Wednesday, March 14, 2007

a question for the kidlitosphere reviewers

This post from Roger Sutton's blog about people uncomfortable with writing negative reviews reminded me of something I've been wondering about lately: now that so many authors and illustrators have their own blogs and are hanging out in the kidlitosphere, does it ever become uncomfortable to review?

This hasn't really come up for me yet--I did write a less than fully complimentary review of Meg Cabot's Party Princess, like she's ever going to notice or care what I think--but it probably will at some point. I have had more authors thank me for reviews in the last year than ever before, usually politely ignoring anything negative I've said. (Julius Lester holds the title for his exceptionally gracious correction of a misconception in one of my review.) And I can't help thinking, someday I'm going to review a book by someone whose blog I read and comment on, and maybe I'll have something negative to say, and what's that going to be like?

Has this happened to you? What was it like? What, if anything, happened?

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6Bligs:

Anonymous Emmaco bligged...

Thanks for the interesting link. Although I only talk about books on my small blog and a mailing list I have found myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable with saying negative things about books in a review. Generally I just choose to write about books I liked instead. And it is due to the number of authors hanging around the blogosphere - although it's unlikely they'd read what I've said I still feel bad for upsetting them.

But if anyone asks me my opinion I tell them if I disliked a book and why. Or if someone else raves about a book I dislike I might leave a comment on their blog discussing the differences in our opinions.

Strangely, I've just posted a fairly mixed review today on Nigel Slater's memoir. I think I'm more circumspect when the author isn't already super-famous in some way.

3/14/2007 9:16 PM  
Blogger Elzey bligged...

For me it isn't about being negative as it is about being honest and concrete. When sorting through a review I do try to balance my gut feeling against expectations the audience might have -- especially with picture books where the audience expectation can be different than mine. If something doesn't sit right with me, for whatever reason, I feel it is my obligation to both examine and explain it.

If criticsm and review are to have any value than it is imperative for the negative review to exist. It is the only way for a reader to understand the reviewer's scope, experience and knowledge and to apply that information toward making a decision for themselves as to whether to persue further with the subject at hand.

Yes, sometimes it's fun to write negative reviews for the same reasons that actors like to play over-the-top antagonists: because you get to explore outside of yourself for a bit. But negative for negative sake, or negative without some sense of justification or reason is the sign of burnout or sloppiness on the part of the reviewer.

No one's called me on a review yet; I'm fairly new to this, and the one place where an author commented on their blog about my review they warned that it started out bad, got better toward the end and was labeled "brainy". I guess one could take that comment either way.

3/15/2007 7:10 AM  
Blogger MotherReader bligged...

I haven't been called out yet, but I'm waiting.

I feel pretty confident that Kate DiCamillo will never look at my blog. Or let's hope not.

If I don't like a book, and feel compelled to say something about, then I do. That's how I roll. If I think that it's more about my personal taste, then I'm less likely to write about it at all.

I do have a bit of concern about not liking something by someone I blog-know. Since I can choose what I want to review, I'd probably just skip that one.

3/15/2007 12:44 PM  
Blogger Amanda bligged...

I think, for myself at least, there are two ends to this subject. I either read a book and love it, therefore instantly wanting to tell the world (or at the very least, my blog readers), or I hate a book and want to instantly tell the world. Those inbetween books...the "just ok" ones or even the good ones, I just don't get that drive to write about. If I despised a book, I by no-means feel uncomfortable saying so!

Amanda www.apatchworkofbooks.blogspot.com

3/17/2007 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Jen Robinson bligged...

I've wondered about this question, too, but so far haven't had any major problems. I had one book sent to me by the author that I was rather luke-warm about in my review, but she hasn't commented (nor have I heard from her again, but that's another story). But I, too, tend to focus more on the positive reviews, and just skip over the ones that I don't like, because usually I don't finish them.

It's easiest for me to say negative things about very popular, big-name books, because (as with you and Meg Cabot, and MR and Kate DiCamillo), I don't think they're reading my blog anyway.

I sometimes include some negative comments in the context of a generally positive review, and that I'm comfortable with even if I "know" the author.

3/18/2007 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Sonja bligged...

One of the things I hated about writing reviews for SLJ was that if I didn't like the book, I still had to finish it in order to write the (negative) review. It was taking time away from all the wonderful books I could have been reading and promoting. So I'm not opposed to the negative review, per se, but I feel like my time is better spent discovering and getting the word out about spectacular books. Thankfully, there are enough of those to keep me constantly busy!

3/20/2007 7:57 PM  

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