Friday, March 2, 2018

Thoughts: Writing Reviews, Their Impact and Online Bitchiness - Zenith and Sasha Alsberg

I have been thinking a lot lately about bloggers, BookTubers and other people who review books. I was already in a conflicted space when Zenith, the hyped debut novel of prominent BookTuber Sasha Alsberg and her more established co-author, Lindsay Cummings, was released.

Zenith, having tasted the NYT bestseller list in its self-published form, debuted at number 7 in its first week of release under publishing house Harlequin Teen. The book has, since then, fallen completely off the list.

So what does this mean? Why has such an anticipated book basically fallen off the bestseller radar?

This is going to be a long post so grab some tea and let's unpack everything and take a critical look at the online book community and the impact it has on selling books.

Sasha Alsberg - Author Photo

Sasha Alsberg is pretty much a celebrity in bookish spheres. She started her channel, abookutopia, in 2013 and was literally one of the pioneers in the BookTube space. At the time of this post, she has 366 000 subscribers, putting her at number two on the list of most popular YouTubers (Number one is the insane Christine Riccio of polandbananasBOOKS). Obviously, her signing a book deal was a huge thing and was often talked about on her channel well before Zenith was published.

What people seem to forget though, is that Sasha is only 20. A young age to have already spent 5 years of her life in the public eye with the pressures of creating content and keeping her thousands of subscribers happy. Up until the release of Zenith, she was BookTube's golden girl, running a massive content creation regime and making public appearances at all the Cons and major book launches. Readers across the globe looked up to her and trusted her opinions on books.

Surely, that amount of pressure is quite a load to bear as it is. Now, with the hype around Zenith, fans had even bigger expectations and doubters were waiting in the wings, hoping that her book would fail.

Let's face it. Fame is a raging asshole (I went there. If you don't get the reference, just watch any scathing review of Zenith). There was bitterness by the truckload when she landed the book deal that only escalated when the book was released. Disgruntled people felt that Sasha had used her existing celebrity status to get published and that she didn't have to work very hard for the opportunity. I think this influenced a large number of reviews.

All you have to do is a search for Zenith reviews on YouTube and probably 90% of them are of the rant variety. Some are pretty fucking mean about it too. Yeah, I see all those YouTubers who are also writing books of their own jumping on the Zenith-bashing bandwagon. Because it's cool and probably fuelled by bitterness.

You have to question people's motives behind leaving rant reviews. A lot of them had not even finished the book and were basing their opinion on other opinions because they wanted the views while they were hot.

And this, dear readers, is why Zenith is suddenly not the hyped book it was made out to be.

Does this then mean Zenith is really a bad book? And how much stock can we really put on these reviews? Should you read it?

It was co-authored by a 20-year old. Who is going to write a masterpiece at that age? Sure, some have been successful, but they have had time to edit and were away from the pressures of a hyped-up fanbase. Especially when they are writing to please fans and trying to create a world and universe they hope they will love.

I am reading Zenith now and I regret seeing all those bad reviews before I had been able to form my own opinion of the book. Huge regret, as I honestly feel Zenith is not all that bad, but my judgment remains clouded.

I feel bad for Sasha and the vitriol she has gone through and I really urge everyone to read the books that they find compelling and not just because people are hyping it. Because sometimes, the hype is also a lie.

Stay tuned for a full review in the next few weeks! I promise to be 100% honest and fair, as always.

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