Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Comparing Reviews of MOSQUITOLAND at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

A lot of people use the reviews at Amazon to make decisions about books. I don't know how the specific content that is used at Amazon is selected, but it is worth noting that it is selectively used. No surprise there, really, because Amazon is a business, and so are the publishers.

Case in point: David Arnold's Mosquitoland 

Amazon includes this from School Library Journal:

Three sentences. They say "Debut author Arnold's book is filled with some incredible moments of insight. The protagonist is a hard-edged narrator with a distinct voice. There is a lot for teens to admire and even savor." 

The full review was much longer, as seen at Barnes and Noble:

In the full review, Angie Manfredi pointed out that the protagonist uses lipstick to paint her face and calls it "war paint" or that the protagonist is "part" Cherokee. She described these as "deeply problematic elements" of "cultural appropriation." 

She's right. 

I haven't read the book yet but will as soon as I get a copy. 

For now, though, I think it important to note the difference in what gets excerpted at Amazon versus what gets used at Barnes and Noble. If you are a person who is mindful of problems related to depictions of Native peoples, Amazon would lead you astray. 


Cynthia Leitich Smith said...


I *think* the reviews work one of two ways. Either the online bookseller has a contract subscription with the review journal to run the reviews in full or the publisher submits excerpts under a certain number of ("fair use") words. Maybe one of the publishing pros could chime in on that for sure.

Thanks for all you do!

Stephanie said...

Chiming in since I work at Library Journal. Cynthia is spot on. B&N always runs full reviews from LJ, SLJ, PW, and Kirkus. For Amazon, publishers choose what they would like to send. Sometimes this is the full review but most times it's not. This is not the first time I've seen a publisher send a misleading snippet to Amazon. I've also noticed that some publishers don't even send snippets to Amazon if we run a very negative review. I suppose they'd rather have people assume there is no review than a bad one.

Debbie Reese said...

Thank you, Cynthia and Stephanie, for your comments. This is very helpful information!

Stephanie said...

Hi Debbie! Following up to my previous comment. This is an adult book about Native American history that received negative reviews from LJ, PW, and Kirkus. Of course the Amazon page,, is very different than the B&N one, This makes me sad on so many levels.

Debbie Reese said...

Thanks, Stephanie. Maybe LJ can do an article about the differences on the two sites... an article encouraging librarians to let patrons know to check both sites.