Different eyes

I just read five reviews of the same book.1 One praised the sharpness of the dialogue.2 Another said it was sloppy and the dialogue disconnected. One said it was the best book of its kind published this year. And another hoped that this was the limit to how low the genre could descend. The fifth neither loved nor hated it.

I was given an ARC of this particular book. I stopped reading after the first four pages because I found it cliched, derivative and boring. In particular, it’s a very mediocre pastiche of a writer I happen to love. That’s another reason I stopped reading and re-read a book by that author instead.

The book is now on one of the New York Times bestseller lists. I won’t tell you which, except to say it’s a list I’ll never be on. (Not that I fancy my chances getting on any of the lists I’m eligible for. Not writing tickets. Honest!)

This left me wondering (yet again) how very differently we all read. We can pick up the exact same book and find entirely different things in it. So much is shaped by what you’ve already read. Like my dislke of the book being fed by its marked similarities to the much better writer. I raised that point with someone I know who loves the book in question and they said they thought it was better than the original writer. To which I could only splutter, “Are you barking mad?!”

I have never met anyone I agree with about everything. Scott and I come pretty close. But he thinks American Beauty is a good movie. And does not love Elvis the way I do or, actually, in any kind of way. I guess it would be dull if we agreed about everything.

And yet I am still shocked every time someone (whose opinion I respect) hates something I love. Or loves something I hate.

And when I hate something that everyone else seems to love—like a certain Printz honour book from a few years back—it feel strange and uncomfortable.

You’d think that reading all the reviews of my own books (which range from over-the-top praise through to appalled condemnation of their awfulness, paper-thin characters and condescending language) would have finally hammered home how variable and contradictory people’s responses are.


Intellectually I get it; emotionally I don’t. I’m starting to wonder if I ever will.

People, why can’t you all just think like me?

  1. Nope. Not telling you the name of the book. []
  2. I’m not using the exact language of the reviews in case you were thinking of googling to figure out what the book is. []


  1. Ally on #

    first comment! now only if it was on scott’s! lol


  2. haddy on #

    no ones awnsered so maybe it will work on here too (sadly i doubt it):(

  3. Ammy on #

    I can totally relate to this. At the start of this year, I read a book that I instantly LOVED. Looking back on it, I almost feel embarrassed because I became so crazy about the book. Quite obviously, people began to notice my near-hysteric love for it and they began to ask questions:
    What book is it? Who is it by? Why haven’t I heard of it before?

    And some people even said, “I love that book so much but I haven’t read it!!!” Which was undeniably weird.

    And so, about 20 people read that book because I recommended it to them. Most of them forgot about the book, but a few of them got back to me. My closest friends HATED it, and only one out of five people loved it. Which was really strange considering how popular the book had become in USA by then.

    And slowly, my obsession became to wear off. Just now, my friend (who hated the book) told me she saw the sequel in a bookstore and the most excited I could become was, “Oh. Ok. Right.”

    But the point is that I was shocked when I found out that my friends didn’t like the book. I must have argued my point for hours on end with her but she remained firm. I just couldn’t understand why she didn’t like it.

  4. Laini on #

    I just read multiple reviews of a book I really loved — and was very surprised to find the reviews fairly negative and condescending. I was really astonished. The book is also on bestseller lists right now — oh, okay, it’s Water for Elephants (LOVED it), and I felt like there was a tone to the reviews (of the paperback) as if the reviewers sort of took umbrage to the fact that it had dared to become successful without their endorsement!

    I’m more often taking the position you are in this post – -being baffled as to why something has become a bestseller; but in this case I really thought it deserved it!

  5. Kate McCaffrey on #

    Hi there,
    This whole reviewer thing is something I’ve been immersed in lately. Last year saw the publication of my first novel- here in Oz. Young adult fiction written with, you guessed it, the young adult in mind. While it has received some good reviews- it’s also seen some terrible ones. Ones that make you wonder if you once mistakenly slept with the reviewer’s boyfriend! Some reviewers can be terribly vicious- and personal (and I remember every bad word- but not many of the good ones!)And then a good one comes along, or a reader emails to tell you how the book has affected their life (in a positive way!!) and everything seems right and normal again.
    Another puzzling aspect is where the reviews fall. I find it odd that I’ve been reviewed in “Literary Fiction” sections of publications when my book has never maintained to be a work of literary fiction. And so then suffers the slings and arrows of not making the mark! (Kind of like comparing an Appaloosa with a thoroughbred).
    My Dad maintains you can’t please all the people all the time (though I was SURE I’d be the exception). My Mum says some people’s taste is only in their mouth.
    Sounds about right to me!!!

  6. Diana on #

    Ones that make you wonder if you once mistakenly slept with the reviewer’s boyfriend!

    I know those reviews. Fabulous. You really wonder what you did to piss them off.

    Or the ones that plainly don’t get the point of the book. Ah well…

  7. sherwood on #

    yep. just finished one yesterday (and it was a dutiful slog over days) that is selling fantastically, praised for its brilliance, which I found lovely in spots, but horrible, or predictable, in far more spots. sigh, obviously according to the world I am the blind one.

  8. PJ Hoover on #

    Even if I could just get my husband to think like me, life would be so much easier.

Comments are closed.