Writer Lauren Hough Targets Goodreads Reviews

Hough’s online supporters turned her debut memoir into a New York Times Bestseller

As the resident fly on the literary Twitter wall, I unfortunately am very online. But even I had a hard time piecing together this week’s controversy surrounding essayist Lauren Hough, whose viral 2018 HuffPost piece about working as a cable guy was equally hilarious and horrifying. The now-deleted tweet that caught my eye said, “‘You shouldn’t have worn that skirt,’” in response to another tweet that criticized the author—the implication being that getting bad reviews is the same as rape culture.

After a deep dive into Hough’s tweets, I think it all started with a four-star review on Goodreads, an Amazon-owned social media platform for authors and reviewers. “Glad to see most of the Goodreads assholes still giving 4-star reviews to show they’re super tough reviewers who need to, like, fall in love, you know? Anyway, no one likes you,” Hough tweeted, then screenshotted two reviews of her book from users Debbie and Hannah, who debated whether they should round a 4.5-star review up or down. Pretty benign stuff. I’m not entirely sure what the problem is with four stars, but let’s leave that aside. 

Hough continued, “All these writers scared to even like that tweet. I see you. I will hate them out loud for you. I know they’re scary as shit. Fucking nerds on a power trip, you forgot to assign homework, motherfuckers.”

She caught some heat, and the angry Twitter mob started leaving one-star reviews of her debut, Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing, which was released April 13. Most of the reviews are short and sweet, something like “Did not read, 1 star.” But some reviewers got into it. “if you’re an author (or if you’re thinking about becoming an author/writing a book) and you think you can’t handle criticism and negative thoughts about your book(s), then maybe you shouldn’t, i don’t know, publish a book? just a thought,” wrote one reviewer named Elena. As of this writing, Hough’s memoir has an average rating of 1.85 stars on the website with nearly 3,000 one-star reviews.

Hough doubled-down, getting really into the weeds of searching her own name, blocking people on Twitter, and responding to almost every nasty tweet. 

 

And during this stretch, she likened the hate she was receiving to rape and rape culture. After the cringey skirt tweet, a user named @oocsitcoms replies, “TW rape. are you comparing twitter drama about book reviews to being raped and victim blamed????????” Hough replied sarcastically, “TW yep.”

As Hough and other fans pointed out that the book at the center of this shitstorm, Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing, specifically deals with the author’s sexual assault and silencing in the face of some major, powerful people. So, Hough sees the criticism she’s receiving as misplaced and ironic. Critics, on the other hand, accuse her of continuing the same toxic behavior she has suffered from. “Ironic that she put out a book about being silenced and yet…is silencing the critiques of her temper tantrum…maybe she needs to reread her own book,” wrote user @eunicebrownlee.

The negative reviews increased but, as we’ve learned in lessons of cancelled authors past, so did sales. Hough tweeted on Thursday that she’s now on the NYT best seller list. Soon after, she deleted many of her nastier tweets, so hopefully we can all chalk this up to a publicity stunt and move on with our lives.

Hough

Katie Smith

Katie Smith is a Philadelphia-based writer. Find her on Instagram @saddy_yankee for cat pics.

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