Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why I've Been Silent

It's been a while since I reviewed a book. Almost a month, in fact. I'll tell you why.

I started this blog to promote the forthcoming titles that I was excited to sell. When I first began blogging (elsewhere, at an undisclosed location) I would review everything I read--which meant that four out of five titles would get lukewarm or bad reviews. I was not sparing with my criticism. But then I stopped to think about what purpose my negative reviews could possibly serve.

As a teacher and children's book specialist, every day I see kids getting excited about books I don't personally like. A classic example is The Mysterious Benedict Society. I found it boring and lacking in atmosphere. But last year my third graders went CRAZY over the series. Kids who would otherwise be intimidated by a 485-page tome were reading it without hesitation. Now, imagine that before any of them had read it I'd publicly disparaged the book, picking apart the things I didn't like and halfheartedly praising the things I did. Do you think those kids, who liked me and respected my opinions about books, would have been so excited about reading it? I don't. And it's not my job--in fact, it's the opposite of my job--to limit readers' enjoyment of books in any way.

So here, on this blog, I keep my negative reviews to myself. I don't review books that earned fewer than four stars on my page. And I haven't read any of those in the last two weeks.

Some people have criticized my review policy, saying that they're not real reviews if I only say nice things about the books. This is probably true. Some people say that I'm only trying to ingratiate myself to authors and publishers by never ripping apart a bad book. This is not true. I have no problem telling someone that they won't like a particular book. But I won't tell the world that a book shouldn't be read just because I didn't like it. Who knows, maybe that book is the one that turns a reluctant reader into an avid one.

Addition: I do not read e-books or accept self-published novels for review.


Whaler said...

I think this sounds like a great policy!

Jessica Bell said...

What's your reason for not accepting self-published novels? There are some pretty good ones out there!