Remember that Jon Lovitz cartoon where the titular character ended every review with “it stinks!”? I thought it was pretty funny, mostly because I had not a) put anything out there to be rated, and b) had not been told anything of mine stunk.
Well, now I can check off both a and b. After a weekend of heavy drinking (kidding!!!), I have had some space and time to reflect and am actually okay with this review. Why? Because sometimes things aren’t created for the critics, and I can’t please everyone all of the time. Why else? Because all I wanted to do was to put something out there, not win a dang Nobel Prize for Literature. So here goes… Credit (?) for the blunt criticism goes to The BookLife Prize. I’m not going to cut and paste their website; you can Google them, thank you very much.
Below are the excerpts from the review, and some thoughts in reply:
Plot: The plot relies too heavily on “hot button” topics to propel the characters forward without contextualization or narrative follow through. Additionally, the pacing drags at times and readers will often find themselves wishing for more background information.
Point taken, though I would argue that college girls have issues. Sometimes more than one at a time. When you take into account seven characters, there is bound to be a “hot button” topic or two.
Also, regarding the pacing, that’s good feedback. I’ll take that.
Finally, regarding the narrative follow-through, I understand now that it has left some readers a bit empty-handed. This was intentional, to mimic real life’s occasional inability to tie things up neatly and unambiguously, and my execution seems to have faltered. Another good piece of feedback.
Prose: The voices of the teenage characters fall flat—often they speak in a way that feels contrived, as if an adult were unsuccessfully trying to talk like a teenager.
I think this one bugs me the most. Perhaps I could have added more “dude”s and “ya know”s and other teenage colloquialisms, though these are not young teenagers, and they are actually attending a somewhat prestigious college. True: it was an adult trying to talk like a teenager, but I feel like the reviewer should have given the characters themselves more credit, or at least considered that women talk differently to women– especially when trying to discuss some pretty (there’s that term again) “hot button” topics with each other.
Originality: Although the book has an interesting premise, readers will find the hot button topics that drive the plot and the issues facing the characters vaguely familiar.
This comment is vaguely meaningful.
Character Development: The array of characters presented in the narrative are underdeveloped, with too much focus on one-dimensional and reductive descriptions and not enough demonstration of personality through dialogue and situational context. Additionally, the book focuses on too many characters, sacrificing an opportunity to develop individual personalities.
I assume the reviewer is alluding to the straight characters? If that’s the case, welcome to the life of a gay reader. We grew up in a one-dimensional world where gay characters were a blip on the screen, or a one-line joke/plot device, yet we yearned for more.
With that said, the underdevelopment was partly intentional. Though as I mentioned earlier, I realize now that it wasn’t pulled off like I had hoped. For instance… that character who is wholly ignored by her group of “friends”? Also ignored by the writer. The muted behavior of some of the characters? Written like that to illustrate the effect society had on them at the time.
I also wonder if part of the want on the reviewer’s part is thanks to the glut of exposition-filled narratives we have out there. Superhero origin stories, where we are spoon-fed the motives and the background so that there is no ambiguity and discomfort in a nebulous space. Perhaps.
So, that was my first face-to-face critique– I don’t love it, but I do understand it. You see, I like some things that a lot of others don’t and vice versa. “Game of Thrones” (book or show), “Stranger Things,” vampire books… these are all things that I’ll take a pass on. But give me a slow folk song or a John Steinbeck novel, and I’m in for the night. As they say, “to each their own,” and I’m still hoping that there is a good balance of both “each” and “own” out there.