Not every book is for everyone, but every book is for someone.
This mantra is always what’s in the back of my head when I sit down to write a book review. How can I write a review in such a way that the people who are going to love this book will consider reading it (even if I personally didn’t especially like it)? I’ve tried to be honest in a generally positive way. I’ve resisted the snark. I encourage my readers to make up their own minds.
Via my reviewing, I’ve both learned a lot about writing as well as built up a platform with an engaged book-loving audience. But now, I may have to give it up.
You might recall the brouhaha earlier this year concerning aspiring authors vs the YA mafia. Supposedly, the YA mafia had the power to blacklist a writer who dared to write critical reviews. Not only that, mafia members could singlehandedly quash writers’ dreams of ever getting traditionally published.
When I got my book deal this spring, lots of people used me as an example against the myth of the YA mafia, and I didn’t hear much about it on the web after that. My publisher didn’t suggest I should stop reviewing. Most of my fellow bloggers saw no reason for me to quit. For a time, I thought maybe I could do both.
However, over the past few months, I have gotten a lot of conflicting advice from fellow authors about my reviewing:
“Stop reviewing immediately. You have to choose whether you want to be an author or a book reviewer.”
“You write constructive, thoughtful reviews, and if you want to continue, you should.”
“Authors will hold a grudge against you – some already do.”
“It would be a loss for the whole YA community if you gave up book reviewing, but I can totally understand why you would.”
I’ve kind of been agonizing over this. Is there a way to keep reviewing without alienating authors/peers/people I might sit on panels with in the future? What if I only write positive reviews? But if I do that, will I lose my credibility with my audience – readers who expect me to be honest with them? Maybe I should only review books whose authors are dead/technologically illiterate/too famous to care?!
Phoebe North gave me a lot of food for thought in her post On Honest Reviewing. She writes about the "utter subjectiveness of opinion" and that a "good review will be thorough enough that you should be able to get an inkling of where the reviewer’s tastes lie in relation to your own." Many readers (and authors) extol the virtues of a well-reasoned critical review. Beth Revis even said on Twitter that there's a certain reviewer whose tastes run exactly opposite of hers, and she knows if the reviewer pans a book, she'll love it. (And no, it's not me. I asked.)
When I brought up these points with an author friend, she said she agrees that honesty and critical examination of books is 100% necessary - but that it doesn't need to come from me.
One thing is certain. This blog WILL be going through some changes over the next year as I transition to being a published author. You’ll definitely be hearing more about LEVEL 2 and CHICK-O-SAURUS REX. I will continue to interview authors, offer giveaways, join blog tours, and spotlight books (maybe even under the heading of book reviews).
I am also starting a new feature to highlight 2012 debut books from my fellow Apocalypsies. It’s called Apocalypsies Love and both the author and I will let you know what we think there is to love about his/her novel.
Because even if you don’t love everything about a book, there is something to love in every book. Or at least, something that somebody will love.
I'd love to hear what you think about authors reviewing books. Should they do it? Not? Do you as a reader put any stock in a reviewer (author or not) who never has anything critical to say about books? Do you as an author still rate books less than 5 stars - or do you feel the pressure to be publicly positive all the time?