Friday, March 7, 2014

Reviewing Books: Speaking Out

This is a subject that has been bothering me for a long time. Reviewing books. More specifically, the way that people review books. Now, before I go on, let me say, this is about reviews where someone didn't like the book. However, I do also believe that if you are going to review a book that you loved that you should try to articulate why you loved it. Now, I realize how difficult this can be. What I often do is post an initial 'review' that basically consists of something like this "Oh my gosh! I LOVED this book!!! Full review to come." and then I post a full review later on when I get to gather my thoughts. Now, on to the 'bad reviews'. 

I have seen some brutal reviews. Brutal. Things like, "This book was a piece of s#$t." or "That's f#$%ing special, isn't it?". No joke. And I don't know why people think that this is okay. Am I the only one who finds something wrong with this? Let me be clear. If you didn't like the book, fine, but don't straight up bash it. Articulate why you didn't like it. Give some constructive criticism. I've come up with a list of questions that we can ask ourselves before we post a review like that. 

~ Would I show this review to my grandmother?

~ What if I had to read this review word for word to the author one day?

~ Would I turn this in to my teacher or professor? What if I had to and had no chance to edit?

~ Is any of this criticism constructive? Not just criticizing.

~ What if I were in a writing workshop class or critique group? Would I say this to the person whose piece was up for critique? 

~ If I had the opportunity to be a book reviewer picked out of several other people, would I be picked with reviews like this? 

~ Could I submit this review to my school newspaper or literary magazine?

~ The New York Times book review section would quite likely not pick my review. 

~ If I wrote and published a book and got a one star review which would I rather see "This book was a piece of s&%t." or "The plot was not developed enough and I could not connect with the characters. I think that they could have been more developed." Which is more helpful? (Not to mention not as hurtful). 

~ If I got a paper back with these kind of comments from a teacher or professor would that be helpful to me at all? 

~ Can I find synonyms for the words that I'm using? Or better words? 

Okay. That is my list of questions. And my rant. Rant over now. But I do believe that this is true. Reviews are also a way that authors get feedback on their books. Meaning what readers did and did not like. When these are constructive, they are more helpful. Not to mention, if we want to review books with any regularity we are basically at least a semi-professional reviewer. And behavior like that, is just nowhere near professional. 

<3 Amanda Leigh

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