What’s the Deal With the Goodreads Review-Bombing Controversy?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Del Rey Books

If you’re only peripherally on BookTok, you might be vaguely aware that there’s a lot of drama in the Goodreads community right now. Apparently, someone was creating fake accounts to “review bomb” several forthcoming books, meaning that they bogged down the titles’ Goodreads scores with negative reviews. This all came to a head this week, when Cait Corrain — a fantasy writer whose debut novel was supposed to be released next year — was revealed as the culprit.

The story doesn’t stop there, though. This saga includes Google Docs full of receipts, doctored chats, and Star Wars fan fiction. There is no real happy ending, but the journey is a wild ride.

Okay, what happened?

To set the scene, this all took place on Goodreads, the website where people log and review what they’ve read. The site is a thriving community with a lot of power in the publishing world, and it is where a lot of hype begins for upcoming releases. Earlier this month, several science-fiction and fantasy writers had the Goodreads pages for their upcoming debut novels “review bombed,” a practice in which swarms of people bombard an author or a book with one-star reviews. It’s a common enough phenomenon that the New York Times wrote a piece about it over the summer, and in October Goodreads announced it was working to combat the practice. In this case, over half a dozen Goodreads accounts had given the books — almost all of which were written by people of color — one-star reviews, presumably to tank their rating. Suspiciously, these same accounts had all also given five-star reviews to one book in particular: Cait Corrain’s upcoming fantasy debut Crown of Starlight.

So who noticed what was going on?

This caught the eye of sci-fi author Xiran Jay Zhao, who suspected that Corrain was the person behind it all. In a TikTok they made explaining the situation, Zhao said that they had been in contact with the authors affected by Corrain’s fake reviews and that the writers initially wanted to “try and resolve it privately.” Eventually, after Corrain claimed in a now-deleted post that she was actually the victim of “fake accounts messing with my GR ratings,” Zhao shared what we used to call a subtweet:

This sent Book Twitter into a tizzy as it tried to figure out who this mysterious debut author was.

Does Star Wars fandom come into this?

Would you believe me if I said “yes”? Corrain was a member of the Reylo fandom, which is a community of people who ship and write fanfiction about Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). In their TikTok, Zhao said that after their post went viral someone contacted them claiming to be Corrain’s friend from the Reylo fandom. This person provided screenshots of what appeared to be a chat between Corrain and this friend in which the friend admitted to being the person doing the review bombing.

Close readers will note that the time stamps on these chats jump from “Yesterday” to “Today” within the chat, which made people realize that they were doctored. Zhao said she asked for more evidence of conversation between Corrain and this friend but was not given any.

How did it come out that Corrain was the review bomber?

Well, get this: She named herself. Sort of. In a Slack server for authors with debut novels coming out in 2024, Corrain admitted that she was the “author in question” with regards to Zhao’s tweet. However, she doubled down on the idea that it was a friend of hers who had made the accounts, sharing the same screenshots that had been shared with Zhao.

“I did NOT review bomb anyone,” Corrain wrote on Slack, according to screenshots. “I did not positively review my own book with false accounts.”

What’s this I’m hearing about a Google doc of receipts?

So, two more people you’ll want to know in this story are Bethany Baptiste and Meredith Mooring. Baptiste was one of the authors who was review bombed, and Mooring is a friend of Corrain’s, who (this will become relevant) has albinism.

While tweeting about the situation, Baptiste used the phrase “an albino snake in the hen house” referring to Corrain. Mooring incorrectly assumed that Baptiste was talking about her, and she accused Baptiste of ableism.

Zhao saw all of this and decided that accusing Baptiste — a Black, disabled woman — of ableism was the last straw. They released a Google doc full of screenshots that show different accounts giving the same books one-star reviews, then giving Crown of Starlight five stars.

Did Corrain apologize?

On Monday, Corrain released a statement in which she apologized and explained herself.

In her statement, Corrain said she has been “fighting a losing battle against depression, alcoholism and substance abuse” since 2022. She claimed that in late November she began a new medication, and in early December she “suffered a complete psychological breakdown.” She admitted to creating six new Goodreads profiles with which she “boosted the rating of my book, bombed the ratings of several fellow debut authors, and left reviews that ranged from kind of mean to downright abusive.”

“I felt no ill will towards any of them,” Corrain wrote about the authors she harmed. “It was just my fear about how my book would be received running out of control.”

Corrain also admitted to creating fake chats to try to cover her tracks. She concluded by saying that she would be checking into an intensive psychiatric-care and rehab facility.

What have the authors who were review bombed said?

You know what? They are not the chattiest bunch. The authors affected by Corrain’s reviews are Baptiste, Frances White, Kamilah Cole, Molly X. Chang, R.M. Virtues, K.M. Enright, and Thea Guanzon. Of that crew, Baptiste has been the most outspoken, accusing Corrain of racism.

Is Corrain’s book still coming out?

No. Shortly after Corrain was identified as the person behind the review bombing, she was dropped by her agent, Rebecca Podos. “Cait and I will not be continuing our partnership moving forward,” Podos wrote on X. “I deeply appreciate the patience of those directly impacted by last week’s events as I worked through a difficult situation.”

The Goodreads Review-Bombing Controversy, Explained