Kelly Maher

Negative reviews

Yesterday on Twitter there was a great discussion regarding the value and usage of negative reviews. I’m all for them! Seriously. While I am in no way a critical reviewer–mainly due to only being willing to read books that in some way entertain me (and luckily my one critique partner is highly entertaining!), I have spent numerous brain hours on the contemplation of the act of reading thanks to my day profession of librarian who specializes in reader’s advisory (and related work). Basically, I believe that as a writer, I only contribute half to three-quarters of the the storytelling experience. Maybe even less. The reader supplies the rest. Which means, every reading experience is different. Not just every reader, but every experience. If you reread, like I do, you bring a different perspective to the table every single time you read a story.

Case in point: a few days ago, I bought Gift of Gold and Gift of Fire by Jayne Ann Krentz. I first read these probably in high school, which was a few years after they were originally published. Loved them. Adored them. Wanted to have babies with Jonas. I periodically reread them through college, and just after college. Even though I have them in my keeper paper collection, I don’t think I’ve reread them in close to ten years. As I’m reading Gift of Gold now, I’m critiquing the hell out of the portrayal of the start of their relationship. JAK’s writing is crack to a lot of people (me being one), so people would probably read them as is if they were freshly published today. However, I also don’t think that JAK would, let alone does, write the same relationship dynamics today. Books are as much a product of the time period they were produced as when they are read ( :gives the sideeye to my own previously published work: ). If I hadn’t read this duology when I was fresh-ish into my romance reading life and so close to when they were originally published, I don’t know that I would think benevolently on them–even with the understanding of them being from the late 1980’s.

Yanking myself out of sidetrack syndrome (I learned way too well from a couple of masters of it in college), let’s get back to books you are reading today. Including mine. I don’t think of my stories as my babies. Yes, I work incredibly hard on them to make them the best stories possible. But I cannot control the reading experience to make it the same for everyone. Believe me, if I could, I would use that power in other ways well before fiction reading. Some of you are probably reading this right now thinking “Is she about to give her permission to me to read however I want to read? To Hell with her!” See what I mean about readers bringing their own interpretation to written material? 😀 Nope, I don’t have the power to grant that kind of permission. And why should I? You chose to read my story, and you should do whatever you want with it. Even DNF’ing it (which probably makes me sadder than you hating it). So, my thoughts on negative reviews:

  • They definitely have a place in reading culture.
  • I would probably celebrate if I got one.
  • I tried to think of a third point for symmetry’s purpose, but couldn’t come up with one.

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