I'm not sure how to begin this post - should I apologize for not keeping the content coming, or should I just skip over the niceties and get to the bottom of the issue, which is "Holy shit, I am so out of touch with YA right now!"
Oddly enough, the two are kinda connected.
The Book Lantern is fairly small, so we don't get much in the way of fan mail or questions (at least I don't get any. I'm sure some of our other contributing writers may have a different experience.) Still, I do feel bad that I haven't posted much here. YA used to be a passion of mine, and reviewing was something I always had time for. What's happened now?
Well... a lot. I'm not just referring to #HaleNo and all the things that came from Kathleen Hale's unashamed bragging about how she stalked a reviewer, (but, for the record, that shit is scary. And what is worse, there's still no satisfactory answer from her publishers. That's just wrong.) But I've also been busy in grad school, I've been sick, I've been completely uninspired to review anything... the list goes on.
But while the subject of #HaleNo is up, I'd like to add my (belated) voice to those who are now boycotting HarperCollins and all of their authors. (I can't speak for the rest of the contributors for the Lantern, and God knows, I may make a mistake, considering all the small presses they own, but goddamn it, this shit has gone on for long enough.)
You can read more about the pledge here - I'd rather use this space to say why I'm taking part. It's very easy (especially when a subject has been written about at length) to get into an argument about the validity of a boycott - "It's not fair to punish everyone for the actions of one," or, "It's just a lot of hot air, it will blow over soon," - so allow me to tell you, exactly, how all of these author-blogger wars affect me.
I have lost my passion for reviewing, and I've lost my passion for reading.
Yes, these two aren't always connected. I can't be absolutely sure (because I haven't been as diligent about my virtual shelvings in about a year) but for every book I write a detailed review of, there is at least one (if not more) that I delve into uncritically, for no other purpose than pure entertainment. Guilty pleasures isn't so much the word for it - I'm trying "give-your-brain-a-break" reads for size.
Do I always switch my brain off, though? No. I admit, there are plenty of books I enjoy while acknowledging that they have problematic elements. I even blog about those sometimes. That's not really the issue, though. The issue is when I feel like I can't examine a book beyond the surface level.
Being critical, as I feel everyone in the book blogosphere has said, doesn't mean being negative. It means looking at a text and really thinking about what it says, and what your reaction to it tells you about yourself, and your view of the world. It's a personal experience, in many ways, one which we share with the world in the hopes of engaging in more critical discussion with other people. A book isn't just a product for pure entertainment purposes - it's a springboard for discussion.
(Note please: that discussion can be as big (as in, between all of BookLikes) or small (as in, between the reviewer and the book.) I'll just use it as shorthand because "review" doesn't really cover it anymore.)
I can understand why some authors may object to the way their book is being engaged with. But when they come to the discussion itself and try to shut it down, here's what I hear:
"You have no right to express your opinion."
"Your experiences and thoughts are not valid."
"You are only as important as the revenue you generate - I only care if you buy my book, and if you're trying to dissuade others from buying it."
That's toxic. That's also the reason why I don't buy it when authors come to what they perceive as a negative review of their book and try to argue with the reader on the grounds that "they're just not getting it!" - this isn't about preserving the book's meaning, or its intended meaning. It's about money. (Those of you reading Kathleen Hale's Guardian article will notice how she justified stalking Blythe Harris on the grounds that Blythe mounted a trolling campaign - one that nobody can find proof of - and threatened her livelihood. Charming.)
And yes, authors are paid little. Guess what? Bloggers are paid even less. And our influence isn't as big as you might expect. Case in point? Despite the outcry following the Hale's article, we have yet to see a reaction from the publishers.
Ugh. I wish I had something more positive to write about than this.
On the (sorta) flipside, I have been reading some interesting books, so I will try to write more reviews (as well as other pieces soon.) Since I haven't just been reading YA, I've made a separate blog where I talk about writing events and manuals, and I have a few "adult" books which I'd like to review, which I might post on BookLikes or submit for consideration on Bibliodaze.
In other words, stay tuned.
And if you have some recommendations for recent YA releases, please, leave them because I'm stumped.