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Agata Popęda here, with an invitation from Pacific Grove Public Library addressed to teens ages 12-18 who want to master the art of book review. PGPL is holding a book review writing workshop at 3:30pm on Tuesday, Dec. 7, led by a local author Suzanne Skees.

“It’s the first teen event in several years so we don’t know what to expect,” says Charlene Williams, reference librarian at PGPL. The idea is to provide teenagers with a break from their December studies and have some fun being opinionated and creative. 

The workshop will guide young writers in a journey from vague feelings about a book to an organized review, ready for submission to school or online. The best book reviews will be featured in the library’s teen area and, potentially, in the library’s newsletter.

Skees has worked as a professional editor, proofreader and writer, and has written and published four books. “Ever since I could read, I’ve been a bookworm,” she wrote on her website. “There’s nothing like the feeling of being completely transported to another world without leaving your chair.”

The author has developed a “three-step-process” of book review writing, Williams says, and will share her expertise with the teens. As a writer, she focuses on true stories. Her series My Job is devoted to “regular people around the world.” Her latest book, Gen Z: Finding Your Place in a Fast Changing World is dedicated to those born after 1995—a career and self-development guide through the challenges of the contemporary world. “My ‘writing’ reflects the true stories,” Skees wrote. “My narrators lived through experiences beyond my imagination.” 

Participants will choose whatever books they’d like to review, positively or negatively. “Whatever they want, fiction or nonfiction,” Williams says. “I assume many will choose a book they recently read. They can give whatever review they want.”

(If you’re looking for a new book to read—teen or not!—check out our list of 21 important books published in 2021.) 

But what makes for a good literary critic? Criticism is powerful; therefore, the first rule is to be constructive. Famous book reviewers often confess they don’t review books they don’t like, unless there’s a reason, or an assignment, to do so. If you have a reason, prepare to deliver your arguments and make sure you build your case. Favorable reviews are easier to write, but they tend to be less interesting. It’s easy to multiply pleasant platitudes, but concentrate on explaining why the book made such an impression on you, and what sort of techniques in the plot, language or construction were used to make you feel this way.

The event is a kind of “prototype,” during which the library will learn how many teens are interested. Williams hopes that the workshop will be one of many in the future.

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