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New middle-school club critiques unpublished works

Muirlands Middle School student Sasha Moscona, 13, prepares to critique a yet-unpublished story on her Riford Library Kindle, as part of a new reading group.
Muirlands Middle School student Sasha Moscona, 13, prepares to critique a yet-unpublished story on her Riford Library Kindle, as part of a new reading group.
Ben Moscona

Middle school-aged readers based out of La Jolla Riford Library are taking a chance on something new by participating in a hybrid book-club-meets-focus-group, using Kindle e-readers to open up a world of unpublished books.

The pilot session checked out their Kindles and chose their books on July 30.

Library branch manager Shaun Briley partnered with Net Galley to launch the program. The firm connects publishers with readers to gather feedback on pre-published works. This is the first time Net Galley has worked with a public library to offer access to this age group, and the students are expected to provide feedback on the books they read. They are using re-purposed old-model e-readers without Internet access.

Briley explained, “The middle-schoolers can peruse books that have not been published, but which are marketed for their age group, select the ones they want to read on their own time, wherever they like, and post their reviews and comments.

“It’s a whole re-imagining of the book club. We’re trying to get the focus back on reading without forcing them to all read the same thing and come together as a group and share their opinions aloud in front of their peers in some 19th century model of what they should be doing.”

The participants access the works through the Kindle they check out from the library — which has been programmed to only view Net Galley accounts and select texts — and provide comments along the way.

“This is an age group that wants to feel their view is important, and through this group, they get the excitement of reading something before it has come out, and they get to see what’s coming up and pick what titles they want to read. The whole idea was to make it new and interesting,” Briley said.

Sasha Moscona, 13, a student at Muirlands Middle School, said she wanted to be part of the club because she loves to read, but sometimes finds she wishes things ended differently in books. She is reading and reviewing “Spontaneous,” by Aaron Starmer.

“So far, the book has been hilarious. I love the mystery … and the main character’s ‘voice’ because it didn’t seem fake. On the other hand, I noted that I didn’t particularly like one character who had a history and friendship with the main character. I disliked getting to know a nice person and then not having them more present in the story,” she said. “Hopefully, the author gets my review, as I thought my critique was accurate.”

Sasha said she chose the book because of its cover art and the title, “Apparently, I totally judge books by their covers!”

Brooke FitzCluster, an 11-year-old student at Stella Maris Academy, said she was interested in the group because publishers expressed interest in her opinions. “I’m glad I get to help publishers by giving my thoughts on books they are considering,” she said.

The book she chose is “The French Impressionist,” by Rebecca Bischoff, because of the cover art and the fact that the story takes place in France. “It’s one of my favorite places in the world,” she said. “I’m so excited to be part of this fantastic reading group and I’m grateful the La Jolla Library helped make this program happen. It’s been great!”

Although the club is in its infancy, there is already a waiting list. It is limited to 25 participants because the library has 25 Kindles, Briley said. “We’re going to base (rotation) on the number of sign-ups. If we get loads of people, we will cycle people out and bring new people in. We’ll give everyone a chance,” he said.

Those interested in signing up for the wait-list may call the library at (858) 552-1657 or stop by 7555 Draper Ave. lajollalibrary.org