Are you bored because the romance you found at the library has a happy ending? Bored because you dove into a middle class from a favorite author and found the mystery was “too easy” for you, a mature adult? I have words for you.
I have a favorite fantasy author who graduated freshman year from college after years of adult novels. Fans raved about the new book, and some of them were a little too critical. The language was not as “rich” as they used to. The character has made poor or immature choices. The story was relatively simple, or the mystery predictable. The protagonist didn’t see that the villain was right in front of him the whole time.
None of these reviewers seemed to have the self-awareness to realize there was a simple solution to this: the book was written for a 5th and 6th grade audience, and they were reading it as adults.
When we choose a book with the intention of reviewing and reviewing it online, we should do so with an awareness of what the book is and what it tries to do, and then critique it appropriately. . We have to read books for what they are. Yes, to give the authors some grace. But even more so, because that’s what a good review does: it meets the book where it is, and then reviews it from there.
So when we pick up a mid-level book, we have to come to it knowing that it’s aimed at a younger audience. I’m not saying you should dismiss every problem or criticism you have. Young audiences deserve good complex stories, and the intermediate level can certainly appeal to adults. But I say you have to turn the first page of a book knowing what age group it is supposed appeal and criticize it appropriately.
I’m saying I’ve seen dozens of reviews criticizing the young adult protagonists for making “immature” or “overly emotional” decisions. Have you met any teenagers recently? Teenagers yell at their parents. They make mistakes. They push people away and say hurtful things and get caught up in the pain of cliques and change. When you’re an adult reading a teenage story, it can be easy to judge their reactions, but do you remember what it’s like to be a teenager? Let’s start opening YA novels with this knowledge front and center. Relax and remember that teenage protagonists are Go make decisions that you wouldn’t make as a adult who pays rent and is years away from his own embarrassing teenage drama.
I can easily extend that to gender as well. I’ve seen reviews where readers were annoyed that the romance was clearly going to end in a “happily ever after” from the first page. I’ve seen reviews where readers admit to having no patience for sci-fi, then give the book a star because they lost patience with the complicated world-building and gave up after a few chapters. It’s fine for you to dislike a genre, and to dislike a book of that genre. But to be thoughtful and fair readers, our critics must be informed by what the book East.
The genre can surprise and delight you! Not all fantasies will be spells and wands, and not all sci-fi will feel complicated, and not all romances will tie together with neat arcs at the end. But if you choose a romance that hates neat happy endings, maybe consider it not really about the author if you read the book and hate the neat happy ending. I ask you to foster a rich self-awareness when picking up a book and take a moment to consider perspective before criticizing a book for tropes or details it was always likely to have.
Remember that your reviews appear to all readers who view a book and impact ratings. When you spend time writing a book review, it should be informed about what that book is and what it intends to do, rather than misconceptions about what you might have wanted whether. Meet the book where it is and go from there.
So the next time you review a book that wasn’t aimed at your age group, or in a genre that you’ve never really clicked with, take a moment to consider whether your review is fair. Take a moment to make sure you meet him where he is.