Negative reviews

I’ve been busy for a while and haven’t had time to keep up with the blogs, so I just found out, courtesy of Jen Robinson and MotherReader, that there’s been a debate about negative reviews raging across the kidlitosphere. Since this is a topic that I’ve been thinking about lately, in what must be some kind of weird blogosphere telephathy, I couldn’t resist adding my two cents.

I remember seeing an episode of the Simpsons TV show in which Homer becomes a food critic. Homer loves food, all kinds of food, so he gives everything a great review. His fellow critics take him to task for this, telling him that it’s a critics job to give bad reviews.

Well, I’m with Homer. I just love books. It’s a rare book that I dislike enough to give a bad review. I can almost always find something good about a book. Maybe it sounds corny, but I see it as my mission as a reviewer to find the soul of a book. That’s partly why I write so few reviews; because I agonize over each one. I do sometimes comment about a book’s shortcomings, but it’s rare that I write a review which is more negative than positive.

In addition, as other bloggers have noted, if I’m really not enjoying a book, I usually don’t finish it. Life is just too short to waste time reading something I’m not enjoying. My reviewing is strictly voluntary, so I have the luxury of choosing which books to review.

Finally, because I am a publisher, and my husband is a writer, I’m keenly aware that every book is someone’s baby. Even if I really dislike a book, I just don’t like to air the dirty laundry in public.

I’m not criticizing those who write negative reviews. I think that they do have a place, particularly in helping budget-constrained librarians and teachers make important purchasing decisions. But I just can’t do it. And neither can I write humorous reviews like MotherReader or Fuse #8, although my guilty pleasure is reading their posts. Sadly, I don’t have the sense of humor to be able to write like that.