Hearing what readers think of your novel is an eye-opening experience for any writer, because those readers can and do experience the work in ways that the writer – by definition – never can.  Sometimes this occurs in ways and avenues that the writer can’t share.  But thanks to blogs ….

The comments Headlong received from the New Yorker Book Bench readers’ roundtable have shown me the novel through a kaleidoscope lens, and I’ve been meaning to note my favorites (whether or not I agreed with them; some I did, some I didn’t).  Now, having had time to sift, my Book Bench selections, in no order: the fly’s-eye view.

Andrea Walker: I suppose I approach a title that I know has been labeled as Y.A. thinking that it’s going to be a more relaxing reading experience – maybe relaxing isn’t the right word, but more pleasurable, perhaps – because I don’t expect to encounter things that will frustrate the reading process, the way I might in the work of Pynchon, say.  This isn’t to say that Y.A. fiction can’t be highly cerebral or experimental, just that I presume the author wants to cultivate a relationship with the reader that is more welcoming and, yes, probably more emotional.

Jenna Krajeski: Interesting that people call “Catcher [in the Rye]” “young adult” when they mean to degrade it.

Macy Halford: Lily and Hazel’s relationship has the intensity of a love affair, if only on Lily’s side, but there’s such a nice ambiguity to it, and a subtlety – as if Hazel is just a mirror held up in front of Lily that shows her, through their differences, who she is.

Jenna Krajeski: Also, both Hazel and Lily are extremely cool.  I was not.  I hate them.

Ligaya Mishan: Does the book work as a social novel? One could read the ending counter to how I think Koja intended it, as an admonition to remain with one’s kind.

Andrea Walker: In some ways, I wonder whether the gender slant of different types of Y.A. fiction is what accounts for some of its limitedness.  A novel has to resonate for both women and men to transcend a narrow categorization.

Macy Halford: The book totally surpassed my expectations.  I tend to think of young adult fiction as sort of facile – a straightforward style, uncomplicated themes and morals – but this had a complexity, an ambiguity, that surprised me, and I loved Koja’s sentence structure,  how she interweaved dialogue and exposition so fluidly.

Ligaya Mishan: The teenage boys I knew who read were glowering and hard-core about it: it was all “Howl,” all the time.

Jenna Krajeski: Personally, I’d rather date a vampire than a hockey player.