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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.