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reviews and crying and not giving up

Edited to add: In case you miss it in the comments, I want you all to know how much I appreciate your wonderful comments on this post. Reading all of them made me get teary all over again. Thank you all, so much.

I received some reviews this past week for MATCHED. Some official reviews.

And they were lovely.

And two of them (Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly) even had stars. Stars. Never in my life did I think I would see a starred review for something I’ve written.

Here is why.

I have only written one other national market title besides MATCHED, a book called FRESHMAN FOR PRESIDENT with my first publisher. I worked hard on FRESHMAN. I loved writing it. At the time, I felt it was the best thing I’d ever written. And when my publisher sent it off for review, I knew it wouldn’t rock the world, but I also thought it was a good little book. I thought it would be fine. When the first reviews came in, they were fine. Nothing starred, certainly, but all right. And then this one came in (I remove anything spoilery-y from the reviews because I am a complete spoiler-phobe):

Condie, who has published two novels about Mormon teens under the name Allyson B. Condie, starts with an interesting premise. Milo aside, the characters don’t develop much beyond one dimension, however. The text is repetitious and larded with unnecessary scenes, and the pacing is truly glacial. Could be useful for integrating civics and language arts, but not much else.

So maybe you will understand why I was so surprised, and happy, and why I might have cried a little when I read this, from the same journal:

MATCHED. (Starred)
Condie peels back layer after dystopic layer at breakneck speed, Dylan Thomas reverberating throughout. If the Society’s at war, who’s the enemy? …A fierce, unforgettable page-turner in its own right.

Do I think the other review is fair? Yes, because the reviewer has to call it like they read it.

Am I equally proud of both books? Yes, because I did the best I could on both of them. My best was different.

Do I like the starred review better than the other one? Um, yes.

So keep writing. Even if someone says your pacing is larded and glacial. Don’t give up.

(I kind of can’t believe I just posted that other terrible review. Don’t hold it against me.)

+ comments (31)
  • Lacey (ljboldyrev)
    October 13, 2010

    That starred review is well deserved! MATCHED is absolutely amazing. Congrats!

  • julie
    October 13, 2010

    thats so great about the two different reviews. I agree matched is awesome

  • Amanda
    October 13, 2010

    Congrats on the reviews! Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Matched!

  • Sara B. Larson
    October 13, 2010

    I know how hard you’ve worked for this, and how much those starred reviews must mean. Happy tears are a wonderful thing. You’ve earned them. So very happy for you!!! (and that’s gotta take the sting out of that lame review!)

  • Gayle
    October 13, 2010

    I remember when I got my first good review–and I didn’t realize it was starred until later–and I was shocked. I’d only gotten mediocre or downright mean reviews before. It was surreal. It was nice. And I try to take it with a grain of salt because I know the fangs will bare again.

    These are all wonderful, but they only just begin to skim the surface of the magic that is your book, and will be all your books.

  • Keary Taylor
    October 13, 2010

    Congrats Ally! That is SOO awesome! I can’t wait till Matched is released, so excited to read it!

  • Emy (Sandy) Shin
    October 13, 2010

    Congratulations, Ally! MATCHED — and you — truly deserve all those stars, and more. You’ve worked so hard for them, and MATCHED is truly phenomenal 🙂

  • Enna Isilee
    October 13, 2010

    Just shows that you should NEVER give up! And we’re all SO glad you didn’t.

  • Shari
    October 13, 2010

    Congratulations, Ally. I, of course, think you are fabulous no matter what the critics say.

  • JanelleB
    October 13, 2010

    Fantastic, accurate review of Matched. I loved the book but can never seem to come up with short, to the point, phrasing to say how great it was. I did giggle at the review of FFP, how they came up with larded and glacial is so strange, but I guess it’s his/her point of view.

  • SusanA
    October 13, 2010

    Congrat. It gives us all hope.

  • Jenni Elyse
    October 13, 2010

    Although I like the story of Matched better, I still enjoyed reading Freshman for President. *spoiler* I loved that it didn’t end with Milo winning. It seemed more real that way and it was very refreshing.

    How exciting about receiving a starred review for Matched! It deserves every praise it gets! It’s such a great story and I can’t wait to read its sequels. 🙂

  • Chandler Craig
    October 13, 2010

    I’m reading Matched right now and absolutely love the world you’ve created! Can’t wait to finish.

  • Elle Strauss
    October 13, 2010

    So appreciate you being honest with your journey, the good and the bad.

    Matched is a great book and deserves starred reviews!

  • L.T. Elliot
    October 13, 2010

    Congratulations, Ally! I think that new review is wonderful. And the old one, while not great, is a triumph for you. Look how you’ve persisted in the face of it. Others might have given up the fight but you haven’t and you’re conquering! Well done!

  • becca
    October 13, 2010

    Stars for Ally.

    Many, many stars.
    *** *** *** ***

  • JoshuaWeber
    October 13, 2010

    I haven’t read Freshman for President or Matched yet, but Yearbook and First Day are some of my favorite YA novels ever. Its so interesting to see how book reviews are all in the eye of the beholder. Can’t wait to read Matched!

  • Julie Dixon
    October 13, 2010

    Congrats, Ally! I’m glad you hung in there. Can’t wait to finally finish Matched!

  • RemildaGraystone
    October 13, 2010

    I’m not holding anything against you! In fact, I thought it was great, because it shows just how far people can come! That you’re always improving, which is what I’m all about!

    Thanks, and this makes me SO EXCITED for Matched to come out already. I’m not sure I can put it into words.

  • Amie Kaufman
    October 14, 2010

    Congratulations on the stars! But I’m just as impressed that you’ll post a review like that. Encouragement for those of us without stars!

  • Steff
    October 14, 2010

    My favorite review I read about Matched is:
    “Forget assignments, cleaning your room or logging onto facebook; Matched will have you saying to yourself at 3am, ‘Giraffes can function on 2hrs of sleep a day and they’re twice as big as me!’”

  • Steff
    October 14, 2010

    Oh! I forgot to tell you: I don’t give stars but hearts. I don’t know why but after reading your book I’m 100% sure I’m going to give this story 5 hearts, like this: “<33333".
    I hope. Pressure now. I have to love it!
    Have a nice day!

  • JoanFairbank
    October 14, 2010

    Congrats on the great review Ally! I appreciate you sharing the bad review too. I think its pretty cool to write something and have it matter enough that it gets reviewed at all…good or bad. But Matched will be loved. Congrats.

  • Samantha
    October 14, 2010

    This is incredibly inspiring. Thank you.

  • Stasia Kehoe
    October 14, 2010

    Wow, larded AND glacial! A tough review with some memorable words. Thank you so much for sharing this and for the reminder that writing is a journey for us all. BTW, very excited to read MATCHED and congrats on the * ! – Stasia

  • anndee
    October 15, 2010

    awesome review, ally! I’m so excited for you.

  • Lorelei
    October 15, 2010

    Yay, 50 gold stars for you! Thanks for sharing that with us:)

  • Bekah
    October 16, 2010

    It’s nice to show that everyone progresses as a writer and not everyone will agree- rejection doesn’t stop when your’re published I suppose : )

  • Libby
    October 16, 2010

    Congrats Ally! That is so wonderful. I love the commercial for the books! It is amazing. This is such an exciting time for you.

  • ally
    October 17, 2010

    You guys, thank you all, so much. Reading all the lovely and supportive comments brought tears to my eyes all over again.


  • HeatherSmith
    October 18, 2010

    Congrats on such a great review. You do deserve it.

    I think the other review has at last found it’s purpose…by making me laugh at the phrase “larded and glacial.” I think I will use that description everytime I take a long-run in winter.