Is It Courteous to Post A Fake Review for a Friend?
Back in college, there was this boy I liked, but as far as I could tell, he was barely aware of my existence. So it came as a surprise to me when I received a Facebook friend request from him recently, a good 18 years after our initial acquaintance. I was curious about how his life turned out, so I accepted.
He’s in insurance. He’s married. They’re expecting their 6th child. His family picture looks like it came from a catalogue that uses J. Crew models to sell matchy-matchy clothes to people who live in modest mansions. Oh, and he wrote a novel.
That last bit explains the friend request.
In trying to promote his novel, my former crush posted an offer to all his Facebook friends: He would send us all a free copy of his book in exchange for our reviews on Amazon, Facebook, and/or Goodreads. Well, I love a good book, and the word ‘free’ always gets my attention, so I sent him my address. A few weeks later the book came, and I dove in.
Well, I attempted to dive in. Really it was more like a stutter step followed by a lurch, culminating in a painful belly flop.
The two main characters’ names were so bland and similar that it was hard for me to tell them apart. I often had to reread entire sections after discovering I’d had the wrong character in mind for several pages. Not nearly enough was done to paint a distinct picture of each character. They were mainly tall, white, otherwise non-descript males as far as I could tell.
And as for the premise, I truly wish I could explain it. I know it was supposed to be a big controversy. I know every action of the plot depended on it. But unfortunately it was never fully disclosed, let alone made convincing. One character experienced enough outrage over this nebulous controversy that she took six children and left her husband to stay with an ailing widow she didn’t even know. What?!
And call me nit-picky (many people do), but there was an inconsistency involving a smart phone which, on page 11 was said to have been left in Oregon, but on page 75 reappeared without explanation. Why that bothered me as much as it did is a matter best explored by my therapist.
On the positive side, there was football! No matter how well the proverbial joy of victory and agony of defeat are spun, you always know the good guys will win the pivotal game. I do love a good sports thriller. But in this case, the magical half-time kiss that gave the quarterback the clarity he needed was a bit too much for me. See if you agree.
Here is an exchange between Jacob, the down-on-his-luck quarterback, and his hot-and-cold love interest, Ashley:
“You know, it’s kind of hard to throw a football when you can’t even think straight.”
“Well maybe there’s something I could do to straighten out those thoughts of yours,” Ashley said, taking a step closer to him.
“When Jacob raised his eyes to her, she was already reaching for him. Her lips found his, and he pulled her in. As Jacob kissed her, a conflagration started in his chest and quickly consumed him. As he held her in his arms, he had a sudden, strange moment of clarity. Despite the impossible odds, despite the 28 point deficit, there was one thing that seemed strangely clear: the Mayfield Mustangs were going to win this football game.”
Wow. Just wow.
In sum, I could’ve saved 339 pages of eye strain and gained several hours of potential Words with Friends action by just reading the blurb on the cover. It gave me all the information the book did, but was clear. And perhaps if I hadn’t opened it, the book wouldn’t have fallen apart in my hands. As if a poorly executed story were not enough, pages 190 through 218 literally came unglued from the binding. Classy.
One good thing I can say for the book is that it was, where mechanics and style are concerned, competently written. There were no grammar errors, the sentence structures were varied and strong, and I saw only two typos. For the most part, the author disappeared from view, which is, in my opinion, a mark of good writing.
I also admit it takes a whole list of enviable qualities, including wherewithal and tenacity, to take a story idea from concept to publication, and for that my hat goes off to the author without reservation.
And so the time has come for me to write a review, as I agreed to do in exchange for the free book. Knowing how influential reviews can be, I would hesitate to be the first to leave a negative one, perhaps giving courage to other readers with an iota of good taste, and leading to an onslaught of unflattering truth.
- Do I post the truth as I told it to you? I have nothing invested in my acquaintance with this person, so what do I care if he’s devastated, right? But that’s so mean! Anyway, I wish him well regardless of his story’s flaws. Outfitting a large family in matchy-matchy clothes doesn’t come cheap.
- Do I cling to the adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?” This would show blatant disregard for my obligation to submit a review. He knows I’ve read the book, and several others who also received the book have already posted glowing recommendations. Wouldn’t my silence be just as damning as the truth?
- Or do I side with COURTESY and post the recommendation below? Each part of it is technically true, but ultimately it is the perfect example of a fake review.
“It takes a whole list of enviable qualities, including wherewithal and tenacity, to take a story idea from concept to publication, and for that my hat goes off to author David McKnight for his book Tongue of Fire. As is the mark of a good writer, this author disappears from readers’ awareness while his characters intertwine to tell a story with a mystery-filled premise and lots of nail-biting football. Add a little game-changing romance, and WOW! Competently written and stylistically pleasing, this book is a page-turner that had me unglued in parts. For a stirring read, buy Tongue of Fire.”
What do YOU think I should do? Let me know in the comments below.