There was a time long before S. J. Henderson, where I read books just for fun, never giving a second thought to writing technique or typos. Once upon a time I could put a book down if I didn't like it without the need to know why I didn't like it. There was no insane drive to finish this thing I'd started if I didn't absolutely luuuurve it.
And I could leave a brutally honest review without batting an eyelash. When I say "brutally honest", I don't mean leaving death threats or banishing the authors to You Should Be Ashamed To Call Yourself a Writer Land. I merely pointed out what I did and didn't like, with a definite emphasis on the did not like because I hoped to enlighten other readers.
Thinking back on it, I wrote three such reviews near the very beginning of my own writing journey. These few reviews slipped through the cracks of a brain struggling with the switchover of reading as 100% hobby to reading as professional enrichment. It's hard to explain the frustration of your writer brain analyzing sentences and making mental (and sometimes physical) notes of typos or plot holes. The overload with not being able to fully escape into a book cost me at least one writer relationship.
A friend of a friend of a friend wrote a book, traditionally published and, it seems, popular. When I read this book, my overactive brain could only pick up negatives. I just didn't get it. It wasn't a matter of jealousy or anything like that, I just wasn't the right reader for the book. Instead of smacking my fingers in attempt to keep myself from plunking out that review and posting it on a site where the author would surely see it, I wrote the darn thing. It wasn't mean, it just wasn't particularly encouraging, either. And then I wondered why she wanted nothing to do with me.
I've never claimed to be a genius, guys. Not one of my most brilliant or kumbaya moments. Obviously.
I have since taken down every review where building up a writer or a book, even when pointing out its flaws, isn't evident. Why? Because those reviews weren't helping writers or readers, they just watered the seeds of negativity already spreading like weeds on review-based websites. Writing isn't the easy, dreamy job society believes it to be. It's equally difficult and passionate work, whether a book turns out to be a bestseller or not. Even with skin thick skin, it's heartbreaking to read the review equivalent of "You Suck!".
Does that mean I need to adore and shower every book I read with glowing praise? Of course not. But if I can't share my thoughts publicly without destroying a fellow writer, then maybe I should hold my tongue or my Times New Roman altogether. Just a crazy little thought.
To the friend of a friend of a friend who will probably never read this, I'm sorry if I offended you. I'm sorry if I changed anyone's mind about your book. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things a lot differently. While I can't change the impact it had upon you or even upon any sort of friendship we might have had, I can do better from here on.
I will do better.
Let's all do better.