Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Brutal Youth Anne Cassidy

A good review impacts on my writing. I can be in the doldrums for days stuck in the middle of a complicated plot doubting my ability to write anything other than a list for the supermarket. Then I find a positive review on the internet and suddenly I’m sitting up straight, I’m buzzing with energy, I’m solving problems and moving my story forward. Somebody thinks my work is good. I am vindicated.

A bad review has a similarly dramatic effect.

Especially when the review comes from my target audience, teenagers.

My new book, JUST JEALOUS is out. When a new book comes out it’s like a new beginning. This will be the one that takes you forward that builds your reputation that makes you a dead cert for the Richard and Judy treatment. You wait with bated breath to see what people think. You sigh with relief when the first review is read. It is liked! It is admired! And then you find your first teenage review.

“Not the best book I’ve ever read.”

It’s like a physical blow. I’ve had worse reviews but it’s the brevity and the throwaway nature of the comment. It’s like a sneer and I’m reminded of Lauren, the ‘not bothered’ teenager, created by Catherine Tate. Seven words that resign my efforts to the mediocre bin. This book so under whelmed the reader than she couldn’t be bothered to say another word about it.

I want to remonstrate with my critic; I want to explain, to point out all the clever narrative tricks I have employed, to illustrate my talent with a stunning line or two. I want to offer my back list in mitigation and promise future plot lines that will compel and dumbfound and excite.

But it’s too late because she’s walked away. I only had one chance to impress her and that’s gone. She’s left me behind a crumpled heap on the floor of my study.

Oh brutal youth.


Nick Green said...

I'm sure she was about to write, 'It was the second best book I've ever read, after [Insert Name of Classic]' but fell asleep as teens are wont to do, with all their late nights.

I know what you mean, it's utterly irrational how these things affect one. We know nothing about our readers and critics; we have no idea if we're throwing our pearls before swine or the World's Greatest Expert In Pearls. Yet it makes no difference. All I have to read is one review that says, 'I've read better,' and I'm seeing the Red Mist. But... but... of course they've read better. If they said my book was the best book ever written, they would clearly be either deluded or vastly under-read; not the sort of critic I would trust! Personally I like four-star reviews the best; they feel the most informed and honest ;-)

Penny said...

Really tough, Anne. Take some kind time and get yourself uncrumpled. Your reader must have known this sniffy comment would hurt. (Lauren, exactly!)

But, trying to be rational aboutt his, you probably don't know any of the circumstances of her actual reading. There are so many things that go into the reading of a book that are, sadly, outside the writers control. For example, why did she read your book? Who gave it to her, and why? Who asked for the review? Is she modelling herself as a semi Julie Burchill style of reviewer - "I'll say it just because I can!" Besides, what teacher may have just said to her "That wasn't the best essay I've ever read?" Not to mention questions like what is the "best book" she has ever read? What is its genre? When did she read it? Was she in love, or just dumped at that moment? Where was she, location wise & time wise, when she read it? Was her best book, in fact, also a film of a book, so she has a false memory of it? So many questions the writer can't know the answers to, and ahorrid experience. Sorry for this hard knock, as I bet the book's great - though maybe she even has enough wisdom to pick the book up again on a better day. On the other hand, maybe she was just jealous?

Mary Hoffman said...

You'll have seen on Blaclava and possibly Facebook that we all go through this Anne. It doesn't mean anything, except perhaps that this girl was not your target audience. Or as Penny suggests, that there were "meta" reasons for her reactions.

We can spend housr preparing a meal for a teenager who wolfs it without noticing what is was and then if pushed says. "Yeah, irt was OK." So why should it be different with our books?

Especially when said teenager might enthuse over some other Mum's cooking.

Just think, "not the best review I've ever had" and move on.

simmone said...

I had a one-word review once. The word was'eh'


brutal youth indeed

adele said...

My mother in law used to say: THAT'S HER OPINION.

And that about sums it up. Shame it has to be in print, though. She is only one person and while it's very hurtful when you read such a thing, the best thing to do is move on. As quickly as possible, saying as you do: that's just HER. Not a single other person. Just her.

Anne Rooney said...

Of course, we don't all like the same books, and that's just as well. I wonder why she bothered to write the review at all, though? One thing to bear in mind - it probably never occurred to her that you would see it. I know it would not occur to my daughters, even though they have a writer in the house! So the girl may be mortified if she thought you had seen it (maybe not, of course, we can't know...)

Think of her as 'not the best reader you've ever had' - but remember there are loads of discerning readers who love your work.