Two days ago, Neil Gaiman won the Newberry for THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. I bought this middle grade book early on and read through it quickly. I love Gaiman's work and thought my 10 year old son would enjoy it, too. As soon as I can pry him away DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 3, he'll read it. And love it, no doubt. (I do love how I had to bribe him to read it with STAR WARS comics. Bwahahaha. He's succumbing to my evil plan of complete speculative fiction infiltration.)
I was excited as a fan of speculative fiction to see a fantasy win the award this year. The book starts grim, with a wet knife and a dead family, but ends on quite the note of hope. Its hero is a little boy who keeps his head through all sorts of weird adventures. I like to think it reflects the current times: measured thought and action + a little luck and help from people who love us = hope. It's well worth a read.
My favorite thing about Gaiman is the way he never, ever speaks down to the reader, whether they're 10 or 100. It's not that he never employs telling, but he leaves lots of room for a reader's personal interpretation. I try to think of my own work that way--less in terms of what I'm trying to say but more in terms of what will different readers take away? When different readers mention unintentional themes in my work, I know I've done my job as a writer.
And therein may lay the key to beating this subjective editing business. If I find something in your story that resonates with me personally, I'm likely to want to buy it. You have no idea, as a writer, what that may be. But if you leave me some wiggling room, you've got a lot better chance.