These days, anyone can get published, and anyone can write a book review. Which in some ways is a good thing, and in some ways is not. I have Google alerts set up for Maggie MacKeever and was recently notified of a reader’s review of one of my early books that called it ‘dumb’ and ‘really bad’. I don’t take these things too seriously any more — for every book that someone hates, there is at least one someone else who loves it — but I have a problem with people who review books without understanding what they are.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of that sort of thing going around. It’s the equivalent of me reading a Dan Brown book and saying the story’s bad simply because I don’t enjoy that kind of thing. In reality, what I do or don’t enjoy reading has nothing to do with whether or not the book is ‘good’. Generally, I don’t care much for best sellers. That hardly means the books are ‘bad’.
‘I liked it’ or ‘I hated it’ doesn’t make a decent book review. Neither does ‘it wasn’t what I expected’, which implies that the author is supposed to figure out ahead of time what a particular reader wants to read, and then write that book instead of what’s in his or her heart.
The book of mine so recently panned was a Traditional Regency, basically a comedy of manners set in early 19th century England, with no onstage sex. It’s a genre that few publishers handle any more. So now, twenty-five years after it was published, a reader picks up the book, doesn’t understand it, and informs the world that it’s ‘bad’ when it’s actually a pretty good example of what it was supposed to be.
I’m tempted to say, Bite me. But, really, what difference does one person’s opinion make?
Update, two days later. Another Google Alert, another review of an old book. This reader got it. She gave me five stars.