Friday, April 30, 2010

Are we too nice?

A post by Mel over at Mel's Books and Info brought an interesting question to the forefront. In response to a article in the Huffington Post (the link to which I can't find, and is probably irrelevant) Mel talked about those of us bloggers who read and review primarily Young Adult books and our tendencies. The original HP article contended that we are "too nice in our reviews, not giving a fair critique of the material, and giving women authors preferential treatment". That's a pretty big statement to make, especially considering the shear number of bloggers out there. Mel talked about her thoughts on the subject, and now I want to talk about mine. Obviously I can't answer the accussations for every blogger out there, so I'll just tell you how I feel on it :) Enjoy!

Are we too nice? I don't think so. In fact most of us can be pretty darn snarky when discussing books, but in my opinion, that attitude is best left out of a review. Every book has value, what I find wonderful might be increadibly boring to someone else, and what I hate, might just be someone else's cup of tea. Books that I really dislike, and there are lots of them, I don't finish. I take about 1/3 of the books that I check out back to the library having never made it to the end. I don't get paid to do this job (although that would be awesome) and there are too many books out there to spend time reading something that just doesn't do it for me. My "to read" pile is usually about 6-10 books high, so if I don't get into a book I just move on to something else. I don't write reviews of these unfinished books, because, to be honest, that would make for a pretty short review. There are a few books on my blog that I haven't liked, but finished anyways, in hopes they would get better. In those reviews I clearly say what I didn't like and why, but I also try to point out some of the great parts too. In the same vein, if I love a book, but there is something that rubbed me the wrong way about the book, I try to point that out as well.

Do we give a fair critique? I try to, and I'd hope most bloggers try to. Everyone has an opinion, so there will be those moments where we are biased. A book about my favorite subject, while maybe not the best written book, might get a better review simply because I love the subject matter. The same goes if a book is about something I don't have a huge interest in, but is impecably written. One example here is my feelings on Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, by most accounts a fantastic book. For me, I got so hung up by the location portrayed in the book, my hometown, and the fact that I couldn't recognize any of the locations she referenced, that the rest of the book suffered. The book took a place I call home and made it unrecognizable. So sometimes, regardless of how wonderful the writing is, the book just doesn't work for certain readers. In my opinion, reading is such a personal thing, despite the fact that we share our experience with the masses through our blogs. The best we can do is enjoy the books and the journey and give a fair and honest opinion on it.

Do we give preferential treatment to women? I thought this was probably the most interesting part of the question, because to answer it you really have to take a broad look at what you read and why. Technically, you can only review the books that you read, so you really have to look at what books you tend to pick up. I'll admit to the fact tht I rarely look at the authors name until after the fact. Right now it feels like I've been reading alot of women writers, because that's whose putting out the books I'm interested in. However, if I look across the board, and to do so I would be leaving the tiny corner of the book world that is Young Adult books, I find that some of my favorite authors are not women. In the YA world, two of my recent favorites are Sherman Alexie, whose The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, was phenomenal and Ben Mickalsen, whose Spirit Bear books I absolutely loved. On the oppsite end, refer back to my opinion on Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I did a quick look through some book festivals that focus on YA books and found that in most cases there were far more female writers on the panels then male which leads me to believe that in general, there are just more women writing in this field then men. Simply put, that means that we are more likely to grab a book to review by a woman- that's just the odds. That being said, I'd never put a book down just because it was by a guy, so for me it's more about what the book is about, whether it grabs my attention and holds it, then who it is written by.

What does everyone else think about all this? Sound off in the comments- or if you can't keep concise (as clearly I could not) go ahead and blog about it too!


  1. Just stopped by from the blog hop and started following, I really liked your post today and agreed completely with your thoughts on the issue!

  2. You make some really great points! Especially about what we choose to read and the fact that we aren't getting paid to do these reviews. I don't review my books for money or really any compensation at all. Yeah, it helps me in my job if I can read and recommend titles, but since my employer doesn't give me work time to read, all of it is done in my free time. Since that is the case, I want to read books I will enjoy.

  3. I agree. Sometimes I review a book just after I read it and write really awesome things about it. But after I really, really, think about it. It isn't all that good.

  4. I have that problem too Milli- or I think a book is pretty awesome, until I read the next book and then in comparison it just doesn;t stack up.

  5. Hey Kate, thanks for posting this over here (I didn't see the original article)

    I actually agree TO AN EXTENT - a lot of blog reviews seem more like publicity than actual "objective" reviews...and some of them are. I think that if bloggers get ARCs or something from an author/publisher, they're more likely to try and find something nice to say, just because there's a sort of relationship. I know that I've agreed to review a few authors' books, and I'm really hoping that I like them, because I "know" them (sort of) and don't want to make them mad! So while I like it when other bloggers enjoy a book, I want to know WHY they liked it, and sometimes they don't really say...

    I personally have a tendency to be critical in my reviews, and I've had to reword some of them because they sounded too harsh... :D

    As for preferential treatment... I think some bloggers do (girl power! and all that) but in my own experience, I confess that if I give preferential treatment to anyone, it's men! Usually I like "guy authors" better than women authors - especially in YA categories (MG, I pretty much like everybody)

    Again, thanks for the article! Sorry my comment is so long... :)