Well, the answer to that question is obvious, I think. Of course not. Some books are just not very good. As a review site, of course we discriminate between what makes a story worth reading, and what doesn’t. Otherwise, what good would we be as a resource for readers and librarians? We all have limited time and money for books.
But MonsterLibrarian.com is just that. A resource. People see what we have to say and make their own choices based on that, and probably also recommendations from friends, colleagues, Goodreads, and other review sites, advertisements on the Internet, catalogs and flyers in your mailbox (if you’re a librarian) and reviews in magazines and publications of various kinds. You choose where you’ll go for recommendations, and who you’ll trust to direct you to the “next good book” as we like to say here. I hope you choose to come here and take advantage of our hard work.
To go a little further, is any book that gets people reading a “good book”? I think Dylan, the Monster Librarian, would say yes. And this is a philosophy that I see a lot. Are the Twilight books good books? They got a lot of people reading. That’s a good thing… but are they good books? I think the writing is pretty bad, so I’m going to say no, I don’t think they are. Would I buy them for my YA collection, if I were buying for one? With such high demand, you’ve gotta give them what they want. You don’t take books out of the hands of people who are desperate to read them, especially if this is the first time they’ve ever really wanted to read a book. And I do know people for whom Twilight was the first book they read from cover to cover. But not the last.
I don’t especially like the school of thought that says “well, it’s okay to let them get the bug with R.L. Stine, because at least they’re reading, and that will transfer into a love of great literature in the future”. Maybe, but that’s condescending to those kids. Stine doesn’t even pretend that his books have classic literary value. Like a lot of series books, his books use fairly simple language, predictable structure, and cliffhangers at the endings of chapters to keep kids going. Not everything kids read is great literature, even in the classroom. If you have seen some of the little phonics readers kids use you know that is not even expected. “I put my hat in the van. I put the map in the van. Dad gets in the van”. Simple language, predictable structure (no cliffhangers, though, sadly). We can share the cool books that aren’t Goosebumps or Twilight without seeing them as just a stepping stone. They’re where the reader IS. And maybe the reader will be there for a long time. There are enough Goosebumps books and knockoffs to last the kid who wants them or needs them for a very long time.
But there are also a lot of other books– fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels for kids that are funny and suspenseful and unbelievable. And someday kids will be done with Goosebumps, just like kids from 30 years ago eventually outgrew the series adventures of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and kids from 60 years ago eventually outgrew Nancy Drew to go on to other kinds of books. Maybe their interests will take them in the direction of new, similar series and genre fiction(which is often, despite its disreputable status in literary circles, extremely good) and maybe their reading will be shaped by other interests and experiences. Some of those books might be food for thought– but maybe not the ones we might expect. And some may be pure escapism (also maybe not the ones we might expect).
Not every book is a good book. But sometimes it’s enough to tell a good story, one that fits readers at their particular time and place. But those books don’t exist in isolation, even if the reader has a narrow view. Put those stories in the midst of many, and let serendipity take us on its meandering course on the shelves and through the stacks, whether that’s in the classroom, in the library, or at home.