My next book, Invisible Sun, is due out in a couple of months, which means that reviews are starting to filter in. Reviews come from two primary sources these days, print journals and review blogs. Print journals have been around forever. Blog reviews are a very recent phenomenon. When Soul Enchilada came out in 2009, there were very few blogs that reviewed YA ARCs. Now, there are dozens, maybe hundreds. There is Goodreads (which I avoid like a cloak re-gifted by Medea)adding to the deluge. While the source of the reviews have changed, one thing hasn’t, and that’s the varied quality of the reviews. In both print and blogger reviews, the quality of the writing and insight varies greatly. To me, though, it doesn’t matter because I don’t read them unless either someone sends me a link or mails me a paper copy of the review. I don’t seek the reviews out anymore, and I use an app to block review sites from search results. I don’t like reading even terrific reviews. Why? Because I’m thin-skinned. And that, that is a good thing.
Writers are commonly told to grow a thick skin. That, my friends, is nonsense, because thick-skinned people are not very good writers. They are bullet proof to criticism, yes, but they also lack the insight and empathy required to feel the emotions that should resonant throughout their work. Two recent novels, See You at Harry’s and The Fault in Our Stars, are full of such raw, terrible emotions that they move the readers to tears. Neither of the authors are thick-skinned. They are empathetic, creative, and sensitive. They have great insight into the human condition. They see what we can’t and hold up a mirror so that we can see ourselves. Remove those qualities from the writers, wrap them in protective callouses, and no reader will shed a tear at their work. No one will care enough to write a review.
So the next time you read that Author X must suffer gladly the slings and arrows of critique, consider this: If Author X changes, there would be no great characters, no heart-breaking story, and no emotion that lingers for days after the reading. In fact, there would be no book at all, which would be a very sad thing indeed.
***Thanks to everyone for the comments, retweets, and reposting.