Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bad Reviews

A little while ago there was quite a flurry of responses about the existence, or lack thereof, of the YA Mafia. YA Highway did an excellent job of staying on top of all the blog posts related on that topic, so I’m going to steer clear of it. You don’t even need to know what the YA Mafia is for this post; I’m only going to highlight one facet of the conversation: bloggers that give bad book reviews.

This topic is actually is quite timely for me. The most recent reading roundup is the first time I’ve outright expressed my dislike for a book on this blog. Not only did I give my first negative review, I also gave a mediocre one. Up until this point all the reviews I’ve written (and every single book I read gets a review) was either a) glowing b) kind or c) one of the above but with a few aspects that needed improvement. I was on a great reading streak – I more or less loved every book I had read since August!

It was bound to end. I read the book that I didn’t like and wrote my blurb as always, only to realize that it was nowhere near my usual positive review. Bad reviews, by important reviewers or influential authors (that’s where the YA Mafia comes in), do have considerable impact on whether some people will pick up the book. I don’t pretend that my words have that kind of power, but whatever I write online can be read by anyone – the author, the editor, a potential reader – anyone.

What if, somewhere down the line, someone googles my negative review and judges me for it? What if I interview for a job under the book’s editor? What if I publish a book and want the author to blurb it? What if what if what if! You could ‘what if’ yourself into silence.

There were choices. I could have lied, or sugar coated the truth, or even avoided reviewing the book at all. But here’s the thing: I’ve reviewed every single book I’ve read since August. It wouldn’t be fair to you if I glossed over the books I dislike: how else will you know whether or not you can trust my book opinions?

And there’s the most important part of reviewing. What I say about the books are MY opinions. They’re not HarperCollins’s (see my handy dandy disclaimer that hangs out at the bottom of my blog), nor are they regurgitated from other book blogs – they’re mine and mine alone. I give you reasons why I think what I think, and then it’s your turn to read the book and form your opinions. Everyone has opinions and no one is going to like every book they read. So if you agree with my review, great! And if you don’t, let’s discuss it: leave a comment on the post! An open dialogue provides the best resource for potential readers to judge reviews for themselves.

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