Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Would You Do?

If you read a book and really, really, don’t like it, what would you do? Review it anyway? Set it aside and move on to another book? Trash it?

If you’re Ashleigh Johnson who writes for the Daily Titan (Cal State Fullerton), you trash it. I don’t even have to officially name the book; I can just give you the title of her November 9th article: “Nerdgasm: Basking in the ‘Twilight’”

She gets down to business in her second sentence:
Allow me to rephrase my first sentence: I don’t hate everyone, only die-hard “Twilight” fans. You know, profoundly stupid people. I hate them. The end.
Of course, it’s not really the end of her review of the entire series.
No one knows for sure what happened on that fateful day – some say that a high-powered publisher’s black tar heroin bucket ran dry and he, knowing that teenage girls will read anything that involves angst and glitter, made an unholy pact with the elder gods (Oprah and a drug dealer with a heart of gold named Skidz) to bring the book into the public consciousness in exchange for another hit.
As you can see, she’s taking on everyone involved in publishing or promoting the series. Mostly, though, Johnson doesn’t like Meyer’s writing:
All of the characters are boring, whiny and one-dimensional, to the point where I wanted to pull a Meyer and create my own self-insert character who would then go all Rambo on their asses. Or at the very least, backhand them, I’m easy going like that.
Meyer doesn’t deserve her fame. The story she told (It’s not a saga, shut up before I smack you) is nothing special. Her writing style is sub-par at best. Her characters are unlikable twits.
Okay Johnson, quit dilly-dallying. What do you really think?

More important, though, what do YOU think? Could you write this kind of review? Have you? Have you ever thought about doing it?
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39 comments:

  1. Man, I hate a writer that pulls her punches don't you? I live with a teenage girl and she HATES Twilight so hmmm... I guess my problem is why do reviewers who hate a certain sort of novel review them? Just say no - it's not as if she's doing the world a service by telling them what trash the book is. It already has too much press so why not find some funny little book for teens that no one is hyping and give it the review? Too Pollyanna of me perhaps but really - it's like all the stuff about Dan Brown - the only thing more boring than a Dan Brown book is the obvious reviews it gets. And yes, I can imagine writing a scathing review - it would be so soul-satisfying...for about ten minutes. Then I would feel awful - what had I contributed to the overall good? Nothing. I just showed people how smart and funny I am. I prefer to do that other ways.

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  2. I agree, Jan. Since she was writing for a college paper, I suspect a lot of the readers agreed with her and probably thought she was quite witty. By the time you're in college, you read the classics for class and books like Twilight are read in private in the dark in your room under the bed covers. Or...maybe that was just me reading mysteries.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  3. I think she was writing for her audience, if she wrote for a college paper.

    Oh well...Stephanie Meyer can laugh all the way to the bank.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  4. I have to say that I agree with everything she writes. BUT I think that, especially at this late date in the series' history, vivisecting it this way only serves to make others' think it's a case of sour grapes.

    So, I also agree with Jan's suggestion that a better use of time would be to direct readers to authors like Maggie Stiefvater who write excellent examples of the genre.

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  5. I suppose it would depend on the kind of blog she has and what her readers have come to expect.

    As for me, I couldn't trash something like that. (Even though I do agree with her) That's probably why I don't do book reviews. :)

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  6. I see no need for a review like that. It's fine to say you don't care for a book, but to imply that others who do are stupid, is totally unacceptable to me.

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  7. Good Lord! Remind me not to have her review MY next book - just in case! I've been ask to review a few books that were just awful. I didn't publish any reviews anywhere, couldn't bring myself to be honest enough and hurt the authors or lie enough to be helpful. What I did was write a letter to them explaining what I felt they could do to improve their writing and books and offer constructive criticisms. I feel if I can't honestly publish at least t 3 star review it's not going to help much anyway, and well ... that's just my way of dealing with it.

    Marvin D Wilson

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  8. Brave reviewer. Twilight fans are dangerous.

    http://twilightsucks.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=fangirls&action=display&thread=5175

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  9. I guess if you're a reviewer, you owe a certain honesty to your review, good or bad. BUT, there are dignified, subtle ways to critique a book, to constructively criticize. So as much as I don't want a reviewer to gloss over every poor review, this one is way over the top. I agree, she's writing for her audience.

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  10. Ouch!

    Writing is so subjective I don't think I would ever feel comfortable writing this kind of review.

    As an aspiring author I would never disrespect another author's work.

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  11. I don't think a reviewer needs to attack the writer or the readers who enjoy the books. If it's not your cup of tea, or if you can't say anything nice at all - pass up writing a review. However, I do think this sort of review can drive more people to read the series to see what she's talking about than to keep them away.

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  12. That's interesting Jane. I do think that if I had never read Twilight (which I have), after reading this review, I might at least pick it up in the store and check it out. It would make me wonder how it could become such a huge bestseller if it's as bad as this reviewer said.

    The review wasn't on a blog but in the university's newspaper.

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  13. I'm more of a, 'If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all,' type of guy. But I guess it might depend if it was part of my job, to do book reviews. If so, then you need to be honest with your readers. But the critique should be focused on the book, not the people who read it. Name calling is never good. I realize she did that in jest and for effect, but still, unnecessary.
    ~jon

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  14. I might say those kinds of things about something I didn't like, but only to a close friend or family member I trusted. On the other hand, if I was aiming for satire, I think I might go about it a little differently.

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  15. I prefer reviews which, instead of attacking, give intelligent reasons why the book doesn't work for the reviewer. Yes, it's funny because it's exaggerated, but I'd rather be able to say, "Hmm, that sort of thing never (or always) bothers me in a novel. I won't (or will) give it a read."

    That's the type of review I like to write too.

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  16. Have I thought of it, oh YES. Have I done it? No.

    Still, what Johnson did, worked because she got the readership by attacking Meyers books. Stirred up controversy. It works, as a ploy, but I don't like to employ those tactics.

    I've read some bad books which I've been asked to review or books I personally don't enjoy.

    Now if it is bad and I can't give it a good review, I'm not gonna lie, or attack, but I have done what Conda mentioned and sent a note to the author or the publisher logically listing why it doesn't work for me, while praising what does. Sometimes they want it done anyway. My comments are tactful, sometimes I use humor, and if you look carefully you realize it didn't really impress me.

    If it's a book that doesn't really appeal to me, I can still read it and be fair considering the audience it's going to and write accordingly.

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  17. I agree with Elizabeth S.C. Stephanie Meyers and Dan Brown have the last laugh.

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  18. I think it is in poor taste to get that snarky over a particular book just to get attention and attract readers to a blog or review.

    I have been reviewing for a number of years and take the job very seriously, which means I try to give a professional, honest review of the story and the craft, and not interject demeaning comments. The operative word being try. There have been some instances when I have been so disappointed in some aspects of a highly-touted book that I didn't use restraint. But I still did not get as snarky as this reviewer did.

    If I really don't like a book at all and find the writing sorely lacking, I don't do the review. Period. If it has a mix of good and not so good, I will do the review and point both out.

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  19. If I can't stand a book, I don't finish it. Period. If I finish it, there's a reason, and I try very hard to note that in my review. (Even if I didn't really LIKE the book that much.)

    I had all kinds of issues with the Twilight series. But Meyer is a good enough storyteller to get me to read all four books, despite my reservations. That's a pretty good trick.

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  20. Real reviewers either never finish the book (or write a review) or their review tackles only the reasons they didn't like the book, rather than tackle the author & fans.

    This isn't a review of the Twilight books as much as a very large, growing backlash against the series. It's commentary rather than a review.

    Now would it be wrong if I said it made me chuckle a little? (I don't like those books or the obssession surrounding them either!)

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  21. I do think that professional reviewers owe it to readers to review books they don't like as well as those they do, and to discuss why they didn't care for the books. If I don't know anything about a book and don't know if I want to read it, I may want to look at the reviews. Altho I love a good Dorothy Parker snark, what I really want is a quantifiable reason why the reviewer didn't like it. I may still read it, if the reviewer's complaints were not about things that bother me. But I like to have the information.

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  22. Yikes! Strong hatred radiating from that review. I must confess, I found what I read of the books very (very) dull. I could not get into them. I honestly don't think I could bash someone's book publically, unless, of course, they were taking a vehement stand against something I hold sacred. We all have our opinions and (for now) we're allowed to express them. I do think there's a gentler way of doing so. But I'll admit I did laugh as I read this one!

    Jen

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  23. Yeow! Well, she got her readers' attention and she got ours. Writing reviews like that is a style, like obnoxious talk radio...some people want to hear it that way. Miriam Forster said it right for me. I read all four books because I had to see what my daughter was raving about. I had lots of issues too. But still, as Miriam says, getting me to read them when the subject matter had no appeal "is a pretty good trick." So much is timing...who is going to be the next JK Rowling? Someone was smart and called it. Stephanie Meyers has a different idea. Let's try her! Teenage girls will love it. The publisher gambles and puts money into the books and it all turns into a runaway train. Nuff said.

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  24. Okay, I confess, I liked Twilight. Not brilliant. Got some definite issues with it. But I liked it.

    Of course, my sons say I have no taste as I like so many things. But I'd feel bad calling anyone stupid, reader or writer, so even if I didn't like it, I don't think I could write a review like that.

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  25. I do have the potential to be this nasty. But I don't think I would actually put it in print. I don't mince my words. If I don't like something I will tell my husband and maybe close friends, but I am not going to write a review and trash another author's book. Mainly because writing is so subjective anyway. What I hate someone else will love. I agree though, I think Meyer got lucky. She hit on something that worked. The writing is okay. Not necessarily brilliant. But I enjoyed the books none the less. and who am I to comment. My book is not even in print yet. :)

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  26. I believe in honest reviews, much more than "best book ever" reviews for every book someone reads. However, I agree with those saying there are nice way to say negative things. I do think reviews such as this make people read it who normally wouldn't. And I think there are a lot of 'big' books out there that are really not very good. The last two I read, I'm iffy about, both big names. I will review them, but I'll include good and bad, in a nice {aka professional} manner.

    It's never all right to attack fans of the books, however. I may not understand why it's so big, but if people are enjoying it, why should I object to that? They're reading, after all.

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  27. I believe in honest reviews, much more than "best book ever" reviews for every book someone reads. However, I agree with those saying there are nice way to say negative things. I do think reviews such as this make people read it who normally wouldn't. And I think there are a lot of 'big' books out there that are really not very good. The last two I read, I'm iffy about, both big names. I will review them, but I'll include good and bad, in a nice {aka professional} manner.

    It's never all right to attack fans of the books, however. I may not understand why it's so big, but if people are enjoying it, why should I object to that? They're reading, after all.

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  28. That was a little rough;) If I don't like a book, I put it down. End of story. Everyone has different likes. Too bad she feels everyone has to think like her.

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  29. First, kids read these books. They're READING!...books! Let's be thankful, folks.
    Second, I would work very hard to find something positive or not write the review.. (version of "If you can't say something nice about someone...")
    Third, I believe that whatever goes around comes around. Publishing is such an incestuous industry that I would never have the nerve to trash anyone, anyone's work, or anyone's fans in print, lest the tables be turned.

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  30. It's a free world, so she's free to trash it and other is free to defend it. But I haven't read the books so I'm not sure if her criticism is based on fact or not.

    Steamy Darcy

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  31. Why that review, why now? That's the only question I have. A reviewer has the right to say exactly what (s)he felt after reading a book - that is the point of a review after all. But to review Twilight after so many years, seems ridiculous.

    More to the point, the book is aimed at a certain audience, and the reviewer is obviously not looking at the book from the PoV of that audience.

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  32. It's one way to create a buzz, for your opinion/reviews, and sometimes for the book.
    When the book is already a best-seller, it doesn't seem so hurtful, but I'd still just pass, or find something about it that is good.
    Guess that's either because I'm an aspiring novelist or simply choose not to be cruel, perhaps both.

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