As a writer, one of the biggest pieces of advice you are given is don’t read reviews. It was never something I listened to. Call me a rebel, a glutton for punishment, whatever you like, because it’s not going to stop me.
I like to read the reviews for my books because personally I think it helps me as a writer. If more than one person points something out, I think about it, try to understand their reasoning, and even some times take it into consideration when writing my next book. I don’t go crazy if someone rates my book a one or two star and then writes a review explaining why they rated it that way. For me, books are an art, and when you put them out into the world you are leaving them open for interpretation just as a painter/photographer/sculptor does when they place their work in a gallery.
And guess what. Not everybody likes the same thing. Shocker! I know. Think about it for a second. How boring of a world would we live in if everyone interpreted things the same way? If everybody, felt exactly the same, with no varying degrees of emotion. I don’t know what you think about that, but it is definitely not a world I want to live in. I love diversity, opinions, and how I can look at the same painting as ten other people yet each one of us see and feel something completely different.
There is however something that bothers me in reviews and maybe it’s just me and I’m being oversensitive to the subject. Maybe I’m completely contradicting everything I said above, but before you jump to that conclusion, hear me out. I actually cringe when I read a review for a Young Adult book, whether it be one of my books or someone else's, and the reviewer says I hated the characters because they were dumb teenagers…
I don’t know about everybody else, but I was a dumb teenager. If you weren’t, good for you and more power to you, but for me that wasn’t the case. I was emotional and irrational and to this day don’t know how my parents didn’t ship me off somewhere far far away from them. I felt with all of my being, and the simplest thing, in my eyes, was the end of the world. I loved deeply and lived fearlessly. I acted dumb, I made dumb decisions, and I don’t regret a single one because that’s what shaped me to be the adult I am today.
So when I write my YA books I write them from a place I hold dear in my heart and I try my best to keep them as authentic as I possibly can. I let the adult in me take a nap and I open myself up to the teen I once was. I write through her, through her memories and her experiences. I tell the story with her view of the world because it hasn’t been tainted by the rational thinking of adulthood.
My books aren’t a PSA and they never will be because I’d rather a teen read my book and be able to relate to the characters, to all of their beautiful, messy, confusing flaws. There’s enough pressure on teens today being told how to act and how to live their lives and I refuse to jump on that bandwagon, creating a world in my books that strips away the gritty truth of being a teen.
I know, as an adult, it’s hard to rationalize with a teen’s mind set. I think of all the things I did back then, how I overreacted daily, let my emotions control me, and again the first word that comes to my mind is dumb. It was dumb. I can’t deny that. However, if I send the adult in me to go take a nap and let my teen self emerge, she would think there is nothing wrong with it.
I started this post with saying everybody interprets things differently and I stand by that. The only thing I want is when you read a YA book and you get frustrated with the characters just take a second and think back to your teen self. Imagine what he/she would say. Would your teen self be frustrated or would they be able to relate? I think most times than not you’d be surprised with the answer.
Happy Saturday, everyone!