Announced as the recipient of the Honorable Mention Award of the Young Adult Literature Lovers Festival West Coast, Ava Ratcliff ’21 recalls her pride at being recognized by her idols for her short story, which was judged and chosen by a collection of renowned authors. As she went to the stage to claim her prize, Ratcliff describes herself as shocked and disbelieving.
“It was just so incredible and gratifying to say, ‘Wow, these authors who I’ve reviewed for years are now saying that my writing is good!’ And that was definitely my proudest moment,” said Ratcliff.
Ratcliff began her writing career at age seven, writing book reviews for her local independent bookstore in exchange for free books. One of Ratcliff’s inspirations is a former book reviewer named Michiko Kakutani, who wrote for “The New York Times” for 40 years.
Ratcliff said, “Her reviews are well-written, and every little comment she makes is so insightful and witty. She’s just this amazing author.”
From then on, Ratcliff’s passion for writing led her to create a blog exclusively for her book reviews, which has attracted a large following. Now, after seven years of book reviewing, Ratcliff finds it a challenge to read a book without writing a book review.
“When I’m reading a book now, as I’m reading, parts of the review start forming in my mind, like what I want to bring up or [questions like] ‘Is this a good quote to put in?’ So, it’s just kind of a habit… it’s how I read. I like sharing my thoughts with people,” said Ratcliff.
Alongside writing, Ratcliff has a passion for reading and uses literature to explore heavier topics and relevant issues such as cultural identity and race. One book that she recommends is “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi — the author’s debut novel about a Ghanaian family tree that spans hundreds of years.
“It starts a really important discussion about race. There’s one really interesting part where it’s [debating] a black teenager versus somebody who is African… Like, are they African American? Are they black? What are they?” Ratcliff said.
Recently, finding enough time to read has been a challenge for Ratcliff, but friends believe her personality will allow her to continue her passion.
Sophia Lee ’21, a friend of Ratcliff, said, “Ava is a very proactive person. She’s very politically active and, in general, tries to stay ahead of things. [Even though] Ava’s always very happy and upbeat, she won’t hesitate to call you out if something’s not right.”
Looking forward, Ratcliff hopes to continue her book-reviewing blog and find additional writing opportunities on campus to share her opinions. To learn more about her blog, visit: www.bookreviewsbyava.com.