Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kristen: Cruising My Reviews

A few months ago, I decided to become a volunteer gardener on Alcatraz and help restore the historic gardens. I do this for balance. It’s good for me to interact with the earth. (Surprisingly, in addition to yanking out a ton of weeds, I have unearthed a few bones. Don’t worry. They aren’t human. Thus far they appear to be cow and chicken. Possibly pig.) In the process of gardening, I’ve picked up some new gardener friends. One friend in particular invited me to her house in Sunnyvale to hang out and then clock some quality time in Santa Cruz. I thought it sounded like a good time. So I went. And I brought along a copy of my first book for her, Lost It. I gave her the book and forgot about it and we had a great weekend. We basically clicked on every topic known to humanity (except for gun control).

So the other day I decided to cruise my Amazon reviews, because I sometimes am prone to do stupid things. And guess what I saw? A one star review from a person in Sunnyvale who hated my book. (I actually don’t think the person read my book. The title of the post was “PARENTS BEWARE!”) Anyway, I immediately called another friend and said a lot of nonsensical things. Me: “I made a new friend on Alcatraz and I gave her a copy of my book and I think she trashed it for being immoral on Amazon. She might be a book-banner.” Phone Friend: “Why are you checking your Amazon ratings? I thought you’d stopped doing that.” Me: “I wasn’t looking at my ratings. I was cruising my reviews.” Phone Friend: “Is your new friend conservative?” Me: “No. But we have opposing positions on gun control.” Phone Friend: “Is your new friend a weirdo?” Me: “No. She’s wonderful. She made me coconut tea.” Phone Friend: “Your new friend didn’t write that review. “ Me: “You’re probably right.” Then we talked about ‘vibes’ and my overall sensitivity and I hung up the phone and did some reflecting.

It really bothers me that somebody thinks that Lost It is immoral. Because I think that book is incredibly moral and important. That’s why I wrote it. I wanted to write a story where a girl loses her virginity and isn’t wounded by the event. There are so many books that equate sex with violence, and I wanted to write a book that did something else. I wanted to write a book where a girl understood the importance of sex, but still crossed the threshold. And I don’t think it’s immoral to create a story where a junior in high school enters into a serious relationship with a guy and decides to sleep with him. I don’t. And it’s good that I feel this way, because there’s been some fallout for writing a book like this. Some people don’t like it. Some people say mean things. Some people think I’m a bad person for bringing the story into existence. And that sucks. Being judged is no fun. But I get it. I was raised Mormon. I have teenage nieces who are Mormon. Whenever I use their computer I stare at the Stephenie Meyer’s bookmarks. They love her stuff. A teenager and vampire who resist having premarital sex. It’s a smashing idea. A girl with wildlife phobias who loses her virginity underneath a canoe. Well, they think that idea is a little less smashing. Writing a book is like making ten thousand decisions. In a row. You choose everything. Word by word. And eventually you end up with a book. That will be read. And reviewed. Unless people object to the idea of your book, and then it will be reviewed without being read. It’s weird. But there’s not much you can do about it. Life is short. Write the story you want to write. Live happy. Make friends. And don’t cruise your Amazon reviews. Seriously.


  1. When I was 13, I couldn't find many YA books that had sex in them. I was desperate for it, because it was all I thought about. I read books I found on the banned book lists and was mostly disappointed. (I mean, come ON! most of that stuff isn't remotely as sexy as it should've been.)

    I guess I just wanted to say that, as a former horny YA reader, THANK YOU for putting sex in your books. As an aspiring writer, I try to put sex in my YA: realistic, non-punishment, positive viewpoint sex. and I'm glad there are published writers who are out there already writing it. :)

  2. "As an aspiring writer, I try to put sex in my YA: realistic, non-punishment, positive viewpoint sex."

    As a mother trying to raise daughters in an increasingly sexualized society, I thank you. NOT.