A question about accuracy in reviews

Reading a negative review of a book that you’ve written feels like dunking your face into a vat of battery acid. Painful and dumb.

Reading a positive review doesn’t hurt, but I still find it to be unsettling. Usually I’ll read a review once, be grateful for anything positive, try to learn from any constructive criticism, and if the review makes me sting, I soothe the pain with liberal applications of comfort food. Mashed potatoes work especially well.

I would never, ever, ever respond to a review. Reviewers are allowed to have their opinions, just like readers, and it doesn’t make any sense for me to get on my high horse and defend my work just because a reviewer didn’t like it.

But what to do when a review gets the major facts of the story wrong?

This just happened.

The Times newspaper (of London, England) online version now has a joint review of Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Chains, by me. The review of Chains is at the end of the article and is brief and positive. Normally I would be completely thrilled by a mention like this.

Except. But. Er……

The reviewer says the book is “Set in the South at the time of the civil war…”

It’s not. The book covers events in Rhode Island and New York City from May 27, 1776 – January 19, 1777. The dates are mentioned at the beginning of each chapter. The whole point of the book was to examine slavery in the context of the Revolutionary War not in the context of the Civil War as has so often been done.

For a moment I thought perhaps people in Britain called the American Revolution a “civil war.” There is an argument that could be made for that interpretation. But I double-checked and all of my sources say that Brits refer to it as “The War for American Independence” or “The War of Independence” as in this BBC article.

I’m not angry, just a little bummed at the missed opportunity. I had hoped that folks in Great Britain might be interested in the book because the Revolutionary War and slavery were a part of their historical experience, too.

I don’t plan on writing to the newspaper because I don’t see that it will make much of a difference. In the grand scheme of things, this is a storm in a teacup. (And I am sure the tea is wonderful because the Brits are much better at brewing it than we are.)

Has anyone else had experience with this? Any thoughts?

Snow, Miami, and Hope

In the last 24 hours, we’ve gotten about a foot and half of snow. This makes our snowfall for the season so far at about eleven and half feet, which is pretty much average. Our meadow and forest are beautiful and serene and I am writing by the fire. Life is pretty good.

But some of you shudder at the thought of all that snow (yes, OfficeMouse, looking at you) and this is an all-inclusive kind of blog, so I’ll warm your day with a picture of happy authors at the Miami Book Festival, courtesy of author Greg Neri.

From the left (note the shorts) we have a super-nice guy whose name I can’t remember, poet Lee Bennett Hopkins, Heather Henson, Greg, and me. Note that I am not wearing shorts.

I’ll be writing and taking care of family business this weekend, but every moment I will be anticipating Tuesday’s historic and blessed Inauguration of our new President. I feel like I am watching history unfold with Isabel standing to one side of me and Curzon on the other, all three of us celebrating this incredible country.

A Star for a Sub-Zero Day

THIS is nice way to get all toasty warm on the inside: second review for WINTERGIRLS, second star. Thank-you School Library Journal!!!

From SLJ February 2009: ANDERSON, Laurie Halse. Wintergirls. 288p. Viking. Mar. 2009. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01110-0. LC number unavailable.

Gr 8 Up–The intensity of emotion and vivid language here are more reminiscent of Anderson’s Speak (Farrar, 1999) than any of her other works. Lia and Cassie had been best friends since elementary school, and each developed her own style of eating disorder that leads to disaster. Now 18, they are no longer friends. Despite their estrangement, Cassie calls Lia 33 times on the night of her death, and Lia never answers. As events play out, Lia’s guilt, her need to be thin, and her fight for acceptance unravel in an almost poetic stream of consciousness in this startlingly crisp and pitch-perfect first-person narrative. The text is rich with words still legible but crossed out, the judicious use of italics, and tiny font-size refrains reflecting her distorted internal logic. All of the usual answers of specialized treatment centers, therapy, and monitoring of weight and food fail to prevail while Lia’s cleverness holds sway. What happens to her in the end is much less the point than traveling with her on her agonizing journey of inexplicable pain and her attempt to make some sense of her life.

Head over to the WINTERGIRLS MySpace page to read an excerpt and check other reviews. Friend us! Ask everyone you know to friend us, too!



Remember the photo I took in the Milwaukee Airport last fall?

The American Dialect Society loves the same sign! They named it the Most Creative Word Use of 2008. Here’s from their report: “WINNER: recombobulation area: An area at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee in which passengers that have just passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back in order.”

Read the whole thing, esp. “bromance” and “Palinesque”.

And (this is totally unrelated) I really must learn Japanese. (English explanation of the site).

Must-Get-Writing Monday

A quick entry today because I need to get to the library when it opens.

Thank you Susane Colasanti for the awesome review of WINTERGIRLS. Release date in March 19th!

And not to leave CHAINS shivering in the snow, here’s what Jerry, a teacher in Texas thinks.

Last but not least, I received a note from a teen reader this weekend who loves SPEAK and wants to read other books like it. Can you help me out with this? What do you recommend?

PS – I shall be singing the Eagles Fight Song quietly under my breath all day.