Have you ever thought about the concept that everything is relative? How meaning is applied to people, things, and events based on differing vantage points and concepts? It goes without saying that each individual views the world through his/her own unique lens. No two people will see everything in the same way. Our experiences shape our thoughts, ideas and opinions.
To some, $10,000 is a large sum of money. To a millionaire, it’s not. In the same vein, 22% may not seem like a large amount, unless you’re a waitress and that’s your tip.
As I ponder such things as relativity and the proper amount to leave as a gratuity, I know that these thoughts have only come to me because my feelings have been hurt; my self-esteem bruised; and my joy has been temporarily stolen. All because of the notion of 22%.
I unintentionally stumbled upon a very negative review of my book A Southern Girl Re-Belles, and for a very brief moment, I almost took the disapproving words to heart. I almost let the reviewer determine my worth.
After I completed my book, I knew that it wasn’t for everyone. I understood it wouldn’t resonate with some simply because it was based in the South. The title lends itself to including or excluding different people based on geography and gender. For some, this will be a deal-breaker. For others, it might spur some interest.
As proud as I am of this book, I know for many it will never, ever be considered a great literary work. I am not expecting a Pulitzer Prize, but I do dare to dream. I believe in this book, and most importantly, I believe in the story it has to tell. My hope is that it will inspire, uplift, and motivate people to rise above their circumstances and be remembered for more than their worst mistake. Like all things, in the end, everything is relative, and what is good to some, is bad and disappointing to others.
I was completely unprepared when I stumbled across this recent review which gave my book 1 star out of a possible 5. Please know that I don’t expect to get all 5 star reviews. I completely understand that when I put my work (and myself) out there, I have to have thick skin. I realize most of the reviews for my first book, Mockingbird Moments, were written by readers who knew me personally. They knew my story, and understood my words.
Getting a review from a stranger, in a way, can provide validation, in that the reviewer doesn’t know me or anything but my work. I appreciate anyone who takes the time to put their thoughts and opinions in writing, and then post it in a public place. The last thing I want to do is to appear to be a “sore loser,” or a “cry-baby.” I hope many people review the book and give me feedback (both good and bad) that will be helpful in my future writing endeavors. I only ask one thing. If you plan to review my book, please read it in its entirety.
SO WHAT DID THE REVIEWER SAY?
After reading only 22% of the book, the reviewer decided to post her thoughts. (I know how much of the book she completed because stated that it was read on an e-Reader, and she gave the 22% number several times to drive her point home). The reader expressed her extreme disliking of the slow start and in her words, “awful characters.” She took an instant disliking to the main character, Abbie, and summed her up as an “immature, selfish, alcoholic,” which is a correct characterization in the beginning of the book, or 22% that she read.
She completed the review with this: “I mean…I’m done. Putting this in the DNF (did not finish) pile and moving on.”
So now I go back to the “all things are relative” idea. I completely accept and respect that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. As a teacher and counselor, I have always taught my students that the important thing about an opinion is that it has to be supported by facts. If you can back up what you believe, it lends much more credibility to your position, stance or belief.
After reading only 22% of A Southern Girl Re-Belles, this reviewer gave up on the book. I understand how difficult it is at times to get into a book. Some things catch your attention more than others, but is giving a book a 1 star rating after reading less than a fourth of it really fair? The book is 290 pages, so that means that she gave up after sixty-something pages. She has no idea what changes or transformations the main character experiences. She doesn’t understand the need for “the tragic back-story.” It is true, as she pointed out, that the potential love interest isn’t mentioned in the first 22% of the book BUT that and many other important plot developments and twists are included in the remaining 78% of the book.
Not everyone will like the book, but if you choose to read it, at least give it a chance and if, like this reviewer, you don’t like it, please move on, but don’t write an unfair book review. By that, I mean a review that isn’t based on the work in its entirety.
I find it a little ironic that the reader gave up on the book, just as many had given up on Abbie Winchester. Yes, she was a mess. She was angry and filled with unresolved grief. She was emotionally isolated, with well-fortified walls built around her heart. She was estranged from family, had very few friends, and was haunted by the demons and misfortune of her past. She was labeled as an alcoholic (granted she drank too much at times, but she wasn’t dependent on alcohol to function). She had lost hope and didn’t care about herself or what others thought of her BUT her story didn’t end there. Abbie is given a second chance, and in this newfound life and existence, she begins to tear down those walls and allow people into her life. Most importantly, though, Abbie Winchester learns to love herself.
These are things you wouldn’t know when you give up after reading only 22% of the book.
I think about myself and my own life and experiences. If my legacy was based on what I learned when I had only lived for 22% of my life, I would be 13 years old! I would have an ID bracelet that David W gave me, and my favorite song would be “Take It to the Limit,” by the Eagles (which is still one of my favorites). I would have braces, bad hair, and a few pimples. I wouldn’t understand what it meant to be empathetic, and the definition of fair would completely elude me. At 13, I thought fair meant that I always got my way. I would be insecure, immature, and selfish.
Each of us has been given life. We are here for a reason. We all have a purpose to fulfill. We fall, we fail. We try, we succeed. We stumble, yet we keep going. I’m so thankful for all those people who NEVER gave up on me. I’m thankful for mistakes, because it is in the hard times that my spirit was formed, and not broken. It was in the tough times that I found redemption and grace. This has been a reminder to me, that thankfully, my salvation isn’t based on one part or percentage of my life. I’m thankful God doesn’t judge me solely on a small part of my life. I’m thankful He doesn’t give up on me.
Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I hope you see my point. I can accept someone not liking my book. I can accept a poor review of my book. But I cannot accept not liking the book and giving it a poor review when they haven’t read it.
If you find yourself in the same situation as this reviewer, and after reading a portion of the book you decide to “move on,” I respect that. I hope to never, ever make someone feel like a hostage to my words and story. However, I honestly believe that a review can’t be fully justified or even valid if you haven’t read the work in its entirety.
I’m a grown-up and I can accept criticism. In fact, when it’s constructive and supported with evidence, it helps to guide me, and will help me become a better writer.
I’m extremely thankful for every part of my personal story; good and bad. I’m thankful I’m not remembered for my worst parts or reviewed by numbers or percentages. I’m thankful I’ve corrected mistakes, grown, matured and learned life-changing lessons.
My one hope is that every reader understands that the overriding theme of A Southern Girl Re-Belles is redemption. It’s about becoming better and stronger, and kinder, and wiser, and more accepting of others. It’s about second chances.
So as I sit here with my shot glass filled with humility, and a big ol’ helping of humble pie, I will say this to the reviewer. I want to thank you for your review. I appreciate your honesty, and the energy you spent writing it. I’m sorry you were disappointed, but to be fair, you know nothing about the story, and you know absolutely nothing about the determination, grit, resilience, kind-hearted, beautiful mess that is Abigail Winchester.
You underestimated her tenacity and perseverance.
You underestimated me.