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I Lost The “Goodreads YA Novel”
There is nothing wrong with a difference of opinion; there is something wrong if you think for me.
Prepare yourself for a ranting.
So I’ve been sitting on this for a while, not because I was concerned about perpetuating the negativity between reader/reviewers and authors, but because I’m perplexed as to how to go about discussing it. Many feelings were hurt and angered by this bingo—I’m not discrediting that—however I feel as though there’s a teaching moment from all of this and it’s being overlooked by all of the negativity.
Let me first show you what I’m talking about:
Alternatively, for more information, you can check out this Storify link written by TezMillerOz. I will not highlight any parties involved more than supplementing the link above.
I’m not here to debate whether or not this bingo shenanigan was created for satire or plain spite (or both)—that’s not my concern. It’s that this bingo card marginalises young-adult (YA) readers to be something they might not be. I thought that if I had won, I could truly laugh it off and be like “hey—that’s me—I do this—how relatable! Ha, ha, ha—” but no—I didn’t win. I wasn’t even close. I checked off 4 of the boxes and even they were dubious and unlike how I critically evaluate what I read. (Note: the middle freebie didn’t even help at all.) What might this mean? It suggests I might not even be a legitimate reader because I don’t tick off more of the 24-boxes suggested by this game.
If this bingo has any effect on me, it’s that it makes me question if I’m reading literature incorrectly; that I’m personally responsible for not being able to grasp the specificity of writing, intention, or elements there-in. That in all of the 2-star reviews I’ve given (I have never given solid 1-stars), it is actually not the books fault but my own.
For example, I did do a lot of chirping at Lockhart’s We Were Liars and Yancey’s The Infinite Sea—both successes in their own rights to the general masses of YA readers—but they’re novels that I found fault with. But if I, as a reader, can be implicated as “bad” at reading (or just mediocre at having an opinion) then why is it not possible for an author to be poor at storytelling? I am not suggesting either is true or false. Right or wrong, both sides should never be limited to their own criticisms. Yes, you can be adamant about what you earnestly believe in—that’s fine—but that does not excuse any party from taking these notes with the simple intent to understand, to learn, and to grow from. You don’t have to accept all criticisms but you ought to be able to actively listen to them at the very least.
To reiterate: I am not guns-blazin’ angered by this bingo being created or that the overall opinion of it is shared by many authors. In fact, I’m curious as to the disconnect between what is being read and what the story is trying to convey for these general claims to be made. It is a loss for the author if they “win” at this game but it is an even greater failure for readers to feel like they’re not reading properly because whatever the bingo says goes. It doesn’t concern book reviewing anymore. It’s about reading and the how-to’s—which surprisingly, shouldn’t even exist at all unless you’re teaching me the ABCs; which I think I might have down-pat. (Not sure about these grammar things though.) There must be some gap here that is unclear to me because while I do read and review YA literature, I am not the same reader/reviewer that this bingo tries to highlight.
So what’s the problem with me?
Nothing—there is nothing wrong with not fitting into any of these cookie cutter categories. You do you, they’ll do themselves, and we’ll all try to survive in this world. The Internet is a vast and enigmatic landscape of positive and negative toxicity—you take the good and the bad, unfortunately, and even so, there’s necessary diversity in shared opinions that add to the mosaic of thought. All kinds of thoughts should be welcomed; including positive and negative reviews, and yes, even this game card.
That being said, this bingo shines a magnifying glass on a very specific segment of reviewer comments. It is not holistic. It does not attempt to include the often glowing reviews that dominate 62% the YA-lit star-rating market (I don’t know where this number came from but it sounds legit). If it did, I’m sure the community backlash would not have seen what it has. It is narrow in scope and comes with a negative connotation but it is not an infographic to tell you how to read or even to think. You are the owner of your brain and consciousness. Until the doomsday when artificial intelligence takes over the Earth (probably soon—those Roomba’s are watching you), the rest of us are just noise; we are NPCs to each other’s lives.
Go ahead and do what you want: boycott some authors, make more bingo cards, go on a negative review tirade, subtweet rampage, whatever. you. want. – you will not be a lesser person for how you choose to think, let alone losing (or winning at) this game of bingo. Just remember that every morsel of content you put into the world can and will be scrutinized and there’s nothing wrong with a difference of opinion so long as it argues the substance and not filling the pages with ad hominems (attacks on a person). It is your responsibility to be open to interpretation if you’re going to put yourself out there; to own up to what you do or say. That’s how you’ll be defined. It is not in your place to tell others how to think or even undermine how they want to feel. That’s the real issue of this bingo card.
I will always be of the camp that accepts criticisms towards the content I post. That doesn’t mean I have thick skin—it means I’m always open for debate and transparency; to learn and grow. I’d like to hear your responses to some of the below:
- What is your take on this Goodreads Bingo?
- I found that one of the takeaways from the twitter war was that if readers can negatively engage the content of a book, is it so different for authors to poke fun at reviews the same way? – What do you think about this?
- If an author who approved of this bingo card is one you follow on twitter (and/or you like them as an author), does your opinion of them change now?
This bingo card was brought to my attention from a blogging friend who shall remain nameless. Normally, I wouldn’t speak much about these things (drama or not) because my blogging reach is like of a subterranean level—basically nonexistent—so if these things can trickle down all the way to my community of obliviousness, then shit, you best believe the wildfire has spread.
16 thoughts on “[Think Aloud] – #10 – I Lost The “Goodreads YA Novel” Bingo Game”
I already have a post planned on this, but I’ll just say right here and now that I think the card is funny, and there’s some stuff I would add to it.
Yeah I was pretty amused at first but then I guess for arguments sake, I looked deeper into all of this. I await your post on this!
I find it pretty unprofessional for a writer to post it on such a public forum. It does not seem like a good idea to me to mock a good deal of your target audience, but without it I never would have heard of this author or her book, so maybe it’s a publicity win? I wasn’t outraged by this like so many others were, but I can see why people would be offended. However, there was recently a Top Ten Tuesday where we talked about things we hated in Romance books and there was lots of potential for authors to be offended in exactly the same way, so I think people just need to calm down. 🙂
From what I’ve read (although I take it with a grain of salt), the comments in the bingo were actually comments made from one single reviewer. I guess they’re pretty generic comments anyways in the world of reviewing but I think it was the timing of the bingo card release with the review that incited part of the outrage.
I do find that the comments in the bingo are a bit more personal than saying “I hate romance and love–why do authors put this in books?!” The usual comments in the things bloggers disliked in romance books were plenty of instalove/love triangles/slow burn/etc but this bingo card is like “reviewer has issues with abc”.
What it comes down to is that authors can tell their story the way they want but they cannot interpret a story for a reader. To basically imply that a reader doesn’t know how to read their story is a lot worse than a reader saying your tastes don’t match a certain trope. That’s just how I view it though–but to each their own!
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I thought it was really rude and offensive because the person that made the card is basically saying the reader is wrong to dislike something about a book. Just like every other art form, reading is subjective. That’s why there are books that some people love, and others hate.
Regarding reviews, I don’t think authors shouldn’t poke fun at negative reviews unless those reviews are directly insulting the author, because like I said, everyone has their own personal tastes. Besides, one of the first things all artists need to learn is to be able to take criticism, otherwise, they won’t go very far.
I don’t know the authors that approved of it, but if it’s one I look up to, I admit that i would be kind of sad, and a tad irritated. 😛
I think part of the negative connotation that comes with this card is that, to me, it paints the picture that literature cannot be perceived in technicolor but simply black and white; where authors validate their own interests as right and the reader as incorrect for improperly judging a work differently (which makes no sense to me whatsoever).
I don’t know if they “approved” of it but I did see pseudo-approvals from some authors like Emery Lord (Open Road Summer), Alexandra Duncan (Salvage), Jenny Han (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before). I’m only reporting what I saw from the Storify link–not saying anything more than that.
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What is your take on this Goodreads Bingo?
This bingo card is totally ridiculous. While reading it I was like ‘I have seen reviewers post these things about YA reviews. But I’ve also seen such things be said about every genre of book going anyway!’ Not one person, I think I can confidently say, would complain about all these things ever.
I was very shocked to see the one about the gay character – is this seriously a thing?! I mean I can understand being upset when a character turns out to be straight because being straight always there and there’s many a fangirl/boy that’s all for the homosexual characters xD but really?
Main point: The bingo card is ridiculous and you could put these negatives on any book in any genre going. But definitely not one person could say all these things (about one type of books.)
Tis a little angering.
Perhaps in a lifetime of reviewing it’s possible to complain about each and every single thing as mentioned but in a single book? Unlikely (from a single reviewer–multiple, hmm, maybe).
Yeah some of the comments were just really weird to see. Even the diversity one that was like “some diversity is okay but not too much” I’m pretty sure the entire Internet is on board with We Need More Diverse Books, so seeing this is making me wonder if part of these “reviewer comments” were made up for the sake of satire.
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I have to say, I was surprised by some of the authors who agreed with this, and while I can’t remember any of them who specifically retweeted it etc. I did feel disappointed in them at that time, but decided to let it go. I’m sure they face a lot of grief on GRs and the likes with the crap like this they do have to put up with. Because I’m not one of these reviewers that fit the profile (or where I do fit it, it’s for good reason and the author who made this can’t quite understand it), I took it personally. But whatever. I can’t boycott everyone who has a different opinion to me and wouldn’t want to. I do boycott ones who intentionally cause harm to the community (Anne Rice, Kathleen Hale etc.) because that’s entirely different. R x
This is just a copy+paste of the same authors I found (that I myself know of, sort of, vaguely) who somewhat approved of it (through emoji or comments), but Emery Lord (Open Road Summer), Alexandra Duncan (Salvage), Jenny Han (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) were all for it in some capacity.
I’m actually not that angry with it being made. I post a lot of garbage on here that could get flagged for negative commentary and fought against by readers who loved a book–but I’m open to having these discussions to better understand a book. But not everyone is like this. There’s no real learning involved that can be gained by any party in creating this bingo. To think that it could have been created in spite from a single review (who actually took her review down in Goodreads because of this debacle)…it’s really silly.
“Negatively harm the community” is a really difficult thing to make a comment on because harm can come from mentally taxing someone. The reviewer who this bingo could have been based upon, from my knowledge, is in her early teens. I’d imagine it’s pretty demoralizing for a young person to review an ARC all giddy and shit–only to be struck down because they didn’t enjoy it and made some comments. The internet is a cruel, cruel forum sometimes 😦
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Wow. This is so loaded, Joey. And am I glad the bingo sheet isn’t glaring at me. It’s for those obnoxious reviews, obviously, especially those that DNF, “makes assumptions instead, rates on said assumptions.” I think what all of these items have in common is that the reviewer is framing his/her review as a generalization and not a subjective reaction. That’s where it becomes problematic. And this goes to those think pieces about YA, as well. I mean, not to heed to negativity and all but. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m okay with this bingo sheet, so long as it’s not being handed out to actual reviewers. If the author hands you a book and goes, “oh wait, make sure you’re not one of these” and hands you the sheet, then that’s downright appalling.
I try my best at stirring the pot, obviously–it’s my one goal in life LOL.
Anyhow, I won’t name names of the teen reviewer who felt attacked by the bingo but regardless of this individual, a subjective reaction can still be a generalization. I’d imagine some generalizations would be far better in a review than actually attacking core parts of a book (to which would probably garner a lot more spite. maybe.)
Regardless of being handed out to bloggers, the intent still shines a negative light on reviewers who make interpretative comments based on a form of art that should be open to subjectivity. Granted however, that reviews should also be allowed to be taken into the context of debate (which is why I’m partly okay with this card).
It’s just some of the boxes, to me, feel as though that it waves the flag that the reader is wrongfully interpreting a book that has me looking at this differently. Use these moments of questioning as a guide to help readers understand where they can see things differently (instead of just having a laugh at comments that would otherwise feel ungrounded). It’s a disservice to everyone when we keep perpetuating an “ignorance is bliss” style of living by undermining any opinion that isn’t our own. I mean…if there’s one person who read things “differently” there’s bound to be more, right?
I hope all of that made sense. somewhat.
Interesting perspective on this. I was a bit aggravated about the Bingo card, but not enough to really get riled up about it. But I guess I don’t understand why you say you think you might not be reading “correctly” since you can’t fill in this Bingo card. The implication certainly isn’t that this is how you should be reading and reviewing books – exactly the opposite. I’ll admit that I could cross off a couple of these squares myself (I’ve definitely said that something didn’t bother me, but mentioned that it may bother someone else, for example – and I don’t feel bad about that one bit!).
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction
My take on the card was that each box essentially painted how “readers have responded to fiction and/or have incorrectly judged a book”. To me, it gives off an “author knows best” vibe and in doing so, to me, it felt as if my interpretation (in any capacity) is incorrect.
And in any game of Bingo, you want to win. But it’s not possible to win when you feel like you’re unable to comprehend the conceptual intent of the story was and being implicated by the author for feeling the way you do (typically occuring when you have negative feels…but hardly the case when you point out a positive thing that wasn’t intended at all. Weird.)
I hope that makes sense!