An author that is a close friend of my son asked me to review a book he has written. I can barely get through it. The writing is amateurish and the storyline is very weak. I originally said I would put a review on my blog but am now in a quandary. How do I handle this tactfully without causing this young man pain? I feel an obligation to my blog readers to be honest. Any suggestions?

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Hi Joyce,

That's tough, if I were in your position I would try to explain to my sons friend that while I respect him as a writer and the things he is trying to accomplish, but I just can't get into the book and try to leave it at that. If he presses you then you will have to tell him what you think, there are always ways of telling him without hurting his feelings. You can always say that you wanted more from the storyline or you didn't feel a connection to the characters, those are things that can help him without hurting him.

Jillian Wood

Busy Moms Book Reviews

http://busymomsbookreviews.blogspot.com/

I have been in similar situation. Not with a blog as you have but another author wishing me to write a review under my name so it could be used as a promotional tool. The book was awful. Fortunately I was very busy and was able to say I wont write a review for a book I have not read and it would have to wait. Eventually he moved on to something else and it ceased to be a problem. Maybe you could use this ploy in the interim to give yourself time to think of something. You certainly cannot steer your blog readers wrong. They will never forgive you. Alternatively you could say to him that you are very upset he never came to you earlier. He is a good writer and the story has great potential but is flawed in so many areas. There is a difference between professional and amateur writing. The good news is the skills can be learned and if he is serious about being a professional writer then for goodness sake take out of the market and fix it. He is young but if he ruins his name now it might be tarnished for ever. That sort of thing.

You must, above all else, tell the author the truth. If you can offer him a few pointers it would be a big plus. Convince him that this is just the first draft and it's not ready for a review. Even Dan Brown does not send his first draft to his publisher. A good novel may have to go through several drafts before it is marketable. 

Chuck Fetters

Author of Grizzly.

I agree with this statement. Approach the situation more of a learning tool for your sons friend. Suggest ways he can make it better or more relatable. 

Thanks for the input. The book is already published and is about a member of his family...very sensitive topic...
I'm not comfortable being brutally honest with him...it's his first book and not a draft...I'm thinking of just posting a summary.. I'm a wimp!!
Joyce
at Joyce's Choices Http://www.jssherr.blogspot.com

It can't be that "sensitive" if he decided to write and publish it.  In fact, he's put his family in the public eye.  That was his option not yours.

I am in an identical situation to critique a friends book.  I asked my sister to have a look at the book as she is an avid reader and editor.  She didn't make it past the first few pages.  So, I decided to put into practice the old adage "If you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all."  I found a couple positive points and praised them.  After the book is written and published, there is not much use to give advice.  When I launched my memoir, Battered Hope, the reviews came pouring in and I was pleasantly surprised.  Then  I got my first negative review and it was hard to handle -- then I got three more and was immediately depressed until I considered carefully what the reviewer was saying.  In each of the four cases, the review stated that I must be lying as so much could not happen to one person and I realized it was much better to be called a liar than a bad writer!  What they do not realize is there was a lot more trauma than what I shared but I didn't think my audience could handle it.

So, what I am saying is.,..,, give him praise in some area and when the negatives come out, if he is mature enough, he will put them into perspective and learn from them.

It's never pleasant to hear negative feedback, but constructive criticism can be a valuable learning tool that can help the person grow as an author.  It's very rare that someone writes a masterpiece on the first try.  I would gently tell him that he needs to go back and put some more work into his manuscript.  He might not be happy, but eventually, he will appreciate the fact that you weren't afraid to be honest with him.

Irina

www.irinashapiro.com

 

You can always say that it's not necessarily your type of book.  I find it problematic when I am asked to write reviews and I find out that the book is not something that I like.  I always make a point that others might enjoy this more than me because they might enjoy the style more than I would.  If you tell him something along those lines, warning him that the review then would not necessarily be glowing, he can decide if he wants the review to go up or just an excerpt.

I hope this is helpful at all.  Good luck!!!

www.amysbooketlist.blogspot.com

Hi Joyce,

It's not because is already published that you cannot be honest - and you should be - as an author your son's friend should appreciate your honesty and use your comments as constructive criticism. Especially, if this isn’t just a onetime thing and he plans to continue writing and publishing more books; I understand this puts you in an uncomfortable situation and I empathize with you. Good luck. Let us know how it all worked out.

 

Simply write an honest review.  If you don't do so, the writer will be disappointed/hurt when he sees other reviews that are negative (you won't accomplish much by being less than truthful).  Keep in mind that you are not responsible for causing the young man to feel "pain."  If it's a good work, others will praise it and your opinion will be in the minority.  Do not assume that you're the be all and end all of reviewers; you are simply providing one view and one perspective. 

You may be right or may be wrong, but if the author gave you a copy of his book & you read it, he's entitled to receive an opinion from you in print.  Contra, if it's so bad that you cannot finish reading it, this may be another thing.  One of my posted review rules/policies is that if reading a book is more painful than dental work, I won't finish it or review it.  It would probably be a good idea for you to list your own book review rules/policies. 

 

Best,  Joseph

http://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/

One of my closest friends recently released his first book, and though I really wanted to read it I was slightly concerned about how I would review it, especially as one of the minor characters is based on me (I'm not being big headed and presumtive, the character genuinely is me when I was 15 but with a slightly different name). I was really worried about what would happen if I didn't like it. In the end though I am glad to say I did, and I reviewed it (http://a-reader-lives-a-thousand-lives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/book-...) all the while making it clear I knew the author well. 

As for what to do about not likeing it, you have two options that I can see, the first is to tell him that it isn't a genre that you normally read and so you can't really get into it (so avoiding hurting his feelings) or (this one will only work if he doens't have an editor), suggest editorial things that could make it better. 

Of course there is always outsourcing the review to someone who you think will like it. 

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