Andrea wrote to say, “An author recently gave me a copy of her book to review. I wasn’t very impressed with the writing or the story, but I felt indebted to write a fairly positive review, since she gave me a complimentary copy. What is my obligation in this situation?”
Eeek. I hate that situation. Been there many times myself, and I always felt like a weenie when I didn’t tell the truth. Besides, none of us like reading a glowing endorsement of a book, only to buy the book and feel ripped off by a reviewer who clearly either (a) lied, or (b) didn’t read the book, or (c) can’t read. It’s frustrating. So my advice is lifted entirely from my Grandmother: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
There’s a limit to this advice, of course. If you’re hired to do a review, just close your eyes and tell the truth. But in a case like you’re describing, where you’ve been given a copy by someone who probably thinks of you as a friend, it is sometimes best to write back and politely say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do a review on this book after all. I wish you the best.”
What advice do you all have in this situation?