There’s a rather interesting/funny tweetsplosion going on right now about the so-called YA mafia (#yamafia over at twitter). Some book bloggers have expressed concern that writing negative reviews will hamper their future efforts to become published novelists. This is in response to the feedback they’ve gotten from a handful of authors who have bitten back against negative reviews with comments that sounded a bit too much like: “you’ll never work in this town again.” YA Highway has a round up of the debate.

I am of the opinion that writers should never respond to their reviews. Other authors disagree with me. That difference of opinion alone should be proof enough that we YA authors are not united in some well-organized cabal. Sure, some of us are friends. I bet you’re friends with some of your colleagues too. But, as Holly Black so eloquently put it, “writers are basically lazy and impractical people.” So go ahead and write your bad reviews. We won’t ruin your career because we wouldn’t know how.

I say this because I think bad reviews are essential. Once a book is published, it belongs to its readers, not to the author. The existence of bad reviews implies the existence of readers who care enough to write bad reviews. This is a good thing. This is what keeps fiction alive. Because of the internet, we no longer have to satisfy ourselves with only the bad reviews produced by print media either. Now ANYONE can publish a bad review, which means there are more bad reviews out there now than at any time in history. This is also a good thing. A bad review is the beginning of a conversation. It’s also an invitation for someone (not the author!) to disagree.

Reading is an intensely personal experience, to which every reader brings his or her own ideas and desires. A work of genius to some is a pile of trash to others. But if all you do is close the book and quietly harumph that it wasn’t as good as it could have been, the transaction ends there. If, on the other hand, you blog about why you disliked it, now you’re starting a conversation.

So keep talking. And don’t worry about hurting our feelings. We shouldn’t actually be reading these reviews anyway. They’re for the readers, not the authors. The authors should be writing their next book.

P.S. If I’m wrong and there IS a YA mafia, I’m in and my name is Joey Knuckles.