A longtime friend of mine (we briefly dated in college) just wrote his second book. I proofed and edited his first one, and he asked me to do his second one as well. I did.
The grammar, punctuation, and other things (verb tense, character consistency, etc.) were ok. Nothing terrible, and easy to fix.
I sent it back and he was very thankful, saying he took most of my suggestions. Then he asked what I thought about the book.
Here’s the thing. It was a strange plotline that delved into mystical realism a bit, played with the idea of “does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?”, the general vocabulary and voice of the author was slightly pretentious, 300 year old spirits come back to have sex with a woman in bar bathroom (three orgasms? really? in the bathroom of a dive bar?), and a headless ghost that’s come back to full form chases the characters back to their apartment. And there’s a talking dog. And someone’s uncle comes back from the dead, but not really, just his spirit. Oh, plus there was a lot of sex. Good sex, but described as good sex in a terrible way. (Literally, “he made sweet, sweet love to her.”)
I think the characters are judgmental assholes who cannot fathom that anyone would be truly happy living any life other than the way the characters live. Everyone’s in an open relationship, and the book seems preachy about that, as well as veganism.
I really don’t want to hurt his feelings. He did an amazing thing by writing so much—a whole book! But...I didn’t like it. It felt more like his way of working out his issues regarding having an open relationship with his wife, with some ghosts, spirits, and talking dogs thrown into the mix.
What do I say? Give a general “good job, I liked it, I thought x, y, and z were interesting,” and leave it at that?