Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Hater’s Response.

There are days when there is nothing funnier in the world to me than being labelled a ‘hater’ for my writings on YA. It’s the defence instinctively used when you see what you deem to be an attack on something you like. Of course that person’s just a hater, why else would they criticise something that so many people love?

Let’s be honest, the word ‘hater’ itself is pretty ridiculous, and it’s thrown around so often on the internet that it’s lost all meaning. You can be declared a hater for almost any offence, from disliking a book to criticising politics to disagreeing with some Tumblr comment. This is hardly anything new. Critics have been slammed by artists, fans and even fellow critics for what is seen as unnecessarily harsh comments. Look at some of the responses the late great Roger Ebert got for his reviews (Vincent Gallo’s tantrum comes to mind).

However, while these kinds of dismissals can be entertaining, there are also times where they just aggravate me. To be honest, it can be pretty infuriating to see your thoughts be dismissed as that of a blindly jealous hater who clearly just covets the amazing talent of the author whose work you slammed. It’s not just that such attitudes belittle the time, effort and thought that go into my own reviews, but that they seem to be of the opinion that criticism of any form is done out of jealousy or spite. We’ve all witnessed far too many online kerfuffles where bloggers have been told by authors and other reviewers what the appropriate way to critique a book is. To diverge from this path is being mean (as James Dashner declared a 16 year old reviewer to be. He later apologised but seriously, authors, can we not do this in the future?)
But never fear, I am here to tackle every possible thing that’ll be thrown in your face as a reviewer, be it from authors, bloggers, tweeters or those oddballs in every internet comments section.

You’re just jealous.

I do get jealous sometimes, it’s true. I’m jealous of Bryan Fuller for creating Pushing Daisies and Hannibal. I’m jealous of Audra McDonald for her voice and five Tony Awards. I’m jealous of every food critic in the country for getting paid to eat food in amazing restaurants out of my price range. I most certainly am not jealous of Becca Fitzpatrick for writing Hush Hush, or E.L. James for writing Twilight fan-fiction, nor am I jealous of their successes and large bank balances. Seriously, I’m not. I’m more likely to be jealous of an author whose work I enjoyed. Why would I be envious of things I disliked or got angry over? Because they’re successful? Lots of things I don’t like and have never reviewed are successful. Honestly, I’m not sure how to respond properly to the ‘jealous’ badge, because I know I’m not, as do most sensible people.

You’re just a failed writer!

Okay, I sort of am. I’ve written before about my difficulties with writing fiction now after spending so long trying to hone my craft as a wannabe author, but I’ve come to terms with that. I may write again in the future, I may not. I’ll keep writing reviews because I love fiction and analysis. I don’t do it out of some overblown soap opera style vendetta against the written word rooted in my own securities. Who’s got the time for that? Besides, technically, reviewing is writing, and I haven’t failed at that yet.

Why don’t you write a book yourself then?

See above for that one but the assumption that only those who have written a book can criticise fiction is pretty silly. If we’re going doing this route of logic then what kind of writer is allowed to critique? Does their book have to be good and if so, by what standards? Which critics are allowed to say it’s good enough for them to be able to tell other people their work is good enough? It’s getting all Inception in here! Roger Ebert made movies that weren’t particularly good, although his unofficial sequel to Valley of the Dolls is a camp cult classic, but that doesn’t render his decades of eloquent and thoughtful analysis of film null and void. We’d be depriving the world of a lot of amazing voices if we imposed crap like this.

You’re an embarrassment to feminism!

This may be my favourite thing anybody has ever said about me. It’s so hilariously over-the-top that I can’t even be that offended by it. If your only defence to my criticism of a work being anti-feminist or problematic in regards to its portrayal of women is “No, YOU’RE the anti-feminist meanie” then you really aren’t arguing your case well. I’m not a perfect feminist and I don’t think such a thing exists. Feminism isn’t this big unchanging blob. It’s ever evolving and requires as much listening as it does talking. The experiences I have as a (white bi cis able-bodied working class but university educated) woman will not be the same as, say, a woman of colour or a disabled woman. If I screw up, I want to be called out on it but there’s a difference between calling out and good old fashioned mudslinging.

I bet you live a sad lonely little life.

Eh, it’s not too shabby. There are a lot of things I’d change about it but overall, I’m pretty happy and working to live the best life I can (I’m aware of how Oprah-esque that sounded and apologise profusely). Any issues I have with my life are entirely independent of my work as a blogger, although my personal issues with certain things do shine through now and then. Being negative about something doesn’t mean I’m miserable. I just have no tolerance for bullshit.

You’re over-educated/you’re stupid!

I put these two together because they’re essentially the same criticism – you’re either not smart enough to share your opinion on a book or you’re too smart. Being called stupid is a tough one for me. It’s an insult that’s always hurt more than being called ugly. I’m extremely lucky to be university educated and I hope to return to higher education in the future. I understand that these paths are not available to everyone. My degree doesn’t make me better than a blogger who left school at 16, nor does it make me some elitist snob who is somehow above the work I review. I can’t deny that studying English literature has helped me immensely as a writer, but it’s not required.

Stop trying to destroy careers!

Oh come on. I don’t think Dan Brown has received a single positive review in a literary publication and I seriously doubt it’s affected his life. He’s still selling books by the truckload. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a laughing stock but E.L. James still made $95m in a year. Believe me, I would love to have the maniacal level of power that some people think I have but I would put it to far better use than writing 1 star reviews on Goodreads. Check out my bad reviews and tell me exactly how many careers I’ve ruined. Why is criticism seen as a bullying tool? Yes, there are reviews that cross the line but they’re nowhere near as prevalent as many believe them to be. I don’t do what I do out of spite or because I have delusions of dictator style grandeur.

You just hate popular things.

I like lots of different things that vary across the spectrum of popularity. My favourite band currently have the song of theSummer, my favourite movie won several Oscars, my favourite TV show is a cultclassic that was cancelled after 2 seasons and my favourite YA novel won the Printz Award. It’s true that I’ve been very critical of a lot of the most popular stuff in YA but most of it just left me more indifferent than angry. Sometimes defending your opinion in the face of a differing majority can be tough but your thoughts aren’t worth less because they go against the grain. Pop culture has been criticised for decades and the hipster argument’s been thrown around just as much. If we all liked the same things we’d be bored stiff.

Why are you so critical? It’s just books for teens.

I firmly believe that YA deserves the same level of analysis that’s been given to film, TV, adult literature and even video games. The culture we absorb shapes us, even more so when we’re younger. Surely we should take a deeper look at the media we create for teenagers and see what messages we’re sending out, be it intentionally or otherwise?

Aren’t you a little old to be reviewing YA?

Aren’t the critics at the New York Times a little old to be reviewing picture books for toddlers? Art doesn’t have an age limit. Great literature is timeless. There are people much older than me reviewing YA and they are just as entitled to their opinions of the category as I am. Same for actual teenagers reviewing YA (I do think we should put more focus on the actual audience for these books). Sometimes there are things in books you don’t really pick up on until you’re a bit older and somewhat wiser. 

You’re a crazy bitch!

Yawn, I have no time for sexism and ableism. Next please.

Who the hell do you think you are?

Well, my birth certificate says Kayleigh. I’m 23, I live in Scotland, I review books and write about YA and publishing, and sometimes I cook while dancing around my kitchen to the Beastie Boys. If it helps you get through the day to think of me as a hater, by all means go wild. I love doing what I do, even when it sometimes exhausts and infuriates me, and if you’re going to keep writing books then I’m going to keep reviewing them. That’s how this all works.

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