Reviews, Reviews

Oh, it’s review time! That lovely point in a book’s life when the critics weigh in with their opinions. They put them in print. And online. And other places people can actually see them.

Sorry, hyperventilating…be right back.

Okay, I’m back.

Reviews are a good thing. I know this. Reviews mean that people are paying attention. You have made something and someone who does not love you, like you, or even know you has bothered to read it and form an opinion about it. If you had told me when I was ten that this would happen to me on a regular basis, my head would have exploded from happiness.

But still—there is the moment when a review for a new book comes in when I clap my hand to my eyes, peek between two fingers, and pray it doesn’t leave my intestines all over the floor.

I’ll just get it out of the way and say the reviews so far for The Girl in the Park have been very kind. You can see them by clicking on the My Books section of this site. PW gave it a starred review—thank you very, very much, PW! And VOYA has always been wonderful and supportive of my books. In general, I find critics of YA literature to be very generous, thoughtful people. (No, I am not just sucking up!) I’ve rarely read a truly nasty, mean spirited review from this crowd.

Which doesn’t mean I’ve never gotten slammed. One adult novel I wrote provoked intense hatred among Amazon buyers. One review was titled “Torture—pure torture!” Another reviewer wrote, “I don’t know who bribed the reviewers on the back cover or some of the other reviewers from this website!”

And so on. Those were not such fun days.

(Just so you know, reviewers are not bribed. Writers do not have that kind of money unless they are J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers, and their readers couldn’t care less what reviewers say. They just want to get their hands on that next book!)

Reviews bring up that basic life issue: should we care what other people think? On the one hand: of course not! Chart your own path! March to our own drummer! Waddle to your own beat!

On the other hand, people probably aren’t going to rush out and buy a book with “the most boring piece of dreck I’ve ever read” emblazoned on the cover. We take people’s opinion into consideration every day, whether it’s how we dress, worrying about a test, or fretting that we’ve upset a friend by saying something boneheaded. And I don’t think that’s a disaster—as long as you don’t get so paralyzed by anxiety you can’t actually leave the house. (Not that that’s ever happened to me. Okay, once or twice.)

Speaking of reviews, I want to recommend a great book I just read: Wonder by R.J. Palacio. A friend passed it to me because the 10 year old hero has a cleft palate, as I did—and a whole lot of other facial issues. His parents have home schooled him in the past. But now August Pullman is starting 5th grade in a regular school. And he doesn’t have an easy time of it. In the beginning, a lot of his classmates can’t handle the way he looks. Some of them are cruel; others are just clueless. August has to figure out: how much do other people’s opinions matter? What power do they have over him? The answers to those questions evolve throughout the book in a very believable, real way. Ms. Palacio isn’t afraid to go for the drama—she wouldn’t be a very fun writer if she were. But she always keeps it real. The kids who are hurtful to August are not all evil. August is not a saint. These are real kids—and that’s what makes the pain and the joy in Wonder so satisfying. If you’re struggling to find your place, having trouble accepting someone who’s a little different, or you know anyone who fits those descriptions, read Wonder. To find out more about the book, go to rjpalacio.com


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