If you’re a writer, or a blogger, or a reviewer, or a reader, you’ve probably heard about this.
Basically a YA writer got a bad review. (Well nearly 200 bad reviews). Lots of good reviews too. But one reviewer allegedly internet-stalked her, talked bad about her to other reviewers, and sort of low-level harassed her.
The writer, a rich girl with all kinds of connections who probably would be self-publishing if it weren’t for her privilege and nepotism, with an admitted history of stalking, went crazy. She stalked the reviewer to her house. Few people would agree with this choice and even if not illegal it’s certainly ill-advised for a host of reasons. Thing is: she uncovered some interesting things about her reviewer/harasser, including a completely fake online presence with stolen pictures from friends and all kinds of craziness.
There are 1000 or more places to read people condoning one side or the other. Reviewers have flocked to defend the reviewer, naturally, as have many other writers. But the “layperson,” at least on the Guardian, perspective tends to side with the author. (Not the least because it’s her side of the story. )
There’s so much madness here that you can cut it a lot of different ways. But the one thing I haven’t seen mentioned yet (though I’m sure it has been) is that what we’re really talking about here is the nature of reviews.
I haven’t read the book in question and I won’t. It’s not for me by any means. YA fiction at the best of times is a hard slog for me and this looks to be a pretty bad example, rife with all the bad tropes of the genre. But the reviewer who read this book judged it not for writing but for “not being politically correct enough.” She was offended by, among other things, references to PTSD, a character being called a minor epithet, and an insensitive ruse. These things caused the reviewer to stop reading the book and give it one star. (You can see the entire thing here.)
To me, that’s really worrying. We all have our ethics, we all have our moral boundaries. But judging the writing of someone else based on my personal ethics seems like the very worst way to review, and I think that’s led to the “echo-chamber” and bad reputation of goodreads reviewers. I think we’d all agree that if, as a vegan, I gave one-star reviews to all books where people ate dairy or cows it would be a waste of reviews altogether. It would be ridiculous as minimalist for me to give one-star reviews to books where people made large, unnecessary purchases.
I could go on. But the issues of culture wars through online reviews is far deeper than I can go into now. This particular case, however, is a rare one (for me) where both sides are so firmly entrenched in wrong that it’s fascinating to try and grok which one is more right.