The F Words: Interview with Tamara Rolan, Book Reviewer

Two months ago a wonderful five-star review of The F Words appeared on GoodReads. After I shared this review on Facebook and Twitter, I learned that several people (who had somehow resisted buying The F Words up until this time) were so swayed by the review that they bought my book.

Well, I thought: this is a very persuasive review. And so I decided that I wanted to interview the book reviewer for my blog: not only because she wrote such a positive review, but mainly because I think readers would be interested in learning more about book reviewers. Not book reviewers who write for major newspapers and magazines, but book reviewers who write for social media, mainly out of a love of books.

And so, here’s my interview with Tamara Rolan. I enjoyed interviewing her, and I hope you enjoy reading her replies.

How long have you been a book reviewer on Instagram and Goodreads?
I’ve been reviewing books for a couple of indie romance authors for a couple of years, but I started my bookstagram almost 1 year ago.

What made you decide to start reviewing books?
I started reviewing books to help independent/self-published authors. If you’re a reader you know about the mainstream authors or the more popular books that everyone is reading. I wanted to use the platforms available to shout out authors that others may not have heard about.  

About how many titles do you read each year, and about how many do you review?
I read an average of 100 books a year, and I probably review 40% of them across multiple platforms. I never give a rating less than 3 stars because it’s an amazing feat for someone to write a book and that’s my own little way of acknowledging that. I mainly review lesser known titles or stories that really stay with me long after the final page. 

What do you do in the real world, when you aren’t reading books?
Even though books are my passion (and my escape), I work as a Certified Nurse Midwife. I’m also a single mom to a teenage boy.

How long does it take you to write a typical review for Goodreads?
If I absolutely love the book, it takes me about 10 minutes to write it. Otherwise, it takes about 30 minutes to put my thoughts and notes into a review that makes sense. 

You must be approached by many authors and publishers asking you to review a particular book. What do you take into consideration when choosing a book that you want to review?
I first look at the genre. I generally steer away from autobiographies or books dealing with politics. Political books because those topics can be divisive and autobiographies because it feels weird to review someone’s personal account of their life. Other than that, I generally say yes to reviewing a book. I am honest about my timeline for a review, which is based on how many unread ARC’s I have. 

Approximately what percentage of the books you review are YA fiction?
I would say in the past year about 20% of the books I’ve reviewed have been YA books.

What drew you to say yes to reviewing my YA novel, The F Words?
I was intrigued based on the synopsis from your publisher. The description mentioned youth tackling racism and oppression. Not many of the books I’ve been sent or asked to review deal with such heavy topics.

At which point in reading The F Words did you feel you were invested in the story?
I was hooked 5- or 6-pages in. Cole’s teacher Mr. Nachman reminded me of some of the best teachers I had in high school, and his “punishment” was unique and not something I would expect to see for such an egregious act. It left me curious to see how the story would play out. Would Cole follow through with his F words assignment? How would he handle his father’s incarceration? What words would he write his poems on? These were all questions I needed answers to!

 “Our kids want to talk about these topics and stories like this are an awesome way to start the conversation.”

Who is your favorite character in the story? Why?
Initially I thought it would be Treva. She’s bold and fearless from the moment she steps on to the page. But ultimately it was Tia Veronica. She’s an incredible source of support for her family, which includes Cole, despite her fear of ICE and deportation.  I don’t want to give anything away because I think more people should read The F Words, but you can feel her pain after the Thanksgiving incident, and the strength it takes to make the decisions that she does to keep them and herself safe. For me it’s a reminder of what so many in our country go through on a daily basis, just to enjoy the freedoms so many of us take for granted.  

Which scene do you recall most?
A few scenes really stand out for me. The incident at Thanksgiving, which broke my heart. Cole and his mom’s first visit to the jail to see his dad but being told that they can’t. Cole’s protest at the school over his suspension. There were just so many moments that kept me engaged and made me love this book. 

In your review you said that you hope both teachers and parents purchase a copy of The F Words for the youths/young adults in their lives. Why do you think it’s important that young people read this story?
YA books like The F Words can be used to have meaningful discussions about hard topics. Some of the most insightful conversations with my son have come from something he’s read in a book. Our kids want to talk about these topics and stories like this are an awesome way to start the conversation.

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The F Words is available wherever books are sold: from the publisher, City of Light Publishing; from IndieBound, the site for independent bookstores; from Barnes & Noble; and from Amazon. To get updates and the latest news on The F Words, subscribe to Barbara Gregorich’s Newsletter.