The difficult role of a reviewer…
by Massimo Marino
Sometimes you think reviewing a book must be very easy. You liked it? 5-stars, you didn’t? 1-star. Everything in between is a “yes, but” in the higher or lower tail of the distribution. Some writers take a 3-star as if the reader had said, “as if I haven’t read it”.
It needs much more than that. In this year, when I decided to make my writing public for the first time, I spent a great deal with critters.org people, reading all possible reviews in Amazon and goodreads, and other sites too. Bloggers and reviews from groups and guilds who do essentially that: read books and share their impressions.
The biggest mistake I’ve seen, and the most common, is from readers who have a very specific recipe in mind concerning the stories they want to read. It does not matter whether the book is well written, has grammar errors, is not edited, it doesn’t flow.
For these readers/reviewers if the story follows the expected recipe it is a GREAT book. Of course, they deceive themselves and others. They don’t want to read a story; they want to be told the SAME story over and over again. These readers can give you a 5-star or a 1-star for just one reason: you told them THEIR story or NOT.
Many of the reviews I read around fall into this broad category. The reviewer is motivating his given rank and you can tell immediately it’s6 not a review, it is an opinionated statement: “I liked it a lot because I love green dragons falling in love with their masters and then….”. “I hated it when he betrayed his wife and I had to put the book down. It teaches cheating is acceptable. One star, not recommended.”
The wise readers—of course—will be able to read through the lines and get whether a 5-star shows a terrible book, or if a 1-star suggests this could be truly great, provoking, mind-twisting read.
Sometimes I read a bad-star ratings and the reviewer tells us that the story made him angry, or it was too much to bear for his convictions, or the characters were all doing things that made him ate them, and love instead the poor victim who was helpless. How could the writer let this happen? ONE-STAR!
Poor reader, he had in front of his nose a great book, a writer that had been able to stir deeply inside his emotions and he did not recognize it.
Before reviewing, a reader should expect to hear a different story every time, a believable one, one that makes her sad, mad, laugh, and sometimes even cry. That is the ideal, but if only one of these feelings happens, the story has not betrayed her, it has shaken up her firm beliefs and sometimes—oftentimes—we don’t want anyone to wake-up us from our steady, immutable dream.
I’ve seen this happen to any book, even immortal classics receiving one-stars from the above readers. You’ll never please them unless you write only one story every time, you can only change the names of the characters but beware, not the plot, nor the final: the rule is to never surprise
Reviewing is difficult, you have to have a mind and a heart ready for it, and minds and hearts do work like umbrellas: they function at their best when they are open!
Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – PG13
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