All I share on Facebook are very good to amazing reviews, but as you can imagine, they’re not all good: I’ve had three “mediocre” to bad.
At first, I was saddened, of course, and even more so, frustrated, because the “badder” one contained important spoilers, so I couldn’t share it although it held some definitely positive elements inside.
The two-star review starts like this: “Wow. So okay. The beginning of this was awesome. I was really into the idea of Finn trying to spend her last 24 hours doing things. I thought that the character development of Finn, her brother, and her mother was awesome. I loved the dynamic between them, and I really liked how they all talked to each other during the book,” and it ends like this: “There was just too much going on, and I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around the final 20% of this book. I wanted to know more about Walt and Matt, and I’m not sure if I missed it, but it felt like there was a chapter or two that I was missing that would explain what was going on with their stories and relationships in regards to Finn. Overall I liked the first half of this movie more than the second, but I did enjoy the book on a whole.”
All right, so that’s two “awesome,” one “loved,” two “liked,” and a rather positive conclusion but “enjoy[ing] [a] book on a whole” apparently takes away 3 stars out of 5.
This reminded me of an anecdote I’d read a while back. A young 2nd- or 3rd-grade teacher recites a multiplication table to her class. It’s her first year teacher, so she’s a little apprehensive, and as she recites, she makes one error. One error…against nine otherwise correct multiplications. Yet the only thing the kids remembered by the end of the lesson was that the teacher had made an error.
Most of us are probably like these kids, me included: we forget most of the good and focus on what we disliked. Writing Phoenix made me realize a lot of things, and that is one I’m working on. So I went to my GoodReads account and browsed my bookshelves, looking for debut novels that I might have been too quick to underrate—I found one, and upped it with one extra star.
I’m in no way writing this in case the reviewer recognizes herself and changes her mind, no; I’m writing this because I’m sharing this journey with you and it certainly isn’t an easy one, and I now know what it feels like to be a debut author.
Another review is rated “3.5/5” but the reviewer chose to round it down to 3 stars rather than 4 in spite of her last comment: “[I] would not hesitate to recommend it for anyone who enjoys a work of fiction with a twist of romance! Really, it is a great debut novel! I warn you that this book will make you think about your life and might inspire you to call your parents :)”
My friend Michelle reminded me that it was still more reviews and that it was much worse to be ignored. Ever the encouraging one! (Thank you!)
But she’s right; that’s good. Not every reader can feel the same way about a story and give it 4 or 5 stars. And in truth, I’ve never been more suspicious of a book than when all readers had silently agreed to greet it with 5 shining stars.
And finally, a last reviewer wrote: “This book is about Phoenix Collins (not too creative a name), who overheard from hospital staff that she only had 24 hours to live. The novel is geared toward young adults and early 20s new adults, but as an adult I enjoyed the book. Overall, the book reminded me of a serious version of Going Bovine by Libba Bray. The author started the book off strong, but sadly didn’t end as well as it began. The ending seemed hurried, and honestly I think the book may have been better off as a duology instead of a standalone. I think Phoenix was a strong character, but the other characters were also a little rushed, like the story, in their development.”
This one puzzled me a little because Phoenix is going to be a series, and although I’m still uncertain whether there’ll be a book#3, book#2 is already outlined, partly drafted, and even has a title. Maybe I took the wrong decision when I chose not to mention that ahead (I don’t honestly have a single clue whether or not it was a mistake. I’m a toddler learning how to put one foot in front of the other here) but I have a reason for it—and it does read as a standalone so I didn’t think it would matter. And as for Phoenix’s name—or her date of birth, or a lot of other elements in the book for that matter—there’s a whole lot more to it than it seems. Anyway, so I’m learning from my mistakes. As Margaret Artwood and others would say, “You become a writer by writing—there is no other way. So do it, do it better. Fail, fail better. Somewhere out there, there are the readers for your book.”
PS/ I’m not the girl in the photo—I look nothing as graceful…