July 06

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Here’s Why I Read All Of YOUR One-Star Reviews

I have a confession to make: I read your one-star reviews. And by “your,” I mean, probably, basically all of you fellow YA authors. It’s not because I delight in your pain, I promise you — but because it puts things in perspective.

Lemme back up a second.

So here’s the thing — my debut YA novel, PLACID GIRL (pre-order here!), comes out on August 25 (let’s just wait for the shakes to stop, shall we?). It’s already up for review on NetGalley, which means people are READING IT RIGHT NOW AND OH GOD IT’S LIKE ONE OF THOSE DREAMS WHERE I’M IN HIGH SCHOOL AND AM TOTALLY NAKED AND THEN EVERYTHING CATCHES ON FIRE.

In short: It’s kinda nerve-wracking, yeah?

It’s not that I’m a stranger to other people’s opinions of my writing. I used to have a CNN column for a few years where my co-writer and I gave people humorous advice regarding net etiquette. While that sounds innocuous enough, the column prompted myriad hateful comments about our overwhelming lack of intelligence, how we must have got our jobs (it rhymes with “ucks some icks”) and which one of us the randos in the comments section would bang. Yeah, really. Welcome to being a woman in the public eye — but, that’s a story for another day (or all days).

So, yeah, I got a trial by fire. Someone even started a whole chain on a roleplaying website (no idea why) dedicated to how much he hated me due to a column I wrote about which Facebook profile photos make you look like a tool. The lady doth protest too much? Or something.

So it’s not that I’m not used to taking criticism — or just downright hate — in online forums. It’s just that… well, a column is a column and a book is something one spends years on (at least in my case) and tears on and so many fears on. In short: It’s terrifying to write a book — it’s even more terrifying when someone else reads it. Someone who doesn’t have to love you.

Which is what led me to the one-star review section of YOUR book on Goodreads — and my reasoning for why I’m there, furiously clicking through reviews both grammatically lacking and devastatingly precise.

Again, it’s not that I’m looking to delight in your pain — I read all the angry screeds about how you used too many swears and how your characters are stupid because *I* didn’t think you used too many swears. *I* LOVED your characters. And, you know, if people could loathe with every fiber of their being something I could intensely LOVE, well, then, why am I putting so much stock in what people think about my work? Why am I dismissing people who similarly LOVE my book and, instead, listening to those who… didn’t?

Perspective, dudes. Perspective. Once you have it, you realize that your favorite restaurant has its share of one-star reviews on Yelp, that your favorite movies have, like, a 2-star average on Netflix and, well, that’s not stopping you from eating the brussels sprouts at Dear Bushwick or watching “Pi” for the 15th time in a row.

So, friends who are also sweating the reviews, here are a selection of one-star reviews that you should totally read if someone threw you a less-than-perfect assessment:

The Catcher In The Rye — 80,000+ one-star reviews

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“In my hand I hold $5. I will give it to anyone who can explain the plot of this book (or why there is no plot) and make me understand why the hell people think it’s so amazing.”

Lolita — 18,000+ one-star reviews

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“Can’t do it. Vile. Offensive. Obscene. DNF.”

Ulysses — 5,000+ one-star reviews

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“I Can’t do it, It fell in my toilet and didn’t dry well, and I’m accepting it as an act of god. I decided against burning it, and just threw it out.”

Image by Susanne Nilsson