This means the book sucks.
Plain and simple. Just say it for what it is. Recently saw a book that looked interesting and I read the “Look Inside” on Amazon and thought it way too painful to get through. The plot was interesting but the actual writing and characters was flat, dull, and campy. I couldn’t believe that all of the reviews were four and five stars, until I read them. All of them had, at least at one point something along the lines of “It’s so impressive for being a teenaged writer.”
Not only is this insulting to the author, it is unhelpful to both the reader and writer.
First of all, what does that even mean? Just because we can’t remember when mullets were cool means we can’t be good writers until we turn twenty? Bullcrap.
Nancy Yi Fan published her first book, Swordbird when she was eleven years old and then published her second book just two years later. These books rocked. Swordbird is still one of my favorite books growing up and I also grew up with Harry Potter, The Lightning Thief, and The Princess Diaries.
Amelia Atwater-Rodes published her first novel, In the Forests of the Night, when she was fourteen years old. It was a vampire story you could read in a day that had a good plot and more complex characters than Twilight. (Better emotionally adjusted too). No one said this book was good for a fourteen year-old in a stupid, patronizing manner. The book was just good.
So it’s possible to write well when you’re a teenager (shocker, right? *gasp*). Just like it’s possible to come up with painful books like Fifty Shades of Grey when you’re an adult, with painful lines of “Double crap” and “My inner goddess”, and sex scenes that could turn a girl off of sex forever.
Four and five star reviews for the fact that she’s fourteen is stupid and patronizing. If the book sucks, then it sucks. End of story. Don’t give a standing ovation to the fact that a teenager can string a sentence or two together. It is not helpful to readers looking for good books, and it’s not helpful to the writer, because then he or she will think that they are incredibly special and don’t need to improve their writing ever. Or they will read through the veiled, patronizing insult that makes the reviewer look stupid, and they will get frustrated because they don’t know what specifically was wrong with the story.
This is really frustrating. Believe me, I know from experience. When I put my short story, “Hotel Holmes” on Booktrack, my overall rating was three out of five stars but all of the comments said how spooky and good my story was and none said anything negative. But I want negative. I want someone to say my characters were flat, the plot was confusing, and what the hell was supposed to be scary anyway because then I have something to work with. I don’t want crap like “Oh my god! You wrote this when you were seventeen! How impressive!”
Not helpful. That’s why I kept my age a secret for several years on this blog. I might be only eighteen, but I have made over two grand doing freelance writing, I’ve been interviewed on NPR, and I’m writing my own novel, and I’ve published a short story on Booktrack. This is more than what a lot of people have done. It’s impressive for anybody, not just for teenagers. Just like writing a good book is impressive for anybody.
If someone puts his or her book out on the market, and they happen to be a teenager, don’t say it’s amazing for a teenager. Give the author some respect and tell them what you liked and didn’t like in the book.