I don't consider myself a negative person. In fact, I'm usually quite the optimist. And I'm generally nice. When friends of mine have something wonderful to tell me about their lives, I'm sincerely happy for them. I do that with strangers too. Your life is going swell? Kudos to you! But unbeknownst to some, I have a dark side. You see, there are two terrible things I'm quite fond of.
Negative reviews and snark.
They're like tea and crumpets to me. The first thing I do with any movie, TV show, or book is to seek out the one star reviews. I also enjoy a bit of controversy, so when there's something delightfully awful about something, you can be sure I'm all up in that shizz.
Recently I found something wonderfully terrible, which brought my gleeful wickedness to light - a young adult novel entitled Handbook for Mortals. For the two of you that have no idea what I'm talking about, this book was written by music manager and self-proclaimed "Rock and Roll Gypsy" Lani Sarem, who used a buy-in-bulk scam to get her young adult novel directly to #1 on the NY Times Best Seller list. She was found out quickly, thanks to some quick detective work by people in the biz, but also because nobody ever heard of the book or its author and it wasn't even available in stores. Other authors work hard, toil over their novels and try to create a fan base, but that was a bit too much work for Lani - who was seemly only trying to get a movie deal out of the whole thing, so she decided to take the escalator instead of the stairs. Luckily, it got off on the wrong floor.
If you want to know the whole story, read this article. It's pretty damn interesting.
I saw the whole thing unfold on Twitter, how bulk purchases were made solely in stores that report to the bestseller list, how there was a promise of a movie deal that seemed solely to exist in the author's imagination. And how, upon hearing about the scam, the NY Times Bestseller List rightly returned The Hate U Give back to first place - a book which has received so much praise for its beautiful writing and developed characters that this jaded bitter grown-up chick might actually break down and read a young adult novel.
Yes, I saw it all and I wanted more. The con behind the book itself, the author's scams and excuses - it all made for the juiciest drama series I'd ever seen. It was like Melrose Place but with modern drunk Heather Locklear. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have cared if the book had been good, but luckily for my evil self that was not the case. Handbook for Mortals is the "Mary Sue Special" - you get an entrée of pure self-insert with a side of wish fulfillment, sprinkled heavily with typos and served with your choice of cliches all wrapped up in a plagiarized cover. And if you've read anything about the book, or the free excerpts online, you know what I'm talking about.
I'm not going to get into explicit details about the book itself.except that a 25 year-old adult woman does not belong as the heroine of a young adult (teen) novel. Heck, I know this and I usually don't read the genre. But on the other hand, Handbook for Mortals did give me hours of free entertainment in the form of wonderfully negative reviews and a healthy does of snark. Some bloggers even did a chapter by chapter review of this atrocity, the best of which can be found on Jenny Trout's site. Thank you Jenny, for making me laugh at awfulness. Again.
But hating on this book isn't me just dinging someone for bad writing. It's about greed, pure and simple, and the fact that the author has learned absolutely nothing from what should have been a humiliating experience makes it even more delicious. She's keeps on refusing to acknowledge the scam, changed her story during every interview and at every convention and even tried to lay the blame at the feet of Angie Thomas - the author of The Hate U Give. For her part, Angie took the whole thing with grace and dignity and told Lani to own her scam instead of involving her. Angie darling, you are a queen in every sense of the word.
Like all controversies, the hubbub would have eventually died down, except Lani Sarem is the goddamn gift that keeps on giving. She's blamed the young adult community for not letting new authors in. She's copied and pasted a form post on several Facebook writing sites begging for sympathy and stating that all book sales should count, even when you bought them yourself. And recently, a ton of 5 star reviews suddenly appeared on Goodreads, all within a day or two - all posted by people with no avatar and who gave no other reviews, the majority of them hailing from Bangladesh. Now it may have just been that Handbook for Mortals appealed to faceless Bangadesh bookreaders who all opened a Goodreads account on the same day, but that seems like an EXTREMELY specific niche market. (Eventually, all the Goodreads reviews were taken down and noted as fake, but there are still some very suspicious ones on Amazon as of this writing.)
Do I feel bad about snarking on a first-time author? I would usually. I know how difficult it is to write and I applaud anyone for trying. In this case, no. The best thing she could have done was to admit that this wasn't the optimal route to writing success and maybe work on a better novel. But she hasn't and so the snark is earned.
What do you love to hate? Do you feel bad about it or do you just embrace the evil?