In the almost-one-year since I joined Goodreads, the topic of authors reviewing books there has come up again and again. I haven’t been in on most of the conversations, and I’m not going to link to them (lest I draw the Eye of Sauron toward myself), but the upshot is usually something like this: authors should not post negative reviews on Goodreads because it will come back and bite them in the butt someday.
If you can’t say something nice, in other words, say NOTHING.
This morning I read a short blog post by one of my favourite YA authors, Melina Marchetta, wherein she explains why she only posts 5-star reviews on Goodreads (and never reviews other Australian authors). I get it – I don’t want to offend anyone either, particularly – but it also makes me sad. Marchetta’s books have such an unconventional, strong, fearless voice that it’s jarring to hear her express, well, fear.
It makes me wonder whether I ought to go through and excise all my sub-stellar reviews. Should I be more cautious? Am I too stupid to know when to be scared?
Phoebe North makes a good case for bad reviews in this guest post at YA Highway. It’s a well-reasoned post, and I tend to agree with her.
So I’m going to lay out my own reviewing policy right here: I am going to say what I think, plainly and honestly. If I don’t like a book, I will say so. I’m not a troll; I am a thinking, interested reader who values thoughtful, honest criticism. I will never make a comment about a book that I wouldn’t consider fair play on one of my books. I’m also a writer, and if this comes back to bite my bum, well, that’s the portion of my anatomy best suited to being bitten, frankly. It could use a few bites.
And please, you reviewers, when it’s my turn to face the firing squad in turn, be honest. I expect it — no, I require it. There is no book so impeccably written and so universal in its appeal that everyone in the world is going to love it. Not the Bible. Not even The Giving Tree – I gave that 1 star, and I love Shel Silverstein with a love that is true.
(Of course, Uncle Shelby is also dead, and won’t be biting my behind anytime soon… OR WILL HE? Truly, if any author could rise inconveniently from the grave, he’s the one.)