Saturday, May 09, 2009

Loved It / Hated It

I’ve been hearing from a lot of new authors devastated by online reviews. And let me tell ya: Been there! It’d be one thing if the reviewers didn’t care for your style of writing or pointed out inconsistencies, but sometimes it seems so personal. And when your friends tell you not to take it personally, it’s very tempting to hang up on them or throw them outside and lock the door.

I can think of two ways to avoid negative reviews. Either write a book so lame no one wants to read it, or write something so watered-down no one can misinterpret it.

But if you aim to write something with substance, you need to come to terms with the fact that readers are human. Every person is going to experience art differently based on their points of view and life experiences. (True, some people will intentionally misrepresent your words to bolster their arguments, but I won’t even attempt to get into their heads.)

For your amusement, I’ve trolled through some online reviews of my own book to highlight the opposing ways people can read the same set of words.

Hated it: THIRTEEN REASONS WHY removes all accountability from Hannah and places it all on the other characters…

Loved it: Hannah isn't completely innocent, and she doesn't pretend to be. [S]he also points out some sticky situations she has gotten herself into - and how they backfire on her later.

Hated it: This book is trying to promote that everyone else is responsible for someone's actions.

Loved it: I think it also became important for us to know that, yes, Hannah is a victim, but she is also responsible for her own actions.

Hated it: …it is just so boring…

Loved it: It is a fast read and will keep you on the edge of your seat…

Hated it: Get out the violin. Give me a break.

Loved it: You'll cry, several times, while reading this story.

To really understand this post, go read the most glowing reviews of something you hated. You just might find yourself thinking, Did they even read the same book I did???


Steph Bowe said...

I read an interesting thing, and it may have been on Editorial Anonymous, but I'm not sure, that said that good reviews will help book sales, but bad reviews usually won't detriment them. I think people saying bad things about a book will hurt authors on a personal level and send them running for a tub of chocolate ice-cream, but in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter. And far more people are bound to like a book and not saying anything, than the stupid haters who think that their nasty opinions are valuable.
And I have no idea how someone could think 13RW is boring.

I reviewed Thirteen Reasons Why here:

Thao said...

I think negative comments will help authors really much to improve their writing and the likes as long as they're not mean to hurt anyone's feelings. There are lot of reviewers who put their dislikes into words in a very tactful way and that's really cool.

As a reader I don't let negative reviews to stop me from reading picking up a book I'm actually interested in. And I agree with Steph, I never thought anyone would consider 13RW as boring. It's extreme!

P.S I'm asking this for me and on behalf of my bestfriend who is a huge fan of your writing - do you have any ideas when your next book will be published? ^^

K. M. Walton said...

Since I'm on the trying-like-a-banshee-to-land-an-agent train, I can't wait to have my book out there, in publication, ready to review.

But, I'll probably get all sensitive if I get any yucky reviews. And eat a tub of chocolate ice cream :)

Doret said...

As an author, when you read a hated it review, does it make it any easier, if the reviewer can say way they didn't like it and doesn't try to get too personal? Though not loving 13 Reasons Why is Beyond me.

Jay Asher said...

Steph & Thao - I think you're right that bad reviews won't deter many people from reading a book they're already interested in...which is why that "grand scheme of things" is important to remember. (S - Awesome reivew. And you explained your opinions. See, people, it's not that hard to do! T - Is eventually a good enough answer? No, I didn't think so...)

K.M. - I like that you're already thinking about positive solutions to bad reviews. Chocolate ice cream works wonders! You'll be fine.

Doret - Definitely! The frustrating thing about a negative review is imagining someone else reading it and taking the reviewer at their word when they're not given honest context for the reviewer's opinion.

Melanie said...

I went to Books a Million today and saw Thirteen Reasons Why in the YA section. I've never heard of the book before, but it sounds really interesting! My parents put a limit on me, so I wasn't able to pick it up today. I hope to soon though. It looks really interesting!

Jeffery E Doherty said...

I'm definitely on the love it list.

This should be on the high school Curriculum for all students to read, preferably in early high school. It show kids how even the stupid little things they do can have serious consequences.


Busy Bookblogger said...

This was a really interesting post!

I have no problem with negative reviews, but I do think reviewers should focus on the writing and not personally attack the writer. Sometimes reviewers mistake writing that does not appeal to their specific tastes for bad writing. For instance, I don't particularly love science-fiction as a genre but I can acknowledge a good story and good writing in that genre when I see it. I also can't imagine anyone calling 13 Reasons Why boring...were they medicated at the time?

I reviewed on my blog at:

Jay Asher said...

Melanie - I hope you like it! So...what books did you get instead of mine???

Jeff - I love that you loved it! And it's wonderful knowing there are schools out there using my book for the exact reason you mentioned.

MssJoss - I hear ya. The most annoying reviews are when they admit to reading the book in one sitting, found the plot and characters well-crafted, and thought the writing was great, but they were so angry with Hannah they had to give it a thumbs-down. But thank you so much for your review. My favorite line: "Asher takes what Mitch Albom did in The Five People You Meet in Heaven, turns it inside out and paints it black." Perfectly said!

Carly said...

This book was seriously amazing the haters just dont understand the thoughts of both hannah and clay. I read this over spring break, I think maybe in two days. It made me cry so many times, and I couldn't go outside because I was so sucked in. It was just pure amazment. I'm getting all my friends to read it. Also, it got me to think, you know before you do something stop and think because one day maybe soon or far away that thing you did is going to effect someone, wether it be you or someone else, wether it be postive or negative, its gonna effect someone, so always pause and think before you react.

Melanie said...

Currently, I'm not enjoying the skinny jean phase. I cannot wear them!

Destiny MiKenno said...

Personally, I loved the book but this is just my personal opinion. It took me about five hours to complete it, so I have to blame you for my failed geometry test. :)..I didn't take interest in Hannah, I actually thought she was an idiot but it doesnt take away the way I feel about the book. Bad reviews are like little children throwing stones: They simply do it to make someone feel bad. I loved the way you wrote the book and how you had different reactions to everyone Hannah blamed. I hope your next book, if you plan on writing one, comes out soon!