Guidelines for VOYA Reviews

The VOYA review… 

  • Is 200-250 words in length. Reviews under 200 words are unacceptable in most cases. Reviews over 250 words may be justified only if they tackle wider issues sparked by the book, set related literature in context, or cover a multi-volume or extremely long and complex work, at the discretion of the editor.
    • When you are assigned more than one book for a single review (ie. books in a series), it is permissible to exceed the word limit. We do ask that you limit these reviews to 400 words or less.
    • Reviews of professional and reference works have a 250-300 word limit.
  •  Is set in 12-point Times New Roman type, with all extra spaces between paragraphs removed. (PLEASE!!!!)
  • Is submitted as a Word document attachment to an e-mail, pasted within the body of an email, or as a Google doc, with all necessary bibliographic information included in VOYA format. Include your name at the END of EVERY review.
  • Includes the book’s Q and P assigned ratings, and assesses its grade-level interest and appropriateness according to VOYA’s criteria.
  • Contains these major elements presented in a two-paragraph (and ONLY two paragraphs, except for series nonfiction reviews) format:
  1. Plot summary (fiction) or content summary (nonfiction) (paragraph 1):
      • Fiction:  include a succinct summation of the basics of the story, identifying main characters and what they seek to accomplish. To uncover these bones, try writing an annotation first, defining in one sentence the protagonist and his or her challenge, significant others, and setting. Then expand the annotation with a few details, to bring the story alive to someone who has not read it. Do not write a cliffhanging booktalk.
      • Nonfiction: include an overview of the main topic(s) in the book. Please don’t regurgitate the table of contents or list the chapters. Convey the flavor, viewpoint, and philosophy, enhanced by one or two well-chosen quotes or specific examples. There is not room in the VOYA reviews section to cover every topic the author does; select the highlights.
      • Short story collections: identify at some of the authors and the titles of the stories that they have contributed. Include a one- or two-line summary of the more memorable/interesting stories, or those that are representative of the collection. Include evaluative statements to your contents summary. Tell readers if some old favorites are included along with new voices. Don’t write that there are twelve authors and leave the readers guessing as to who they might be.
      • Series nonfiction: provide an overview of the series as a whole, the purpose, and general topic(s) covered. Succinct summaries of each book that you review should reflect whether the series is consistent in its presentation or if content varies by author. If there is an inconsistency in how well material is presented from book to book within the series, then the Q rating for the series should reflect it.
      • Reference works (NO RATINGS): provide a content summary and discuss what the book’s value will be to students who need information on this subject. Mention books (giving title, publisher, and date) that already meet the information needs this one might provide, or state if this book is a one-stop source that brings together information scattered throughout other books.
      • Professional titles (NOT RATED): stress for whom the book is intended—librarians, teachers, parents, or all—and explain the topic(s) covered.  Are topics fully flushed out, or is it just an overview?  Add relevant details from the title.  
  1. Critical evaluation of the book (paragraph 2):
      • Does the author fulfill the “promise” of what he or she set out to do, that which is implied within early fiction chapters and outlined in nonfiction prefaces or introductions?
      • Comment on the style, characterization, flow of plot or logical arrangement of information, author’s expertise or feel for the subject.
      • Is the work effective—or not? Are there flaws? What are they? Do any flaws effect the ability to enjoy or learn from the title?
      • Compare to other works on the subject or with similar premises; compare to similar works within the genre.  Are there read-alikes?
      • Does some other book do a better job at presenting the subject, or is this one definitive? Your references to specific titles need to mention authors, with publishers and publication dates in parentheses.
      • Does this book/series have a place in school or public libraries, large or small, rural or urban? Is it for classroom use, assignment or pleasure reading, professional enhancement
      • How will young adult readers respond?  What is the book’s YA appeal? Will YA readers feel involved? Is it only for special interests? What if the audience? If you don’t have a clue whether a teenager will like or use the book, ask one. Libraries have a few hanging around!
  • Answers questions librarians and educators might have about whether the title is worth purchasing in their own situation. Think about how you make your own collection development decisions. What information do you need from a review to help you decide whether or not to purchase a book.  Feel free to mention cost, if it is a particularly useful factor.
  • Follows and upholds VOYA’s passionate editorial philosophy about avoiding censorship and heeding sensitivity guidelines.
  • Does not require extensive editing for spelling, grammar, content, understanding, VOYA style, or any other reason. Read VOYA reviews in VOYA issues or online to discover our standards. It is particularly helpful to read your own reviews carefully when they appear in print, noting edits that have been made.
  • Follows the VOYA style sheet.
  • Avoids the following issues:
    • Long on summary, short on critique.
    • Lacks specific examples to illustrate author’s and/or reviewers points.
    • Overuses author quotes or exact phrases from the book.
    • Disorganized and fails to make a logical, progressive argument.
    • Fails to relate the key elements of the plot in an understandable paragraph.
    • Misjudges Quality (Q) and Popularity (P) as determined by VOYA editors. Assess your own personal tendencies to rate books too high or too low, and try to adjust accordingly. Be extremely sparing in your application of both the highest and lowest ratings. The reviews editor will be checking back with you to discuss any 1 or 5 ratings.
    • Applies adult judgments to young adult materials. Most of the titles VOYA reviews are FOR young adult readers ages 12 – 23.
    • Non-agreement between codes/ratings assigned and review itself.  Be sure your written evaluation of the title matches the ratings you give the book.

And finally, the most important step in writing your review: CHECK and PROOFREAD your work.  Check character names twice (spelled correctly? correct secondary character names?)  Check place names for spelling and accuracy.  Check relationships between characters to ensure you are right about them.  Check, check, check, and proofread!

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