I was discussing rejections the other day, and kind of chuckling over one rejection (for SAY THE WORD) that stated they "loved the story except for the plot and the characters.” No kidding—that’s practically verbatim. The conversation turned to reviews, and I was asked, “Does it bother you when you get bad reviews?”
Hmm. I guess it does, though it doesn’t keep me awake at night. I mean, we all work very, very hard on our novels. Naturally we want readers to like our stories. Though we expect our books to be reviewed in a professional way, we have to take into account who is doing the review. Though editorial reviews, in a professional sense, are probably the most important, there are also a lot of blogger reviewers I respect; a lousy review from one of them wouldn’t exactly make me jump for joy.
Recently I discovered three reviews of STW on a very prominent YA review site. All three were dismal, written (I'm fairly certain) by teens, and it would’ve been nice to see one positive review on that (highly active) site. Also, not being a Google-Alert addict, I’m sure there are more out there I don’t even know about. I hope the many excellent reviews STW has received far outweigh the crummy ones—but why expend valuable energy worrying about it?
Anyway, this led me to Goodreads to check out other reviews—in a curious-but-unmasochistic-way—where I discovered several amusing tidbits.
“I didn’t like the main character Shawna and her multiple personalities – I’m pretty sure that she was schizophrenic.”
Well, I’m pretty sure a psychologist didn’t write this; she would know A. that Shawna did not have a mental illness, and B. schizophrenia has nothing to do with multiple personalities.
“The heroine is still using some sort of email system that would leave messages on her hard drive where her father can find them. Why would she not have Yahoo or Gmail like everyone else? Why isn't she using social networking sites? And why oh why can't she just empty her computer's Recycle Bin?”
Because, as anyone who watches Law and Order, Forensic Files, etc., knows, nothing is ever erased from your hard drive unless someone goes in and erases it—something a typical 17-year-old girl isn’t about to do.* It’s also something her father probably wouldn’t do either, but considering that he opens her mail and God knows what else, it makes sense that she’d be suspicious. Would Shawna really trust Gmail to “delete forever” every single one of her e-mails? I doubt it. I also addressed the reason Shawna didn’t belong to a social network, but apparently this reviewer skimmed right past that.
* If I'm wrong about that hard drive thing, please let me know and I'll be happy to concede.
“People that would hate this book would be people who are not so interested in lives of other people.”
I can’t even remember if this was good review or a bad review. Guess I should’ve checked out the number of stars.
And I posted this one on FB a couple weeks ago. It’s currently my favorite, mostly because--again--I can’t tell if it’s positive or negative: "There is nothing in this book that I disliked, other than most of the characters.”
It’s true: I can find humor in anything. And, because these are reader-reviewers, I do want to say, whether you liked it or not: Thank you for reading my book. <3 I sincerely mean that.
OK. What I really object to is when a reviewer inserts his or her own beliefs/prejudices/whatever into the review. For instance, when a reviewer says they wouldn’t have done such-and-such. Well, no, you wouldn’t---but this particular character did, and if it wasn’t out of character, why lower your overall rating of the book? Hello, am I writing about you?
Another reviewer disliked the whole gay/lesbian theme, which doomed the review from the get-go. But didn’t they know what it was about before they decided to review it? Um, flap copy, folks. Oughta check it out sometime.
Then there was the reviewer who lambasted STW because of a scene where Shawna drinks while driving a car. She was Utterly Appalled that Shawna suffered no consequences for this, i.e. I didn't make her plow her car into a tree or run through a crosswalk of kindergartners. I do not, by any means, advocate drinking and driving—but the fact is, people do make bad choices all the time, and no, they don’t always suffer any consequences. If I made my characters suffer each time they made a bad decision or did something wrong…well, they’d all be dead and buried before the end of the first draft. And there would be no book.
We are most amused. :)