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View Series After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus.Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy.For some members of the YA community, the premise was objectionable from the get-go (the first Goodreads review, left on September 7, begins with “fuck your white savior narratives”).But after a research and review process including multiple sensitivity reads, Moriarty was prepared to stand by her work, and the notoriously prickly s editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith explaining that the editorial board and the reviewer — described as “an observant Muslim [woman] of color” and “expert in children’s & YA literature [who is] well-versed in the dangers of white savior narratives” — were “evaluating” the review.When I ask if the book’s star was revoked explicitly and exclusively because it features a Muslim character seen from the perspective of a white teenager, Smith pauses for only a second: “Yes.” The way this latest controversy has unfolded suggests that the magazine hasn’t fully figured out how to navigate a shifting literary landscape where issues of free expression, reader expectation, literary quality, and diversity of both identity and opinion are all jostling for position.Smith continues to describe the change to the has a compelling reason to assert itself even more strenuously as a progressive tastemaker; the magazine just launched Kirkus Collections, where librarians can purchase titles that have been prescreened for quality, entertainment value, and problematic elements.The sentence added to the review indicates that writing the book from Sarah Mary’s point of view remains an admirable choice from a craft perspective (“an effective world-building device”), but wrong from a moral one (“it is problematic that Sadaf is seen only through the white protagonist’s filter”).And while Smith says the call-out of said problematic element is not meant to dissuade readers from reading the book — “If readers don’t care that this novel is only told about a Muslim character, from the perspective of a white teenager, that’s fine” — he acknowledges that does care, and does judge books at least in part on whether they adhere to certain progressive ideals.
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Shortly thereafter, published an amended review that retracted the book’s star and condemned Moriarty’s choice to write the story from the first-person perspective of a white teenage girl.
“Sarah Mary’s ignorance is an effective worldbuilding device,” read the new review, “but it is problematic that Sadaf is seen only through the white protagonist’s filter.” On Tuesday, after Moriarty posted the text of both reviews in a comment thread on her personal Facebook page, the magazine reportedly called her publisher repeatedly to demand that she take the comments down.
(Smith describes this as a standard fair-use issue — authors and publishers are only permitted to excerpt 35 percent of a review for marketing purposes.) In an emailed statement, initially framed the amended review as a simple editorial correction.
But as the controversy heated up and questions began to swirl about the potential suppression of the original reviewer’s opinion — and what this means for future reviewers, of any background, who unreservedly like a book that YA’s influencers find offensive — Smith spoke exclusively with Vulture to explain the magazine’s perspective. And the response to this controversy, according to Smith, stemmed from a long-standing policy of listening when readers have something to say: “We do investigate [criticisms] and consider all of those claims.” Yet while investigating criticisms may be business as usual, Smith admits this is the first time during his tenure that a review has been pulled and altered in this way.