My last volunteer is actually a friend of a friend. I had not met her prior to my advisory with her. I was actually pretty happy to work with someone whose reading habits I didn't know and didn't have such a relationship with them that I can tell exactly what they mean regardless of how they say it.
The first question I asked her was what type of book she was in the mood to read. She told me that she was really in the mood for a good fantasy novel and she wanted a whole bunch of titles to choose from. I asked her what made a fantasy novel good for her and she said that she liked those that had a fast-paced story and also a plot that had fantastic elements to them, but also still had some elements of reality. I then asked her to tell me about the last book like that she had read and what she liked about it. Her response was the Harry Potter series. She loved how the books took place in this fantastic world, but that Harry and his friends were very human to her. I then asked if there was anything she definitely did not want and she said that she wanted to stay away from any Christian fiction and anything with any religious overtones. She also wanted to stay away from anything historical. I asked her if she wanted to stay within the adult category or if YA was okay and she was definitely okay with YA titles. She also was very interested in any title that had won awards, particularly the Newbery, as she had enjoyed every Newbery winner she had read.
I used NoveList, hoping they would have a list of Newbery winners, but for some reason, NoveList does not have a straight list of Newbery Medal winners. So, I did a search for read-alikes for Harry Potter. Her favorite was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so I used its subject tags to find other novels. At first, she wasn't really satisfied with the results, but after talking a little bit more about what she did and did not want, we realized that she wasn't interested in reading about wizards and magic all that much. She wanted just some fantasy fiction. So, I searched for that. We got over 10,000 hits. I then realized that I needed to do some more investigation as to what kind of story she really wanted and went back to NoveList's home page and pulled up Joyce Sarick's outline on Fantasy. I went through the key authors with her to see which ones she had read and which of those might interest her. I figured we could find a few examples and build from there. She seemed interested in the idea of Urban Fantasy and wanted to check out Neil Gaiman's works. She was especially interested in American Gods and The Graveyard Book. I asked her if she wanted to expand to find more books like these or if she wanted to try another search. She said that she would like to expand on The Graveyard Book, so I searched for similar and came across Greywalker, which she was also interested in.
Then she asked me the one question that I did not want to answer. She asked me which fantasy titles I liked. I didn't want to tell her because I didn't want her to read anything simply because I had said I liked it. I tried to avoid the question by saying that I didn't have a particular type of story I liked, but for some reason, she kept pressing. Since she was already interested in The Graveyard Book, I told her that I had enjoyed that one, thinking that would satisfy her. Instead, she just asked what other titles I had liked. Of course, I wanted to tell her how much I loved The Hunger Games, but I refrained. Instead, I redirected and asked what about The Graveyard Book and Greywalker interested her so I could look for further titles for her. She liked the idea of a normal person interacting with the fantastic. Even though both books involved ghosts and other supernatural elements, she was also interested in stories involving different worlds. I asked if she wanted to look for adventure stories within the fantasy genre and she lit up at that. I entered those terms in and looked at the series tab of my results, figuring that if we found one plot line she liked, we would then have a few titles she could work through. Somewhat surprisingly, the series that she seemed most interested in was The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. With those five books in the series and the previous three titles, she felt set on her reading for awhile.
Before I could check back with her, she contacted me to tell me that she enjoyed Neil Gaiman's books and also really liked SuzAnne Collins' books as well. And then she asked me if SuzAnne Collins wrote anything else. -She had seen a good list of books Neil Gaiman had written when we were looking through NoveList, but wondered if all Collins had written was The Underland Chronicles. I told her that she had written an unfinished series called The Hunger Games. I didn't have to look anything up. I simply described the plot to her over the phone. She said that it sounded interesting, but disturbing. I told her that some people have found it disturbing, but that it was also very popular. She said that she was going to put in a request at the library, but I haven't had a chance to check in with her to find out if she did and if she liked it.
I actually felt kind of honored that she called me back for more suggestions after she got through her first recommendations. I don't know if that means I'm really good or really lucky.