To try to do a balanced... response... to a book in which you discuss what you see as weaknesses in writing technique, logic, what have you, just isn’t seriously “negative.” Reviewing, criticism just shouldn’t be a love-her or hate-her thing. It’s not a “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” situation.Yeah, I’ve blown the repectful part. Repeatedly.
Think about writers’ groups. Writers’ groups in which the criticism is all “positive” are useless.
So-called “negative” material in reviews just should be phrased in a respectful way, the way it would be phrased in a writing group.
But it was interesting to me in that I don’t think of the writer as a reason for my review. I write about books for my own records. I write about books to share with other readers. I even could say that I write about books to let librarians know what to purchase. But it is interesting to think of the review in context of a writers’ group.
In many reviews, I’ve told why I didn’t like a book, but acknowleged why others would like it. Let’s call this the Nick & Norah. I know that lots of people loved this interesting, exciting, edgy book. It didn’t do it for me, and I explained why. It’s more of a personal thing.
In some reviews, I’ve told why I didn’t like a book and pointed out some intrinsic flaws. Let’s call this the Day The Dinosaurs Died. I don’t think that the graphic death of the dinosaurs needs to be brought into easy-reader format. Horn Book disagrees with me, but I think a fundamental flaw of the book is making lurid prose and illustrations for first graders.
In the rarest reviews, I hate a book beyond words. Or it takes me so long to get my words together that I don’t write a thorough review and maybe even make a jab at the author (which I feel a little bad about now). Let’s call this the Tulane. Honestly, I shouldn’t even link there.
Now in a writing group, I might ask David Levithan if it’s really necessary to have the character of Nick say the f-word 26 times on one page considering that one third of the page is blank. If that page is any indication, David Levithan might say to me, “Who the f*** do you think you are, you sorry f***? Don’t you f***ing think I might know how to f***ing write a f***ing book better than you, MotherF*****!” My point being that while he knows what he’s doing in writing it that way, it’s just not to my taste not that I don’t love the f-word. But other readers may want to consider the profanity in their reading and/or purchasing of the book.
In a writing group, I’d be tempted to ask the author of The Day the Dinosaur Died if perhaps the book was a little... much for young readers. If the violence of the book is any indication, she would throw me into a flaming volcano. (Make sure you pay attention to where you hold your writing group sessions.)
In a writing group, I’d take Kate DiCamillo’s hand and nicely very nicely ask if she wanted to talk about what was wrong, thereby allowing her to rid herself of her demons so that they will no longer take over her lovely writing and give us another Tulane.
But it’s not a writing group. The books are written, and I have no influence over the author’s process anymore. I can only record my own reactions and in doing so, perhaps influence the readers’ choices. But were I to give up negative reviews, I’d be giving up such lines as:
“The worst thing about this book is the title, which implies that this is one of many books about Ham and Pickles. How unfortunate.”Mean? Yeah, maybe. But, it’s my blog and I’ll snark if I want to.
You would snark too if you read what I do.