Friday, January 16, 2009

Chris Grabenstein Attacks 12 Year-Olds

Okay, that's the US Weekly title of this post. But it's not too far from the truth. Author Chris Grabenstein (of both adult books and now children's books) doesn't like negative reviews--even if they come from a 12 year-old writing on her mom's blog.

Here's Nona's review of Grabenstein's The Crossroads.

"THE CROSSROADS is about a boy named Zack Jennings. He’s mother is dead and his father is remarrying. They move to his grandfather’s hometown. This is where the drama begins, because Clint Eberhart has a vendetta against the Jennings family. James Jennings, Zack’s grandfather, accidently killed Clint’s son.

Clint caused an auto accident involving a bus that also killed Zack’s grandfather. Now Clint is ghost and he’s still seeking revenge. Now he’s after Zack.

I found the book a bit confusing and too slow at times."

She gave it three stars--not bad, not great. She didn't tear him apart or anything. She just never really got into the book.

You'd think this review would do nothing in the long run, but somehow Grabenstein found it. And he did not react well. At. All. Here's his reply:

"Sorry you didn't like my book. Most critics have LOVED it. You can check out my web site for some terrifically honest reviews."

So only terrific reviews are the honest ones? So Bride Wars is really a good movie, it's just been trampled by dishonest reviewers?

"In fact, BOOKLIST, in its starred review, called it a "rip-roaring ghost story." And readers love it too. Here's what Riley, age 12, wrote to me: "Chris's book was great! Tell him it was amazing! Wonderful! And another great word that is more than spectacular! It was really scary too!""

Great. Some people like it. Wow. Some people like almost everything. Some people like peanut butter, some don't. Some people like classical music, some don't. Not everyone has to like everything, even if it's great. For example, I just don't get Hemingway. He's never spoken to me on an emotional level. My mom loves him. Does that mean one of us doesn't have taste? No. It just means we like different things about different books.

"Also, it was just optioned to be made into a Hollywood movie! So, I hope your readers will check out some of the other opinions before making up their minds about reading The Crossroads!"

Hollywood is so discerning! If they make it into a movie, it must be good!

I think Grabenstein's response to a 12 year-old girl is one of the least professional things I've ever seen in the children's/YA lit world. It's entirely self-centered and deluded. Also, it shows that he can't take any kind of criticism and doesn't understand that everyone's a different kind of reader. What is he going to do, go to Amazon and write to everyone who posts a negative review? (And Nona's wasn't even that bad!)

At least he apologized later on:

"I in no way meant to insult your daughter. But sometimes, it seems, our actions have unintended consequences. I apologize. If there is any way I can make it up to her, please let me know. Also know that you have made me feel awful. I was simply trying to share some of the other opinions about the book. I have nothing but the greatest respect for blogs and contribute to them quite frequently. Rest assured that I have learned my lesson and will never comment on commentary about my books again. Sincerely chastened, Chris."

He says he's learned his lesson, but I think he still doesn't get the point: readers don't have to love everything you write. And that's okay.

I don't think I'll be following his career as a writer. It kind of oogs me out that he responded this way to one minorly negative review.