The other day, a student came in asking for a new book to read. She’d read a book and enjoyed it, so did we have any other books like it?
Well… yes… probably. What was it about the book she liked? There were several things going on in the book, and any of them might have been what appealed. The last thing you want to do, when recommending a next book, is to assume that the thing that appealed to you about a multi-layered book is what appealed to the reader about the first book. In this case, I got the infamous preteen shrug coupled with “I dunno…. everything I guess.” Ooookay. Did you like this aspect? That theme? The writing style? Which character? “I dunno…” Eventually, we found a book that she seemed happy with, although I couldn’t tell you whether there’s anything there that relates at all to the first book.
Now, that’s ok as long as she enjoys the second book. As long as there’s something for her to connect to, enjoy and keep her reading, it doesn’t matter if there is or is not a connection to the previous book. I do a lot of genre switching, a lot of reading that doesn’t feel connected except by one thing: is the writing good (a purely objective thing)? do I buy the world and premise that the writer has created? And those are totally objective criteria.
But wow, do I hate not being given more direction from readers as to what they liked, so I can recommend books that will continue to appeal to them! The last thing I – or anyone doing Reader’s Advisory – want is for them to stop asking.