Basically, I guess this madness all started because a YA author or two were blogging things like, "If you review books, and you ever hope to publish one yourself, you should never, ever write a negative book review. Because you will never get an agent or a publisher, and authors will scorn you forever. Plus, we will more than likely kill you in your sleep." Or something like that. I'm paraphrasing.
To her credit, Justine Larabalestiaejiraieryasder wrote a pretty awesome blog post in response, called I Love Bad Reviews. My favorite part:
I think it’s inappropriate for an author to go to someone’s blog and argue over a review, especially when the author brings hordes of their friends and fans with them. The best response to bad reviews is to ignore them, not to attack or threaten the reviewer. Get over yourself already. Your book is not your child. You are not the boss of the internets.Seriously. Every time I see an author fighting with readers on Goodreads, my first and only thought is, "You, Author, are a giant tool." I myself have been attacked by an author, and in my humble opinion, the author in question came off looking not so great. (You don't get the full story from that link. Goodreads removed her further comments that were personal, ad hominem attacks on me and my profession. GR also had to remove the dozens of glowing reviews that the author had written of her own book from fake accounts. What a loser, right?)
Of course, professional reviews are a little bit different. I review for School Library Journal, and I think it's fair to say that I'm one of their meaner (more critical? less kid-glove-y?) reviewers. In some cases, I have felt bad about the possibility that I might be crushing an author's dreams with my review. In others, I might have wished that the dreams of the author in question would be crushed, but I knew for sure that the support of a huge publicity machine meant that no review of mine could do much damage.
When reviewing for SLJ, I feel like my first ethical responsibility is to the librarian reader of my reviews, who may have very limited funds to buy books for his or her library. If I were that librarian, I would want brutally honest reviews so that I'd know exactly how to spend my money. And of course, as just a regular old book reader and avid consumer of reviews, I want and expect real reviews, not bland pablum, from reviewers.
Don't sugar coat it, baby. Give it to me straight.