David Lubar

Okay, a bad review is no big deal. Especially when balanced by some wonderful reviews, eight state award nominations, and inclusion on three ALA lists (Best Books, Quick Picks, and Popular Paperbacks). But this review was just so mean and nasty, so downright hostile, that there had to be an explanation. Here are my best guesses:

1. They don't like novels that devote an entire chapter to setting up a scene involving the world's largest lit fart.

2. They prefer a third-person limited viewpoint to that of a first-person, snotty-nosed, wise-mouthed, adolescent viewpoint.

3. There's no reason to assume they actually didn't like it. When you're cranking out tons of reviews, you can't always take time out for reading.

4. They know for a fact that kids don't like funny books, and even if they did they should be reading something grim and impenetrable instead because it builds character.

5. Just to be different.

6. They actually loved it and thus, in the grandest tradition of the Olympics, could think of no higher words of praise than "amateurish effort."

7. They operate on the principle that anything enjoyable can't possibly be good for you.

8. Because it was there.

9. They flipped a coin and it came up tails.

10. They are actually an unwitting tool of God, who knows in His infinite wisdom that this is a wonderful way to remind me to maintain my humility.

If you stumbled across this page because you've also been trashed by a nasty and ignorant review, take heart. I'm still here and doing just fine. Sure, it hurts, it's unfair, and it shouldn't happen. But they're playing a mean-spirited game, and nobody takes them seriously. If you really need to lift your spirits, call every library in your area and ask if they subscribe to Kirkus Reviews. You'll be pleased to see how few have even heard of it. Hang in there, keep writing, and take pleasure from the fact that your book has been published.

I feel I should add a few more inspiring words for anyone who has been trashed by Kirkus Reviews. The review of Hidden Talents happened in 1999. The book is still selling well, and is on tons of required reading lists at schools all over the country. More than one respected source has called it a modern classic. I say this not to boast, but to show that a single dreadful review can't kill a good book. As for Kirkus, it was almost put out of our misery when its owner decided to let it die recently. Unfortunately, some guy with a lot of money and a love of books decided it would be a good thing to keep the magazine alive.

If you're still hurting, this should help. Here's an aptitude test for reviewers.

Updated thoughts, January, 2012

I believe the original post was written some time in 1999 or 2000. Well, thirteen years have passed, and look where we are. Hidden Talents is still in print, still selling well, and still being used by many schools for summer reading and Battle of the Books. Many teachers have told me stories about students who discovered a love of reading by way of this book.

And how has Kirkus Reviews fared? Several years ago, they almost went out of business. They now resort to selling reviews to self-published authors, and they have associate links on their site so they make money when people buy books. Sleazy stuff. The reviews are still snarky, inaccurate, and anonymous. (I get emails from unfairly trashed authors all the time. It please me that they find a bit of comfort here.) One of their reviewers disliked me so much, he published pretty much the same trashy review in both Kirkus and VOYA, violating professional ehtics and contractual obligations. He was punished by being given his own column in VOYA.Ironically, the book he trashed was a sequel to Hidden Talents.

I'm looking forward to updating this again in a decade or so. With luck, Kirkus, will be nothing but a distant memory by then.

Updated thoughts, May, 2015

Sixteen years since the book was published, and it's still going strong. Hidden Talents is getting a new cover in June, for a trade edition. I'm still writing novels. When I visit schools, I meet lots of students who've read the book, and lots of teachers who've used it in the classroom. I think Martin, Torchie, Flinch, Cheater, Trash, and Lucky are going to be around for a while longer. I haven't just survived a mean and clueless review. I've thrived.