Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Criticizing the Critics

As any reader here probably knows by now, my new novel Life is But a Dream comes out next month. The first reviews are starting to come out in from the journals and they are mostly positive evaluations of the book. Normally, I'm not one to complain about negative things said of my work. I've never written for the typical reader and as a result, there are often people who don't appreciate the way I write. I'm fine with that. That said, there is one review that really bothers me:

Sabrina lives in a beautiful world that no one else can see. Whether it is fanciful colors in the sky or whole vistas, she believes in their power but cannot convince anyone else. Through a series of flashbacks while she is at the Wellness Center, backstories are revealed about a near-perfect childhood and trouble at school as a young adult. Separated from her parents and classmates, Sabrina is drawn to outspoken Alec, who accepts her dreams simply because they are real to her. Life Is but a Dream is a fast read with extensive dialogue and fantastic visual descriptions. Troubled Alec adds believable romance and danger when the young couple struggles to be together. Though Sabrina and Alec are strongly defined characters, their parents are simply overprotective and overachieving. Sabrina's parents do not see her issues stemming from schizophrenia—it would be too hard to admit that their perfect daughter is mentally ill. Alec's parents cannot conceive that their strong-willed teenager is simply rebellious, and search for a diagnosis to explain his behavior. The word crazy is not used often in the book, but seeing it twice on the cover seems judgmental, an automatic assumption that a neurological imbalance deserves scorn. Because mental illness is rarely discussed at home or school, Life Is But a Dream should have resources at the end to help young adults identify friends who might need help or to look for more information about schizophrenia. from VOYA

This review is actually quite positive, aside from the slight about the characters' parents, which naturally I believe to be an oversimplification. The struggle that Sabrina's parents go through is more than just denial. But, that's not what really irks me about this review. What really gets under my skin is the the critique in the final sentences about the word "crazy" and about the lack of resources in the back.

First of all, they are reviewing an Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which as a professional journal, they are fully aware that it is not final. For all they know, there are resources in the final book. And as a matter of fact, the line they point to on the cover has indeed been changed on the final book. That is why a review is supposed to focus on the content of the novel, not things such as tag lines on the cover and lack of back matter. These aren't critiques of the work I poured my soul into for a year, they are attacks on the marketing plan of the book. As an industry journal, I believe they should know better.

By the way, there is still time left to enter the contest to win a signed ARC. Details below:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Life Is But a Dream by Brian James

Life Is But a Dream

by Brian James

Giveaway ends March 01, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


  1. I've got a copy per-ordered :)

    I'm really looking forward to reading it.