I just read the most interesting blog post about the responsibilities of online book reviewers – that means you. Now that every publisher, book seller and author out there has a website, twitter feed, face page etcetera we, the fans, have the unprecedented ability to throw proverbial rotten tomatoes at whomsoever we choose. And while there are some out there who deserve it, the advice Terry Odell gives in her blog is that we review thoughtfully. Not too much to ask, is it?
To the reviewers and the teachers who have stumbled upon this post, please read Terry’s considerate appeal.
This reminds me of an impassioned discussion I was party to through social networking last year in which Dr Anita Heiss expressed her diasappointment at a particularly bad review she had read. I believe the comment was made in response to a review of a book written by an Indigenous author, on indigenous issues and reviewed by someone without obvious expertise in the field. The review was published in a major national newspaper. Sorry for the lack of details but I can’t find the original discussion all these months later.
The point made by both Terry and Anita is that when posting our spontaneous responses to a person’s hard-won words we must be considerate. Do you belong to a writers’ group? Or perhaps you are a student who gives constructive criticism in class? Why should our online comments be less personal than those we make face to face? Just because we read the book does not automatically make us an authority in the genre.
I had a series of debates with YA author William Kostakis as to whether or not “old codgers” should be allowed to review YA books. He was rather miffed that Maurice Saxby had publicly dissed his book (in a copy of the CBCA magazine Reading Time). Will has a point in that his Loathing Lola is not a book your Nanna would like, and I believe its stand out strength that it is a YA book that was written by an author while he was a YA himself – an impressive feat.
However, I checked his king when I pointed out that Ernie Tucker is of the same vintage as Maurice Saxby, and is absolutely someone whose judgement we both respect when it comes to YA book reviews. I also pointed out that he would one day wake up almost 30, at which point he claimed he went through a tunnel and lost signal. Convenient.
I read another post today called “What Did You Expect For 99c?” which lead me back to Ethereal (Celestra Series Book 1) by Addison More. The reviews I have read for this book have been excellent – as in the reviews were well written, not necessarily their opinions of the book itself.
In short, this easy access that we have to basically anyone at any time is a powerful tool, and we must be careful with it. Employ your critical literacy skills as you would when reading a report on car flags, or anything put forth by the Murdoch empire. And be careful who you hurl tomatoes at, because I will be self publishing a 99c eBook fairly soon, and I look forward to your thoughtful reviews.
PS If you wonder why I categorised this as a teaching suggestion, I recommend teachers use texts that were produced for a real purpose. Show your students Terry Odell’s post, and the reviews of Ethereal (Celestra Series Book 1) on Amazon. The examples we use from blackline masters books are so contrived and off-putting.