I slid my pointer finger across the keyboard and hovered my mouse over Book Reviews. There it was. The image with which I had become blindly familiar: a sepia-toned backdrop of the Hungarian Parliament laying the foundation for the hand-written title, Somehow I Am Different. The cover of my first book appeared, glowing, on the homepage of the infamously grueling Kirkus Reviews. Just above my cover, the words “Just Awarded the Kirkus Star” beamed in a denim blue cursive.

Upon posting news of my starred Kirkus review on Facebook, a colleague deeply familiar with the inner workings of the literary world texted me, “ALYSSA!!! I’m sure your pubs explained this but a starred Kirkus review is not a joke! THIS IS BIGGER THAN BIG!!! Congrats!”

While of course I was thrilled about the positive review, I was not as familiar with quite how thrilled I should be. I am a twenty-four-year-old first-time author. While I have been writing for most of my life, I am quick to acknowledge my limited knowledge and limited experience in the formal writing world. Learned in psychology, international studies, and social work, my academic and professional confidence in my writing is vulnerable to critique.

Needless to say, it was difficult for me to sign on to a Kirkus review. Not only was the cost of the Kirkus review a small burden for me, but I clung harder to positive affirmation than to money. Until receiving my Kirkus review, the only people to have read and reviewed my book were friends, family, colleagues, and mentors. I was not entirely sold that everyone loved the book as much as they led on. Kirkus would be my first truly objective team of readers.

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I took solace in the reality that I did not have to post my Kirkus review if I opted not to. I appreciated that no matter what, Kirkus would read my book and would offer me above all else a thorough, honest reflection.

My review was due back to me on May 2, 2016. I doodled the words, “Kirkus due!” in purple ink on the calendar that hung on my bedroom wall. On April 22, I was surprised to find an email with the subject “Your review is ready to download.” The review might have been ready, but I wasn’t sure I was. The skinny grey rectangle and the bottom of my screen flashed and begged me to open it. So, I caved. And I am so glad that I did.

I am incredibly grateful that I have received a positive Kirkus Review. The starred review offers me heightened credibility with countless book stores, marketing companies and campaigns, and new potential readers. Even more than the weight the review carries externally, offering strong business and professional advances, my starred Kirkus review confirmed in me my identity as a writer, and the belief that not only do I love writing and find purpose in it, but my writing is good, and others find soul in it, too.