, here is the tricky thing about reviewing books: our personal beliefs are all over our reviews. My personal beliefs are going to effect how I view a book and how I review a book. I admit that I did not recommend Run like I did Keplinger’s other books (BTW, I still recommend The Duff and A Midsummer Nightmare). However, my lack of recommendation is based on writing and plot that just didn’t work for me. I just didn’t feel that this book measured up to Keplinger’s other works. It was a disappointment for me as a fan. That is based entirely on my opinion of the writing not my personal belief about sexuality. But I’m allowed to have my personal beliefs bleed into my review. This is a blog with a silly name not VOYA which is a professional journal. There isn’t room for personal beliefs to tinge reviews or for journals to respond to critics with callous, unkind, and taunting response. There should a respectful exchange of ideas from a responsible and professional resource. The whole event feels amateurism and personal expect more from a publication which is considered to be a leader in youth advocacy.
Sarah’s Response: I feel that the author, Kody Keplinger, responded in almost the exact same way I would have. Here is a photo of her Twitter response:
This novel does contain mature themes, not because there is a bi-sexual character in it (wtf?), but because there are sexual encounters (with the straight characters). I also find it funny (in like an Alanis Morissette kinda way) that the character who is trashed throughout the novel, by judgy people, is experiencing the same thing in the real world. People, both real and fictitious, need to stop blaming Bo for things she hasn’t done!
I am currently in library school and VOYA is/was one of the resources we were told to use when making decisions about finding what to read and how to format any reviews. A big topic of discussion is always validity and authority and I think this new situation further expresses how careful consumers, whether professional or not, need to be. I believe that VOYA’s reaction to this controversy truly shows what kind of company they are at this point in time (though I take the optimistic stance that they will possibly get it together). People say stupid stuff all the time, heck I said something totally stupid to a customer the other day. The correct response is to acknowledge what you said was dumb, apologize, and work to do better next time (cuz we all aren’t perfect and stuff will probably will come up in the future). VOYA just needs to admit they were wrong and work to be better. I am surprised at how pervasive this issue is within the company. I think that this controversy has just snowballed into this big pile of poopy and seems to be continuing to get worse. Perhaps VOYA can take a breath and follow the wise words of the wisest man of the 90’s, Mr. Feeny. Right thing=I’m sorry, sensitivity training/awareness
In conclusion, just apologize.