Jay Clark on Negative Reviews

Jay Clark is the debut author of The Edumacation of Jay Baker, about a ninth grade dweeb struggling through his first year of high school and all that it entails: debates for class president, cute girls, horrific awkwardness, and familial chaos. Since Edumacation is Jay’s first novel, all the experiences that come with publishing are new to him–for instance, reviews. Below is Jay’s take on the good, the bad, and the ugly of book reviews.

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Fresh off my first ever *starred* review for my debut novel, The Edumacation of Jay Baker, I was riding high last week. Then, at a party over the weekend, I ran smack-dab into a Debbie Downer. After filling me in on the horrible reaction she’d had to this year’s flu shot, Debbie asked how “the whole book thing” was going. Trying not to rock back and forth on my heels like the little boy I still am, I told her about my review. She nodded noncommittally, then asked how I’d feel when I got a crappy one.

“Fine,” I said stiffly. “Gotta take the good with the bad, you know?”

Squinting her eyes, Debbie did not appear convinced. She’d seen how paper-thin my skin was only moments earlier, when she’d made fun of my “John Mayer” hair and I’d gotten defensive about it.

“But it’ll be really hard, you know?” she prodded, pretending to be sympathetic. “Spending all that time on something and then having people judge it. I mean, I couldn’t do it.”

I was tempted to agree wholeheartedly, facedly, and assedly. Instead, I clutched my stomach and said, “Have to run to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.”

I never came back. But you know what came my way this week? The not-so-great review Nostradebbie had predicted. Cue the “Wah-waaaah” trumpet noise.

It was more of a mixed review, really–a lot of good-not-great stuff about my tendency to overwrite and insert jokes where they’re—pa-dum-pum!—not needed. Wait just a second, I thought. Did my mom write this? In other words, it was nothing I hadn’t heard before. But still. I’m human. My robot operation isn’t scheduled until 2041. And if I had my choice between sticks & stones or a big flaming pile of words, bring it on, Rock of Gibraltar! Oh, what the heck–let Debbie & the Gang have their say, too. I’ll just shield my body underneath a pile of magazines (the one with my starred review) and, of course, steel-infused copies of The Edumacation of Jay Baker.

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