Friday, September 10, 2010

On Blogging and Reviews

A number of posts have been floating around the YA blogosphere raising questions about reviews. It has been noted that sometimes little cliques of bloggers write reviews to promote their friends, and as a result the reviews are less than honest. I must admit, sometimes I rush out to buy a certain book after reading rave reviews, only to be greatly disappointed.

Megan Burke asked: What are authors and publishers looking for in a blog review? Clearly, publishers and writers want their books promoted and praised, but surely the point of a review is to give the reader an idea of what to expect. While opinions are obviously subjective, I do feel bloggers should be writing honest reviews.

When Megs helped me set up my own blog, we discussed the issue of reviews, and it was actually she who pointed out the need to be honest. I’d been thinking of using my blog to write reviews, but on reflection, quickly realised I wouldn’t be able to write anything negative about another writer’s work. You see, I know how much goes into it, and I can honestly say that completing a book is a huge accomplishment. So unless the writer was guilty of racism, sexism or any other kind of unsavoury ism, I’d be loath to criticise. (Strangely, I wouldn’t feel quite the same way if asked to write a review for a professional magazine, such as Viewpoint or Reading Time. Somehow, I see the Blogosphere more as a friendly than a professional space.)

Tye Cattanache of The Book Gryffin is also averse to the idea of writing negative reviews. Her solution is to review only the books she likes. If she thinks a book doesn’t merit a positive review, she simply won’t review it at all.

But while there’s something a little distasteful (to me) about the idea of writers posting negative reviews, I don’t mind the idea of bloggers doing it. Bloggers who aren't published writers (as in, don’t have a book in print) wouldn’t necessarily have the same sense of loyalty as published authors to support their peers.

Having said that, what if your status changes? I wonder how blogger extraordinaire Steph Bowe of Hey, Teenager of the Year will manage the transition. Now that she’s a published (and very famous) author (of a book I'm looking forward to reading), will it change the way she writes reviews? Will she even continue to do so?

(I should have said in a previous post that I met a number of wonderful authors up in Brisbane, and she was among them. And yes, she looks every bit as gorgeous in real life as she does on her blog. I chatted with her and her lovely mum at Festival First Night, and sat next to her for a few minutes at the signing table, where we signed scraps of paper and the occasional book.)

So, should writers post reviews of other authors' books? And if they do, is their obligation to their readers or their peers? What do you think?

It’s a sticky issue; hence my decision not to use my blog to write reviews. However, if I read a YA book and love it, I might just mention it... On that note, I'll finish by saying that in the past month, I’ve read and loved: Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams and Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood. I’m currently reading and loving Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley.

That’s all, folks. Comments welcome!


  1. Hahaha I love your ending!!!

    In other news, I have noticed that since Steph got her book deal reviews that she's done have dwindled to the point of barely being there anymore. I was discussing this very point with an author I can't remember, and we came to the conclusion (actually it may have been Shirley Marr) that its harder, as an author, to review other's work.

    Alison Winn Scotch commented the other day that blurbing is all very incestous, and I have noticed that too. Esp, as I said on my blog, that the Melbourne lit scene is very cliquey.

    Saying that, I still wonder what publisher's want from reviews.

    I wrote this review which had some negative points to it. I emailed it to the publishers and basically asked for their advice - did they want me to tone it down? They replied saying they'd never want me to change my opinion for them.

    I really respect them for that.

  2. Nice of you to ask the publishers but totally unneccessary. No self-respecting publisher would expect you to be anything other than honest. Nor could they expect every review to be overwhelmingly positive. A review is by nature one person's opinion and very subjective.