I can dispense with YA Highway‘s Road Trip Wednesday prompt, What was the best book you read in January? pretty quickly: a tie between John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Neal Shusterman’s Bruiser. I read them in close succession, which is probably why I can’t seem to pick one over the other. Bruiser surprised me because I’d forgotten the book description and thought for the first quarter or so of the book that it was just a wonderful contemporary YA (then we got to the really cool stuff). My misapprehension was partly the consequence of having just read the very real-life The Fault in Our Stars and also because I’d spaced the fact that Neal Shusterman doesn’t really do non-spec-fic books (if he has, someone please point that out).
With John Green’s incredible book, the timing of my reading it could have been better. I’d just lost my dad (on January 9th). So reading about doomed teenagers just tore the grief right out of me in a flood of copious tears. I can point up no “fault” in Fault. It was hilariously funny and heartbreaking in turns.
On to the dilemma. Book reviews. I’m a published author, and someone who works hard getting my book, Tankborn, and my name out there. Like many of you, I’m also a member of Goodreads. When I remember, I put up the book I’m currently reading, although more often than not, I either don’t put it up until I’m partway through a new book or I never add it to my list at all.
But when I have put a book up, then finished it, Goodreads of course wants my rating and a review. If I loved the book, no problem. I give it four or five stars, sometimes write a few lines of a review, then go on my merry way.
But what happens if I really didn’t like a book? It could be that it was just not my cup of tea. It might have started out great for me (love those Kindle samples), but then I realized it wasn’t what I thought it would be.
In other cases I end up reading a book that really sucks. To my author eye, it’s lacking in basic craft, the voice is blah, the plot turns are silly, the ending is kinda stupid.
If a book just wasn’t to my taste, if it was otherwise good but went in a direction I just didn’t like, I try to be fair. I’ll rate it maybe a 3-star, then state in my review that it’s a personal thing, no real judgement of the book. But if the book is in my view really dreadful, I don’t say a thing. I don’t rate the book, I don’t review it at all. Why? Because I know as an author how awful a scathing review can be. Why should I contribute to another author’s angst? Why risk having readers come across that review and thinking, Man, this Karen Sandler is a real witch?
So I hold my tongue. It’s not like the world is waiting with bated breath for my opinion. There are plenty more people out there willing to review the books I don’t like. Let them speak their mind.
So, am I being prudent? Or cowardly? Should published authors review other authors’ books on sites like Goodreads?
Or should we just keep our mouths shut?