Reading reviews

Posted on Feb 4, 2015 | 2 comments

You’re not supposed to read the reviews of your book. Most authors I’ve heard speak about this say they never read their reviews.

To be honest, I don’t believe them. And while I may one day get to where I have so many reviews I feel okay ignoring them, right now reviews are hard-won. To be sure, I haven’t been burned yet; what reviews Washashore has received, either on Amazon and Goodreads or in the media, have been positive.

But it’s also true that sometimes reviews hold nuggets a writer can learn from. That’s what I’m going to take from this review, posted last week on the bird-lovers website 10,000 Birds. First of all, the reviewer liked the book. I especially value that when it comes from someone who knows something about birds: hey, I got it right! Turns out this reviewer is both a writer and a birder, and lives on a Montana ranch with an osprey nest and osprey webcam.

And she had much good to say. I liked this: “Clem’s strained but ultimately loving relationships with her mother and best friend Coco are also handled well. Both of these characters could have ended up being cliche Bad Women as a foil for Clem – her mother as the practical harpy who drives away fun-loving Dad with demands that he contribute financially instead of screwing around with poetry, and Coco as the worldly, shallow girl who likes parties and clothes and older boys more than nature. . . And although there is a scene that sort of ground my teeth, in which Coco’s behavior lures both girls into after-school-special-style Stranger Danger, in the end both of these characters come through for Clem in a big way and are shown to be caring people who are doing the best they can.”

Okay, she didn’t like the party scene. But I was glad that the resolution of Clem’s relationships with Coco and Nora resonated.

The reviewer thinks I could have better developed Daniel, and taken a more critical stance towards Clem’s willingness to sacrifice for him. I…don’t know. I think Clem’s love for Daniel as a friend is what drives her to take a risk for him, and the move toward romance is secondary. But I’ll take a look back at Daniel’s character development. I’ve got more novels to write, and plenty to learn. And when a reviewer takes my book so seriously, I am moved to take her critique seriously as well. Especially since it ends up like this:

“I’d have been just as happy if their growing relationship was presented as a friendship, maybe with a hint of promise for the future – but I can’t say if fourteen-year-old me would agree. I think fourteen-year-old me would have enjoyed this book very much as it is.”

The bonus from this review? A new osprey cam to watch, when the birds return from migration! You can see it right here.

2 Comments

  1. I’m glad you found the review helpful! The folks who watch the Dunrovin webcam were tickled to hear about a new book that talks about osprey, and I’m sure some nieces, nephews, and grandkids will end up with copies.

  2. That’s great, Carrie! Thanks for your review. I’ll be watching the Dunrovin webcam, too!

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