Criticism

So I’m in a bit of a quandary today. You see, I finished reading a book last night, and I was left rather disappointed. It was Middle Grade fantasy, and so much of it came across as contrived and stupid. Characters make dumb decisions, the magic is introduced as it’s necessary to advance the plot, there are several (hopefully unintentional) racist sections . . . So what should I do? Should I tell the world what book this is and encourage them to avoid it, or should I bite my tongue and keep silent.

If this book had come up in my writing group, I would have gone in with both guns blazing, saying just what I thought. The plot is contrived and predictable, the characters are flat, the point of view uninspired. But should I–as a hopeful one-day author–be spending effort discouraging people from reading a particular book? Then again, as a librarian, I evaluate books all the time. If I were a children’s librarian, there’s no way I’d pay for this book. And then again (again), if this were a movie, I’d give it my one or two stars out of four (the magic was very original, even if it was rather convenient at times), and move on.

In the end, I think I’m going to bite my tongue. I have my personal opinions, and just like I wouldn’t go blabbing what I think about this person or that person online, I’m not going to be criticizing authors, either. Part of me feels like I’m worrying too much about it–people will pick apart whatever they want, so authors better get used to it. But at the same time, this author is a friend of a friend, and there’s such a thing as courtesy.

So let’s leave it at that. The book was lousy, and it shouldn’t have gotten printed (in my oh-so-valuable estimation). But that’s how it goes sometimes. What do you all think? Should I have identified the book and author by name? Or am I actually (for once) making a tactful decision?

On a positive note, I watched Patriot Games last night while DKC was off groceryizing, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Good action, plausible reactions, nice acting, good plot–a solid three stars. Not as good as Hunt for Red October was (the first of the Jack Ryan movies), but still a great entry in the series.

9 thoughts on “Criticism”

  1. I make it a rule lately not to bash other authors on my blog. I figure, it’s a really small industry, and I don’t want to burn any bridges. So I rant about books I don’t like in other venues. I think you made the right decision.

  2. Yeah–that burning bridges things. That’s the biggest thing I was worried about. Hurting people’s feelings is a non-issue when it comes to writing, I believe. You need a thick skin. But somehow insulting someone who might be able to help you someday (or hurt you back) . . . dicey.

  3. Right. If it came up in writing group, the person would be asking for your opinion. Honesty is a must. But since it’s already published and can’t be helped now…probably not going to do anyone any good anyway…and only stands to make peers mad at you.

  4. Do I have your email? Because I’m more than happy to tell people in a private setting. In fact–I feel obligated to warn my friends. 🙂 Actually, I really wish I could discuss this with someone.

  5. Seriously?
    Okay, Bryce, I totally want to know what book you are talking about or at least give me a head’s up on Goodreads. I have kids and parents asking for recommendations all the time at the library, so of course I want to avoid a lame duck.:)
    –Holly in Utah (who does not yet have a Livejournal account but will strive to become more technologically savvy.)

  6. Should be encouraging.
    I think it’s good not to blog about it, but it should be a definite encouragement to keep being aggressive about submitting your books. If a book like that can be published there’s no way yours shouldn’t be. It’s a very long hall with hundreds of doors. You’ve just got to find the right one.

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