Monday, March 28, 2011

EPIC FAIL: My first 1-star review

A big day for me.

I’ve just read my very first 1-star review for The Strange Man. It comes courtesy of Catie from Goodreads.

So how does one deal with a bad review--rather, a scathing review? I suppose some would say “Ah, blow it off,” which is a valid option. But, I think writers should take note of all the reviews-- the good, the bad, the fair, the unfair--and pull what they can from it. Author Mike Duran recently posted about having a thin skin--about receiving criticism and asking yourself the tough questions about your writing. Good thoughts and I totally agree with that.

I’m actually very touched by this review. Her passion--granted she hates the book in no uncertain terms--but her passion for it moves me. She felt something (in this case, revulsion). Also, I’m very thankful to Catie that she was a grown-up about the review. At no point does she attack me personally and I really appreciate that. I also like how detailed her review is. She’s put a lot of thought into this--though she admittedly doesn’t want to think about the book anymore or ever again.

There’s actually one line from the review that I’m really proud of:

"So, just for the sake of brevity, imagine a 1980’s slasher film with right-wing Christian overtones."

Well "right wing" aside, I actually sort of take that as a compliment :p

Having said these positives, I don't want to make light of her complaints. It’s an overt Christian thing and she doesn’t like that. I won’t fault her for that and I wouldn’t dare whip out the whole “It’s a persecution conspiracy!” because I think that demeans her opinion. The things I do take great issue with are her accusations that the book is "racist" and "demeans women". This was certainly never my intention and I’m not sure where she’s deriving this perception, but that’s her opinion and she’s entitled to it. Also, I think she completely misunderstands my motive as an author for killing off the girl she mentions in the review. The character didn't die as some sort of author commentary on her behavior, but rather I was (trying to) point out that she wasn’t a "bad girl"-—but is going to die anyway. I was trying to break the 1980s slasher trope and show that no one is safe. So, that confounds me and, as a writer, makes me feel like I missed the mark in explaining that.

Though, that raises a point. Do I have to spell out everything for the reader within the novel? Wouldn't that be considered "telling", and bad form? But, this is what happens when you don’t spell it out--people read into it different things, sometimes things you never ever intended or even thought yourself.

The only thing that grieves me is that Catie’s soul feels "bruised" after reading the book. Ouch. I see her profile pic and she seems like a nice young lady with a great family and to think that I’ve hurt her—however marginally—really makes me want to buy her a fruit basket or a dozen roses or something.

Sorry, Catie :(

At any rate, it's done, it's out there, and I've brought it all full circle by blogging about it (how lame). Please do not misunderstand this as a ploy to get sympathy. While I'm feeling pretty blue today, I'm processing those feelings and trying to learn what I might from Catie for the future.

But, as I leave you, I bring to you my favorite line (no, I’m serious) from the review:

"There's no reason for anyone to read this book."

Wow! If you’re going to fail, fail spectacularly.


Tim George said...

Well Greg, I recommended your novel because there is an audience out there for it. Obviously Catie is not a part of that audience. So, for what it's worth, welcome to the world of bad reviews by people who got the book free in the first place.

Greg Mitchell said...

Thanks, Tim :) I'm actually encouraged--in the comments section for the review, the reviewer goes into the specifics of what she didn't like and I realized they were either A) against a conservative Christian mindset (which is understandable since she admittedly is neither) or B) were just interpretations of things I wrote. Things I didn't mean to infer, but that's how it came off to her. Which I don't like and you always wish you could clarify, but people draw their own conclusions in spite of our best intent. Her "racist" comment (the one that bothered me the most) was derived from the fact that Isabella's mother (who happens to be Hispanic) abandoned her family. Apparently she thought I was saying that all Hispanics leave their family? That's a rather large assumption. And she was bothered by so many women being stay-at-home moms rather than career women-slash-moms. So, anyway, I'm encouraged that at least I know why she didn't like it so much and know that some of that just couldn't be helped. As you put it, she's not part of this book's audience. I guess you can't win them all.

The Gill-Man said...

It seemed to me that her logic was Christian = Right Wing = Racist/Sexist etc. She went into the book with that assumption, and it colored all of her perceptions.

I was most baffled by her "racist" comment. Isabella's mother abandoning her isn't racist, it's a character plot point (and, if you want to get stereotypical, she'd know that it is RARE for a Hispanic woman to abandon her children). She seems to completely ignore the fact that Isabella herself is a strong woman who has an incredible sense of family (and urges her husband to do the right thing when Dras approaches him for help. The fact that he DIDN'T listen to her until it was too late wasn't her fault!).

The "sexism" thing is also a bit confounding. Sure, there are stay at home moms represented, but why ignore the fact that the main female lead is a driven college student? Also, isn't it a tad bit bigoted to say that there is something mysoginistic about a woman choosing to stay at home with her children? My wife is a career woman, but we've both always admired the stay-at-home moms.

Her thoughts that the first female victim is a "slut" has to be based in an assumption that the slasher "rules" apply here. She's obviously watched "Scream" one too many times, as I thought it was clear that your point was that even the "good girl" isn't safe from The Strange Man.

All in all, I just think her review was rather vacuous and lacked any objectivity whatsoever. I don't have to agree with a reviewer, but they need to at least have some legitimate points.

Greg Mitchell said...

Yeah, the "stay at home" mom thing confused me because, as I started thinking of it--Isabella stays at home, sure, but she's not a mom. Louise stays at home, sure, but she's retired or semi-retired and taking care of a sick man who can't hardly get out of the house on his own. Rosalyn's mom works (though to be fair, I guess that's not really made clear in this book), but the only other mother I can think of is Rebecca Walker--Millie's mom. She's a single mother AND she works AND she's not a Christian (though, again, that might not come through in the first book) AND she's a perfectly great human being. I don't know. I'm at peace with it all now and I'm glad that the discussion over there has been respectful and thoughtful and nothing got ugly. I'm most happy about that. :)

Jessica Thomas said...

Bruised? Wow. Okay, you've piqued my interest... "There's no reason for anyone to read this book?" Hmphf... I don't think it comes across as preachy at all.