Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Reviews, Part Two

Probably most of you reading this blog are writers. But let's look at reviews from a reviewer standpoint. If we liked a book, we want to give the author little print huggies and smoochies. And our words might encourage people to buy the book, or give it awards, or publish the author's next book. Yay!
This picture is adorable.
But what if we didn't like the book? That happens. So we write a negative review, anything from condescending to scathing. This book deserves what it gets, right? For having the audacity to have been published, sold, and read?

Well . . .

Unless writing a book review is purely a self-indulgent, self-serving act, it must serve a purpose. It must serve the community somehow. So how does it do this?

Here are some purposes of a negative review, based on my minutes years of playing Angry Birds research.

The Emperor's New Clothes

Sometimes, we feel a book may be receiving awards or raking in dough that it just doesn't deserve. In this case, a negative review serves to call it out, to be a voice of reason. We may even be giving voice to lots of other people who feel like they're shouting into the ether.

However, we need to be very careful that we're not just spewing negativity to be different. You didn't like The Da Vinci Code or Twilight? Fine. But make sure it's not simply because everyone else liked them.

"Completely implausible."

The Big Brain

We're smart. We're so smart we can write book reviews; we can tell other people with smaller, mushier brains what to think. Sometimes we are smarter than the author of the book we're reviewing! It's in the public's best interest to appreciate how un-smart everyone else is compared to us.

"My cat's turds have more literary value than this. "
Sure, maybe a negative review will get you noticed. It's an opportunity for you to dust off that academic lingo, substitute synonyms with lots of letters for common words, and refer to all the smarty-pants writers from history you're so familiar with. But if it's more about you than the book you're reviewing, the world really doesn't need it.

The Vendetta

We hate this author. We hate his stupid books and his stupid life and his stupid face.

Variant: We hate this genre/POV/setting/etc. There is no book in existence or potentially in existence that falls into this category that we would enjoy. 

There is no point to our reading this book, never mind reviewing it.

The Public Service Announcement

We simply may not like a book. It was poorly written, the story was as cohesive as a dictionary that's been torn apart by wild boars, whatever. It may be our duty to warn the rest of the world before more starving orphans spend their last $16.99 on a book they won't enjoy. 

"I told you The Notebook was boring. Here, you want half of this rat loaf?" 
But here's where things get a leeeetle subjective for me. Here's where I think we need a healthy serving of perspective. Sure, if the mediocre book in question is enjoying some success, particularly when there are other options out there, it might be helpful to some people if you steer them in a better direction.

But what if the book you're reviewing is some obscure vanity press/self-published/un-marketed pet project? If the purpose of your review is to tell people not to buy the book, what is the point of reviewing a book that no one is buying?

I'll tell you. The point is you're an a**hole.

So Should You Write This Review?

Follow this easy-to-use flow chart to find out!

Am I saying that honest, positive reviews with no hidden agenda are always justifiable?
Yes. Yes, I am.

Some images courtesy of ETC.

No comments:

Post a Comment