It has been a really busy week, and a hard one, fraught with insomnia and so many school functions to attend that I had little time to recover. In my down moments – what few they were – I didn’t have a lot of mental energy to put into other projects, so I spend that time working on the blog this week. I had an interesting experience doing so.
Back in 2010, I read and reviewed Devilish by Maureen Johnson. I’ve read seven novels by Johnson since discovering her in 2009, and Devilish ranks up among my favorites, perhaps my very favorite. It’s the only one I own, after seeing it recently at a library book sale and snatching it up immediately. My review from 2010, however, is very unsure. I read back through it as I transferred it from my private book journal to this blog, and the whole time, I kept wondering what the heck I’d been thinking. This book is so much fun! Did that just not come out in my review?
Then I got to the end, where I’d tacked on a note when I created my private book journal in spring 2012, almost two years after reading Devilish. “Note: After time passed, this came to be one of my favorite Maureen Johnson books, the one that stuck around most in my memory.” Okay. So I wasn’t crazy. I simply hadn’t liked the book as much when I first read it as I do now.
This isn’t terribly uncommon, I don’t think. (Not specifically with this book, but books in general.) I remember being kinda meh about Never Let Me Go when I first read it, but within six months, it grew into an all-time favorite that I still thought about all the time. There’s the opposite, too, where a book starts as something you enjoy but over time either becomes distasteful or fades away in your mind. I’ve had quite a few reviews I’ve read over as I transfer them, praising a book I either barely remember or remember negatively. Other than a periodic note when my feelings have drastically changed (both Devilish and Never Let Me Go have them, added years ago, not now), I’ve forced myself not to modify my original reviews in any way. (Well, other than correcting obvious typos. Because there’s that.)
Reviews are my first impressions of a book. Reviews and “ratings” (which is an entirely different topic for a different Sunday Coffee) can only say so much, unless added to or changed over time, and I hesitate to make those changes. I like having a book journal to record those first impressions, so that I don’t forget a book or the initial experience of reading it. Sometimes, though, I wish to go back and revisit a book, and then update my review, or at least add on “revisited” thoughts. (I actually have done this a couple times over the years, like with We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.)
You’d think it would be simple: like a book, don’t like a book. But it’s not. It speaks to how powerful a book can be, how strongly it can affect someone, when impressions and feelings over time can be altered, even without ever revisiting said book.