Sunday, May 23, 2010

Your book sucks, bitch!

AKA how we're viewed as reviewers and how we should be reviewing. Apparently.

If you take a look through my reviews, especially those with fewer bite ratings, you'll be hard-pressed to say that I sugarcoat my words when I give a less-than-stellar review of a book. But apparently enough YA bloggers are being more nice than honest in their reviews that it's gotten the attention of The Huffington Post.

Now I know we've had this discussion before on various blogs, some people give honest reviews of everything, some only post good reviews because they only want to promote books they like instead of downing a book they don't, and so on. But it's never been brought down to gender. THP did just that, claiming that it's mostly women yielding to other women in their reviews because of some underlying gender coddling, probably on a subconscious level. While the article does state the fact that most YA book bloggers are female, and most YA authors are female, the "results" don't seem to skew with the numbers. Personally, I don't think there are enough males in the blogging or YA author world to get a more accurate read as to whether these assumptions are even close to being right.

Yes, some reviewers do feel guilty for giving a review book a bad review. Some feel somewhat obligated to a publisher to give a good review when they're sent an ARC. That's fine. But I don't like the assumption being made that people are giving sugary reviews because of the parts between their legs. I don't like how other factors aren't being taken into account, how it's been stripped down wholly to gender bias.

Mostly what I see in this article is the push for YA bloggers to be more like professional reviewers when they break down a book in review. But you know what? We're not. Many more people than what's insinuated in that article do state what they like and don't like with a book. Maybe it's not backed up by in-text references or the nuances of writing aren't discussed as reasons for it not being good. So what? It doesn't mean the review's been hampered. It just means the person doesn't have the knowledge to "properly" break down a book, or flat out just doesn't want to turn a review into a critique. It has nothing to do with vaginas. Maybe if reviews were read a little closer, people would see everything they're looking for, just not executed the way they want it to be.

We all have our own reviewing style. I don't think female authors should be graded on a curve and I want to punch commenters in the throat when they say things like, "Well, that author did their best, let's see you try and write a book," and while it makes me laugh, I'm not the one with eyes so clouded that I feel the need to pander to the author. As an author, they should be able to handle constructive, honest criticism. They don't need fans coming to their defense and fans shouldn't come to their defense if the review is legitimate and isn't a total bash.

I think what this article author missed is that this community is filled with a lot of young people, a lot of people that aren't English majors, a lot of people that are just people that love to read and want to share their opinions. The internet will always be filled with anonymous pandering assholes but I think for most bloggers, that doesn't affect them. They just continue reviewing.

We're not held to NYT standards, and we shouldn't be. We're just people that sign up for free Blogger blogs so we can share our opinions about books. It's rather insulting to try and force a review style on people and say you're pandering if you don't conform. We're not in this to advance our reviewing careers to major newspapers. Stop trying to force stylistic preferences on us and just let us review. We all do it differently and that's how it's going to stay. Read the reviews a little closer and you'll see they're not all sunshine and farts.

14 comments:

Sara said...

Bravo! I'm so glad that you posted about this! In the end, book bloggers are, for the most part, just people who like to read and love being involved in a community that fosters a love of books... they (we) are not professionals.

I'm honest in my reviews... if I don't like a book, I say so. But I'm okay with bloggers only posting positive reviews, as long as they are just neglecting to post reviews for the books they didn't like. If a blogger is lying and saying they liked a book just to appease the publisher and author, that's a problem. Publishers and authors are used to negative reviews and know that not everyone will enjoy every novel!

Rebecca Herman said...

If I don't like a book, I say so. That said I don't think I've had a 100% negative review on my blog in a while because on my blog I prefer to only post reviews of books I *finished* reading 100% and with how big my TBR pile is, a book has to have some redeeming factor for me to not just put it aside before finishing so I can read something else - so I do sometimes post reviews that say things like "The story was interesting, but I found the writing to be poor" or "I hated the characters, but like the setting."

Now, for Goodreads, I do sometimes post "do not finish" reviews where I briefly say why I hated the book so much that I did not finish it, but those reviews are usually short since well, I didn't finish the book, some I only read a few chapters. I would feel weird posting a review on my blog for a book I did not finish, know what I'm saying?

Kris said...

Bravo!!!! This is why I love your blog!!!

Marie said...

Bravo! Great response!

Guys don't care enough to blog or write about what they think about a BOOK in the first place! And most guys I know... don't even READ (at least not fun)!

And you're right, we're average people who started blogs to share what they thought of books they've read and hoped to find people you share that same interest with them. Yes I want to be a journalist someday and yes I want to be an author but my BLOG has NOTHING to do with that!

The most we can do is ignore things like this and keep blogging the way we do. It's what we enjoy doing, and that's all that should really matter!

~Jennifer~ said...

What I don't get is why articles like that always seem to believe that bloggers should review like critics. I state on my blog that I have no interest in critical assessments. I find professional reviews to be absolutely boring. I don't care about the literary merit of a book - I care about if I enjoyed it, why or why not. And I'd much rather read a review about personal opinion and impressions.

And the thing about women coddling other women? Pure crap. Women can be the cattiest, snarkiest, most vicious reviewers out there. When it's called for. If the people writing these articles are only shiny-happy, they haven't looked very far into the blogosphere.

Life After Jane said...

Ha. Maybe my "reviewing" does have something to do with being a woman. When I flame a book that should have been published on toliet paper because it is shit, it comes straight from my not-so-inner Bitch.

I suppose if I were a man I could better deal with shit writing and leave out my emotional response to a book and dryly state that I liked the way the author used somebigwordhere to imply somethingprofoundhere and manage to put myself to sleep, bored with my own dullness.

I would rather hear some 16 year old (or much older person- er, not like me, yeah) say "I loved this book. It made me happy and I want to have it's babies!" than a dry ahem, professional review that I'd never read anyway. I read book blogs and BUY books based on what some silly little person says about it.

And as for people who lie and post nice cutesy, completely fabricated reviews in exchange for praise and free books, you make bunnies cry.

Donna, dearest, your posts can annoy me and fire me up during morning coffee in a way that no one else can and that's a compliment.

StephTheBookworm said...

Amen!

Liviania said...

Well said!

Book bloggers ARE NOT professional reviewers. We are women and men who enjoy books and are having fun in our downtime. Personally, I don't find it fun to be mean to people. If I don't like something about a book I'll say so, but I'll try to be nice because I'm posting my thoughts in public. I'm not out to hurt the author, just to hold a conversation with fellow book lovers. Guess what? I'm nice to male and female authors. It has nothing to do with vagina solidarity.

I AM an English major. If I wanted to write a scathing, critical takedown of a book I could. In fact, I sometimes find that fun too. But generally, that's not the feel I want for In Bed With Books. I want a chill blog, a place I can relax and have fun while not acting as a serious business critic of literature.

Of course, plenty of YA bloggers do post snarky reviews. (Of course, I discount the people who post one line "I liked this book!!!111!! Those aren't YA bloggers.) Most bloggers I can think of usually do bring up good and bad qualities of the books they read. Book Chic is really nice, but that's his personality, and I think being true to your voice makes a far better blog than being a serious critic. (I would also like to note that the nicest YA blogger I could think of, off the top of my head, is MALE.)

Book Sake said...

Love the title of this post. Sometimes I feel like I'm alone in giving a book a 1 out of 5 review...but it all goes back to being honesty. No one is going to love every book they read, if they say they do, I probably won't take what they say to heart because I feel it's fake. I think I'm sometimes too generous when I give a book a 3. While I don't love being a meanie, I don't love wasting my time or readers time recommending something that isn't worth it. I cry out "I want my 2 hours back" after a crappy movie, so why would this be any different. Great post, great, great, post!

Splendibird said...

Well said! I read another article recently (can't remember where) about how unprofessional book bloggers are. I think the writer missed the point of blogging, to be honest. I probably review more books that I like than those that I don't but that's because I tend to read books that I think I'll like. Also, often if a book annoys me or encourages only a mild dislike, then I can't be bothered writing about it. However, if I really HATE it, then I am hugely likely to review it as I love me a good rant. Also, a bit of snark never hurt anyone...

Donna said...

Thanks, everyone! It's things like this that really goad me. What would possess people to think that we're professionals? What would make them hold us to the same standards are professional reviewers? I don't get it.

Jessilyn said...

AMEN sister! Wow you said it best, there is no set review style and people will review the way they want I am an honest review and so far all the books I've reviewed have been pretty good now I know I will come across a few soon I'm sure that won't be and I will give my honest option but god how can this be about sex I'm hell these YA authors are mostly woman like you said because woman out weigh man in this world so there fore more woman readers DUH!

Jessilyn said...

wow too early mis spelled a lot ha that must be that non English major thing huh ;)

carolsnotebook said...

Great post! We're not professionals, we do this because we enjoy it.

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