Friday, March 11, 2011

Good to be bad, etc.

I have been meaning to write a post about all of the YA Mafia hubbub, but as it turns out, I can't care quiiite enough to go to the trouble of creating a thorough recap for you.  Should you care, you can follow the link above, which links to about seven thousand other posts/comments/plaintive wails on this topic. 

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.


  1. You and me on the Mean Reviewers bench.

    If you look back in the ... December '08? issue of SLJ, you can see I sorta put the smackdown on the then-newest novel by a library rockstar slash popular upper-midwestern author who shall remain nameless, and he proceeded to e-stalk me across Facebook and Goodreads, posting a line-by-line refutation of my review and then pasting in every positive review he received from any source he found. SLJ eventually had to talk to both his editor AND publisher to get him to back off, and he deleted all his posts. Wish I'd saved them.

    All this is to say it's colored my opinion of this Teen Librarianship Guru, and while I wasn't a fan of his book, I now think he's an incredibly pompous dillweed, as well.

  2. Brandy! I know exactly what author and book you mean. That book is TERRIBLE. Like, it made me embarrassed to read it. It's depressing to hear what a doucher that guy is. Good for you for standing strong.

    I got some push back on the second review I linked, but it was more preemptive. SLJ wanted me to give them specific examples of racism so that when, inevitably, the author's People freaked out, they would be able to point to them. To SLJ's credit, if there was a big brouhaha about it, it never reached me.

  3. To clarify, when I say "every positive review from any source," I mean he was pasting in things like some 14-year-old's blog post about how they'd liked this book about a Car that was Stolen. I maaaaay have described it as "ham-handed;" I can see why he was a bit put out by it. I now live in fear of running into him at national library conferences, though I have it on good authority that he won't deign to talk to anyone not already at his professional level or higher.

    If I were sent that POS book now, would I react the same way? I'm honestly not sure. It was one of the first books SLJ had sent me to review, and I didn't yet have a good baseline for how bad books could get. Comparatively, I now wonder if it's as bad as I first thought, but I sure as hell don't want to re-read it to find out.

    SLJ is pretty good about fact-checking ahead of time. I think when there is a brouhaha about a review, it winds up in the letters column and the author gets to air their snit publicly. It usually doesn't end well for them, from what I've seen.