A new generation of reviewers
These are interesting, transformative times for reviewing, and for the notion of the expert or informed opinion more generally.
The democratisation of social media allows anyone and everyone to express and disseminate their opinion. On the one hand, and primarily as consumers, we’re constantly asked to be reviewers, of a sort, whether of restaurants, hotels, movies, books, current events or reality television personalities. It’s a context in which every opinion is as meaningful (and thus, conversely, as meaningless) as every other.
The opinions which are solicited and so often ventured are brief, instant, unformed and unreasoned, without the requirement of relevant expertise or the supporting frameworks of argument, evidence or credentials (often, even one’s name is unnecessary). Facebook invites us only to like, not to agree, while Twitter currently gives just enough space (140 characters) to express an opinion, but not to lay out the reasoning which may lie behind it.
The consequence is that the value and practice of reviewing as an expert skill is undercut. It’s the long-form, reasoned critique by a skilled, independent and expert reviewer prepared to stand behind that informed judgement which is increasingly rare, but also more and more necessary, as we negotiate the overwhelming amount of material available to us.
And so New Zealand Books Pukapuka Aotearoa is proud to celebrate the launch, at Wellington Readers Week in March – a project of Peppercorn Press, made possible by a grant from Creative New Zealand – aimed at developing a new generation of reviewers: Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano. This website, hookedonbooks.org.nz, is a valuable resource which guides young New Zealand readers in reviewing the very many extraordinary New Zealand books which are written for and about them. It offers an archive of reviews of local YA books, gives readers the opportunity to engage with writers, to hear from professional reviewers about their craft, and to submit their own reviews.