Do Blurbs Matter? They Worked on Me with The Girl in the Road

Maybe you heard the news that rippled through the book world in April: Gary Shteyngart is no longer blurbing.

In an open letter in The New Yorker bestselling author and prolific blurber Gary Shteyngart said he would “be throwing my ‘blurbing pen’ into the Hudson River during a future ceremony …. Literature can and will go on without my mass blurbing. Perhaps it may even improve.”

Shteyngart’s blurbs are so legendary, they’ve spawned their own Tumblr and a 15-minute documentary (totally worth watching). His blurbs will be missed (but hopefully he’ll be back blurbing soon).

But do blurbs really matter? Do they work?

Sometimes they work on me. Sometimes, when I’m browsing through the shelves at my local bookstore, I’ll pick up a book (because the cover calls to me), and if I see an author I love write something really great about the book, that’ll usually push me over the edge. Sometimes I’m thrilled to discover a new voice; sometimes I realize that my favorite author and I don’t share the same reading taste!

Here’s a blurb that worked on me the moment I read it:

“It’s transfixing to watch Monica Byrne become a major player in sci-fi with her debut novel: so sharp, so focused and so human. Beautifully drawn people in a future that feels so close you can touch it, blended with the lush language and concerns of myth. It builds a bridge from past to future, from East to West. Glorious stuff.” —Neil Gaiman, author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

As soon as I read this, I knew I had to read The Girl in the Road. Why? Because Neil Gaiman is awesome. If he says this book is “glorious stuff,” I must read it.

I’m so glad I did! Monica Bryne’s novel is everything Gaiman said and more. And now that I’ve read it, I’m seeing blurbs and reviews pop up everywhere.

“A new sensation, a real achievement,” says the Wall Street Journal. (I trust WSJ reviews because they’re on the conservative side and rarely lean into the hyperbole that’s hard to take seriously.)

“Delivered with all the vivid, haunting poignancy of a vision quest,” says NPR. (Love NPR, love their reviews.)

“Relentlessly kinetic,” says the LA Review of Books. (The LA Review of Books has some of the most talented authors reviewing for them, so I tend to seek out their reviews.)

“Stunning … story lines converge in a surprising, gratifying climax,” says Booklist. (Always good to hear that a book has a great ending!)

“Byrne’s debut novel may be the most inventive tale to come along in years,” says Kirkus. (Kirkus is notoriously tough, so this one really got me.)

I guess it all comes down to whether or not the praise is coming from a source we trust.

Congrats to Karen O., Kristin S., Jill S., Katie K., Kathy G., and 95 other members of the Read It Forward community! Their entries were selected at random to win an Advance Reader’s Copy of The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne.

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