Reviews are Dish Best Served Cold

Actually, a better title for this post would have been “Book comes out tomorrow. Book comes out tomorrow. Book comes out tomorrow. Book comes…” as long as you heard it in your head as if spoken by a very nervous and jittery author bouncing back and forth on the balls of his feet and chewing his fingernails.

So yeah. My book comes out tomorrow. And the reviews are trickling in.

Beyond the Doors lands in bookstores and online catalogs and on the doorsteps of those lucky enough and smart enough to have pre-ordered it. Both of you. I’m very nervous to see how this fares. I’m quite proud of it. I feel like it’s a good read and kids will like it. At the end of the day, that’s about all I can do. The rest is out of my hands.

One of the first things new writers are told is “Don’t Read Your Reviews!” Friends tell you this. Other authors tell you this. Agents and publishers tell you this. So naturally, you read all of your reviews. With Dr. Fell, that was rather easy, as it earned mainly positive reviews across the board. Enough so that the negative reviews could easily be discounted.

Beyond the Doors may well end up the same, as only a few reviews have come in, but this far, my book seems to be polarizing people. Some love it. They gush, they fawn, I blush. But some don’t. And that can be really anxiety-inducing. It is even more frustrating when I read a review and feel… well.. cheated.

Case in point. As of this moment, Beyond the Doors has 5 advanced reviews on Amazon from their Vine Customer Reviews. Two reviews gave it 5 stars.  One gave it 4 stars. Two give it 2 stars. Let me tell you, it sucks to read a 2-star review of your work. But what really gets me is the reasons these people give me 2-stars.

Again, Case in Point. One reviewer spends the review complaining that the adult characters were unrealistic. That no social worker would really act like that. That no one would be as loopy as the aunt. Then the reviewer says ” I haven’t read the Series of Unfortunate Events book that this apparently should be shelved near… it may be part of a genre that just rubs me the wrong way.¬†Perhaps some other reviewer can give a review in that context.”


That’s like saying “I hate all Fantasy. Elves. Dwarves. Dragons. That stuff just isn’t real. So I give Lord of the Rings 2 stars.” I mean one of the reasons to compare Beyond the Doors with A Series of Unfortunate Events is the conceit that kids can’t rely on adults to solve their problems. I mean have you read the Unfortunate Events books? How many of those guardians are realistic?

It would be one thing if I had 100 reviews and this was an outlier. But right now I have 5. So it’s kinda prominent. And to make matters worse, the bit where the reviewer admits that maybe they aren’t the right person to review the book is below the fold, coming after they have already complained. So you have to actively click to read more of this review to see that.

The other 2-star review complains “Here’s yet another children’s story that villain-izes adults. The whole “ordinary kids vs big bad evil adults” theme in kid’s books is as tiring as zombies and apocalypses in sci fi. Having every adult evil grates on me. So, no likable adults in this book.”

First, almost all of the adults in my book are most definitely not evil. Just saying. Second, the review again dings me for writing a genre they don’t like. Does this mean that if this reviewer read World War Z (which is a much better book than movie), they would give it 2-stars also?

The reviewer also states “The kids in this story act like kids.” Which… uhm… OK.

I don’t mean to sound like a griping author who just wants to whine at bad reviews. I would simply hope that if folks are reviewing material, they at least know of what they speak. For example. I, for one, would not trust myself to review a cookbook. I do not cook. I do not read cookbooks. If I were given a cookbook to review, I would probably write something like “I tried to make this recipe, but it had four ingredients, which is way too many for me to handle. This book is lame.”

That would not be a fair review. I would be embarrassed to write it. The author of the cookbook would rightly be annoyed at me for bringing down their Amazon rating with an uninformed review and would probably think that I should stick to frozen dinners and quit pretending I have the faintest inkling of what I’m talking about.


Beyond that, however, the beauty of Beyond the Doors seems to be in the eye of the beholder. I have thus far seen three professional reviews of Beyond the Doors. 2 positive, 1 negative.

From the negative professional review (Kirkus): “The Rothbaum siblings’ character development is superficial.”

From one of the positive professional reviews (School Library Journal): “…the characters are well developed…”

There you have it. I have created well-developed characters whose development is superficial.

I’m going to go crawl into a hole now.

And read the next review that comes out.