Let’s talk negative reviews

Hey Booknerds! I tend to keep this blog fairly book-review heavy, but I wanted to take the time to write something a little different. Negative reviews. Now this is a touchy subject in the bookstagram community – it is fairly divided as to whether there is a place on bookstagram for negative reviews. It has sparked both constructive and destructive discussions amongst many a reader, and I thought I would come and share my thoughts, because I have recently posted a negative review, and will be sharing it here on my blog soon as well.

Anyone who calls themselves a reader will likely have a favourite genre (or many genres), author or grade of book that they prefer. For me, I love science fiction and fantasy. There is no better feeling for me then escaping to a purely fictional world where the unexpected and impossible can occur. I don’t like contemporary (too ‘real world’ for me), romance (I’m pretty happy to admit I’m a prude when it comes to romance in books or on-screen) and there is no way in hell you will find me with a full-blown horror in my hands (I’m a scaredy-cat. I binge-watched Criminal Minds at night once while hubby was interstate once, and I instantly regretted it). I have a hate-hate relationship with the whole genre of YA, and many a negative review has been posted by me on the level of story-telling, character development and plot challenges I have often encountered in a YA book.

I always feel bad posting a negative review, so I had to ask myself “Would I want to read a negative review of a book, especially of one I have loved?” I had to answer yes. I am a believer in having a holistic view of the books I read. Not everyone is going to like the same thing – how boring would the world be if we were all reading Sarah J Maas right now? I am all for negative reviews – be as gentle or as scathing as you want, I enjoy a person’s scathing review as much as a rave review. Will everyone agree with your review? No. Should everyone agree with what you have to say? Definitely not. Do people have the right to tell you that you shouldn’t post negative reviews about a book you really did not like? Fuck no. Those people can drink a teaspoon of cement and harden the fuck up. A book review can get people who have never talked to each other before to start a discussion about what it was about a book they did or didn’t like. It’s the beauty of bookstagram.

Newsflash – Bookstagram is not full of rainbows and lollipops. If it was, it would be downright horrible. Boring. Unimaginative and not remotely unique. People bring their individual reading preferences to the platform and this creates a wondrous rabbit hole of new and amazing books people have probably never heard of before. It has for me. I have added so many new books to my Goodreads TBR that I honestly didn’t know existed before joining this community.

I do agree that there is some etiquette when posting a negative review – don’t be an arsehole and tag the author. That’s just being mean. Author’s don’t want to be tagged in you ripping apart something that has likely taken them years to write. They know the negative reviews are out there, they expect them. They just don’t deserve to have someone grab them by the shirt and rub their review right up their nose. With regards to hash tagging a book – I am in support of this. If an author wants to search for their books using the hashtag, they are opening a can of hurt on themselves. Without the hash tag, how is anyone who is actually looking for a review of a book they want to/have read meant to find it? We certainly can’t rely on just the thousands of people we are following, because, obviously, we all like different thing. Duh.

The moral of this long, and somewhat unentertaining blog post is to say – if you have an opinion about a book, negative or positive, post it. Just don’t tag the author (or publisher) in the post.

And if you are a keyboard warrior, with nothing better to do than tear down people who dare to be different to you – I prescribe you one glass of cement, wet, thick and guaranteed to harden you the fuck up.

Thank you for reading my (Bill and) Ted talk.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/31/movies/bill-and-teds-excellent-adventure.html
Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer/ Orion Films

5 thoughts on “Let’s talk negative reviews

  1. I’ve never understood why some reviewers are so against writing a negative review. I can find them helpful. I’m at the point that I won’t trust someone’s reviews if they aren’t critical at least some of the time.

    “This is garbage” = not helpful a waste of everyone’s time.

    “This book didn’t work for me because of X…”= is actually really helpful.

    I’ve found a lot of the time a reason 1 reviewer might not like a book is actually something I’d enjoy or vice versa.

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    1. Completely agree! I know I’ve been guilty of just saying it’s sucks, but have been a bit more reflective on how I wrote my reviews, trying to put in what I might want to read in someone else’s review.

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  2. I completely agree! I almost always read negative reviews of my favourite books because I appreciate having insight into the perspectives of others and it enables me to gain a more hollistic view of the book, as you mentioned. Also, book reviews are SUBJECTIVE, therefore I don’t think tip-toeing around books we dislike is beneficial. Any reviewer should be committed to giving their honest opinion, even if it is negative. As you rightfully said, when writing negative reviews it’s just about following the necessary etiquette and being respectful towards the author and readers who may love the book. Great post – very insightful!

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    1. Thank you! I know reading negative reviews can be difficult, for both the reader who loves a book and the author, I think it’s important to read them with an open mindset, and recognising that everyone is different. I’ve read some pretty awful reviews of a couple of my fave books, but the ones that are really well written have me stopping and thinking about the books, and understanding why a particular theme or character or plot development might not be enjoyed by others.

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