Reviewing A Review (About A Stinktacular Review Of Reasons)

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on February 16, 2010 0 Comments

[Regarding my novel Reasons, published last year by Stonegarden Books, and reviewed here on Gather, on Amazon, and elsewhere around the net.  Links to many of these reviews are on my website.]


First up, the point of this post is NOT to get you to say “poor Tracy, how mean that reviewer was!”

The POINT of this post is to say the following things.

A. Not everyone is going to like your work.  I never expected my novels would be to everyone’s tastes — it just can’t happen.  It doesn’t mean they suck, but they just don’t appeal to everyone.  I don’t read war stories and I’m sick to death of vampire stuff and historical romance makes me cringe: but there are some fine novels in all those categories, I’m sure we’d all agree. 

Reviewer-Specific Complaint #1: she thought Delphi was abrasive. Eh, big deal.  My own editor (Ms. Shirley Ann Howard) had a few reservations about Delphi’s bluntness, but other people liked her just fine.  That is entirely up to the reader’s perception.

B. When someone rips your work up, you have to separate those reviewer-specific complaints from the writing-specific complaints. Ignore (most of) the reviewer-specific stuff; see A.  Pay more attention to the writing-specific complaints regarding plot, characters, and dialogue.

To me, this review (I kind of hate to send anyone her way) was clearly written by someone who, at best, skimmed Reasons.

Credibility Blow #1 is the easiest: she referred to the male character Bobby as Bobbie.  Who the heck confuses Bobby with Bobbie? (Who doesn’t take enough time to be sure the basics are correct when posting a review?) If the reviewer had read the book, that’d be a “duh.”

Credibility Blow #2 is also easy: she refers to Delphi (the main character) as having a crush on “Bobbie.”  But if she’d read the novel, it would have been abundantly clear to her that this crush existed only when Delphi was fifteen.  Years later, she at no time expresses to anyone (including herself) any interest in “Bobbie.” If the reviewer had read the book, that’d be a “duh.”

Credibility Blow #3: her inability to accept the nature of the hit-and-run and why the Laughlins didn’t know. They didn’t know because it is made very very very clear in the novel that the Brents never told them.  How could they ask questions about a hit-and-run they didn’t know about?  The Brents kept in touch with the Laughlins (also made clear) via letters/photos but since the Laughlin sons never confessed the hit-and-run to their parents or anyone else, and never knew whom they’d hit, wouldn’t it be stretching it a bit to have included ESP into the Laughlin family DNA?  If the reviewer had read the book, that’d be a “duh.”

Credibility Blow #4: wow, this one cracked me up.  She questioned why the Laughlins would allow Delphi into their home “with free rein to all their files, business, etc.,” — because… ?  Wait, maybe I should stick that one under “reviewer-specific” issues, since I sure don’t get why you’d assume that the main character of a novel whose parents have kept in touch and exchanged photos, and who herself has been in contact with Annie Laughlin, would be someone they didn’t feel they could trust. (I’m guessing Ms. Reviewer has some trust issues of her own.) If she had read the book, this, too, would be a “duh.”

Credibility Blow #5: Technically I should put this under “reviewer-specific” issues, because… come on –> “dialogue that felt stilted, tried to be ‘witty’ and failed.”  Well, one thing I’m kinda sure about in my novels is that my dialogue is pretty natural and pretty believable.  Stilted?  Uh-huh.  I suppose it’s possible she’s the boy who pointed out the emperor had no new clothes, but… nah.

So as a writer, what did I learn from this bad review? Um… Delphi might be too abrasive for some readers. And that’s it — because everything under B shows a problem with the reviewer’s ability to read, not the writer’s ability to write.

The entire seven people who commented on her review and were quite reasonably deterred from reading Reasons because of what she wrote are “lost readers” to me, but hey, it’s not like she paid for HER copy, so whatever. 

There are a couple of other lukewarm reviews out there (another person questioned why the Brents didn’t tell the Laughlins; one person said she really just didn’t like romance but Reasons was tolerable and her friends wanted to borrow it) but most have been positive, and consistently so; I really am NOT looking for any comments to reassure me on this front. I am just as leery of someone telling me, “hey, your writing sucks” as any other writer.  But I can tell the difference between a thoughtful review and one tossed off by someone who was obviously “reading” something under protest, and that’s the bottom line.

Let this simply be a lesson in how to review a review. 




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