Monday, November 22, 2010

Negative Reviews Happen

So there's been a lot of talk lately about negative reviews and I felt like I wanted to give my view on negative reviewing. I work very hard to review honestly on this blog, which means there will be times when I don't like a book and I will post about it. I know that not every book is for every reader-I'm a librarian, I preach that philosophy every single day! But my blog is my place to share my thoughts on the books I read and I will post honestly-meaning the good and the bad. I do try my hardest to explain every review I write and really examine each book I read and look at it and see what worked and didn't work for me-and share that in my reviews.

I honestly get a little tired of seeing the blogging world turn into a gushing review society. Really, every YA blogger adores every single YA book they've ever read? Really? That's the beauty of reading-we all have different ideas, thoughts and experiences with books. What works for us might not work for someone else-and that's OK! I want to know honestly what you think about a book, not just some glowing gush-fest of every book you post about.

So with all that said, here's my advice and thoughts on negative reviews.

To bloggers: Let's face it-bloggers are reviewers, and not every review will be 100% positive and gushing. If that were the case, than all the professional journals would be handing out starred reviews like they were candy. But they don't.

It's OK to post negative reviews. It's OK to not like a book. But if you write about a book you didn't like, be polite and be respectful. It is never OK to bash an author personally or use a negative review to say mean things about an author. An author is separate from the book-you are reviewing their book, not them as a person. It is also never OK to tell someone not to read a book. Don't make generalizations about all readers and assume all readers won't enjoy it. Just because you didn't like it doesn't mean others won't. It's OK to tell someone why you didn't like it, but understand that everyone has different opinions. That's what makes reading so great-we all take different things from different books and we get to talk about it.

If you do decide to write a negative review, make sure you explain what it was about the book that you didn't like. What didn't work for you? Don't just say it didn't work but explain why it didn't work for you. I also think it's OK to examine various aspects of the book-plot development, characterization and character development, setting, theme, etc. Your review should be an evaluation of the book. K.T. Horning's fabulous book From Cover to Cover (which is a great resource when it comes to reviewing) states that reviews should include an analytical section that includes "statements about literary and artistic elements, including evaluation, comparison, and mention of contributions to the field."

And readers-don't assume that just because you read a negative review, you won't like a book. Just like you can't assume because you read a positive review you'll love a book. Each reader is an individual and we all have different reading tastes. Yes, a negative review might make you less likely to read that book next in your TBR pile, but don't let a negative review make you give up on a book completely.

To authors: I know, negative reviews suck. I get that, really. It sucks writing them-honestly. But no book in the history of books has had 100% glowing reviews. There will always be someone who doesn't like your book. Yes, it might be over things you find petty but that's the readers opinion and they have every right to their opinion. Don't bash bloggers for writing negative reviews. Don't whine and complain about a negative review. I'm sorry that someone didn't like your book. I'm sorry that maybe I didn't like your book. But remember-everyone has different reading tastes. Not everyone will love every book they have ever read. You won't love every book you ever read!

Just because I might not love a book doesn't mean I'm not going handsell and booktalk that book as a librarian. I will still promote your books. In fact, my teens find it hilarious when they love a book more than me-it just means they are way cooler than I am! And it doesn't mean I don't like you as a person-I think all authors are amazing and wonderful. But sometimes a book just isn't the right fit-and that's OK. And I have every right as a reader to my opinions and thoughts on those books-even yours.

I know there's an unwritten rule among YA authors that authors won't write negative reviews about each other. OK, fine, don't review each other negatively. But I'm not a writer, I'm a reader and I'm a reviewer. I'm giving my opinion on a book and sharing that opinion with others. What they do with that opinion is up to them.

Yes, I know blogging is not the same as professional review journals. But no author would ever dream of writing a blog post or tweeting about the horrible reviews they got from Kirkus, School Library Journal, or Booklist. And they wouldn't write a letter to the Printz committee demanding to know why their book didn't win. So why does that happen to bloggers?

We need to keep in mind that everyone deserves respect. Bloggers, authors, readers-we all deserve respect. And we all deserve the right to our opinions. We can respect each other, even if we disagree, and even if we write negative reviews.

26 comments:

  1. Amen to that! I just did one negative review yesterday and did feel a little bad about it. I agree with everything you're said, respect is everything. The other day I came across a girl bashing a book and its author ... big time. I had to unfollow. We're bloggers, readers, we owe it to ourselves and to the authors who put a lot of hard work in their books to be at least respectful.

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  2. I've gotten myself a bit of a reputation for being a "mean girl" (yes someone said that) but I think in the blogsophere there is confusion between being mean and critical. Mean is being cruel to hurt someone's feelings, critical is having a negative impression of someone or something with reasoning. They seem to be used interchangeably and that's not fair.

    That being said I don't like it when bloggers are harsh just to carve themselves an identity or get hits. But I find the gushy, non reviews to be much more offensive. You know the ones I mean, the parapgraph long "reviews" that don't say anything except 'awesome', 'swoon' and 'hawwwwwt'. Why bother having a review site if you're not actually reading the material critically and writing about it?

    It's a conundrum.

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  3. I wholeheartedly agree with you that we need to be honest as bloggers. Though my blog features mostly good reviews, it's not because I won't write a negative review, it's that I tend to pick up books I'm fairly confident I will enjoy. I won't shy away from writing a negative review...unless I really can't find anything positive to point out for others...and I think that's happened about twice in my recent reading career.
    I'm sorry that it sounds like an author was critical that you posted a negative review of their work. I admire you for it. Your reviews are always honest and "critical" but not mean-spirited.

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  4. I completely agree negative reviews serve a purpose & everyone needs to be respectful of each other. I hate reading bashing of any sort, whether a reviewer about an author or an author about a reviewer.
    How can you trust someone who is not honest? If a reviewer never shares their honest opinion (again in a respectful way) what is the point of their review?

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  5. Dreaming of Ink-It's all about respect. I hate when it turns into bashing or a complaint about the author themself. We're reviewing the book, not the person. I'd unfollow too! And just because the book didn't work for me doesn't mean it won't work for someone else-but I'm still going to share my honest opinion.

    Adele-That's the reason I love your reviews-because you're honest!! You're right that there's this confusion about being mean and being critical. But I take my blog and my reviews very seriously and make myself really examine and analyize each book I read. Being critical is not the same as being mean. And I understand that people are going to read what they enjoy, but if you're to gush about a book, at least tell me why it was so wonderful, don't just keep saying it was amazing and wonderful over and over. I tend to not trust those reviews when that's all I read from someone.

    Jessica-Nothing happened to me or one of my reviews-that I know of-but I've seen various posts on the subject and felt I needed to chime in as a blogger who writes negative reviews. And even if I didn't like a book, I'll try to find something that I can point to that I think readers will enjoy-or the audience I think it will appeal to.

    Connie-I think the same thing-how I trust someone who isn't honest in their reviews? But bashing does not need to happen from either end.

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  6. I agree with you 100%. I am an author, not a reviewer. But I appreciate those who honestly and thoughtfully post critiques revealing what they think.

    I might not agree, but I like living in a world that values diversity in opinions.

    Shelley

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  7. Shelley-Thanks for responding! I was hoping to get some author input!:) I know negative reviews are hard, but we have to remember that certain people are right for certain books and others are not. And I think it helps to explain why something didn't work instead of just saying you didn't like it.

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  8. This is a great post with so many excellent points! I completely agree with your comments that negative reviews are important too. I want to know opinions of other readers. I feel cheated if I read a review (of any product) that is an outright lie. I often check reviews before I buy a product and I do like to hear honest and fair opinions before I spend my money. If someone doesn't care for it I would like to know what didn't work for them and why but that doesn't mean I will feel the same way. I don't think there is ever a need to be mean or disrespectful either. I wouldn't want someone to treat me that way. Constructive criticism is much more helpful and professional.

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  9. *cheers*

    Thanks so much for this post! I agree with everything you have said. Not every books is for everyone, and that can be conveyed without getting nasty.

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  10. When a reviewer takes the time to explain what she liked or didn't like-- that is a valuable review.

    I can judge for myself whether or not I agree with the reviewer's criteria and thus decide whether or not I might agree with the review.

    For example, a reviewer might dislike a book because it is unrealistically romantic. I might be looking for an over-the-top romance and might read the book anyway.

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  11. I think its always good to have open discussions about this topic especially because people have such strong opinions on the issue! I don't post negative reviews on my blog...it's just a stance I've taken. If I read a book I don't like, I put it down and move on. I have a link on my blog explaining in more depth but that's the basics of it.
    My only issue with "negative" reviews is that there are so many bloggers out there who write a negative review and then end it with "this book is just not my cup of tea" or something like that. In other words its not the writing or anything substantial...I just get the feeling they didn't like something trivial about the book. Do you know what I mean? It's also frustrating when reviews say "that character totally bugged me, she whined about everything" Hello! The character is 15, and well, as a middle school librarian that's not to far from the truth for 15 year-olds! I guess my point is that sometimes good books don't appeal to everybody (for the life of me I could NOT get into the Ugly series) and sometimes when a writer is being true to a character's personality well, we all know there are irritating and whiny people in the world so they are bound to show up in books now and then!

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  12. Love this entire post! I think it's something we all struggle with, and it's nice to know I'm not alone. I think it's an important discussion we've got to keep going over time for sure.

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  13. The thing authors and reviewers have to remember is not every book is for every reader. One reader's Keeper is another reader's DNF. That happens. When I receive negative reviews, I do my level best to remember that.

    I also consider whether I agree with the criticism; if I do, chances are I'll keep it in mind during my next work in progress.

    What crosses the line for me is when reviews -- or author responses -- go into attack mode. No review, or response, should ever be a personal attack, for way too many reasons to name. As you said, it comes down to respect.

    Rule of thumb: If you wouldn't say it to the author's or reviewer's face, don't blog it.

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  14. I recently did a post on negative reviews and I agree. Being honest in reviews is one of the most important things to me as a reader, reviewer and writer.

    But, if the review is going to be a negative one, try to look for the positive, too. Constructive criticism, not bashing. Never, ever bash an author--there is absolutely no reason to get personal. We review the books not the author him/herself.

    Great post!
    Mary
    The Book Swarm

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  15. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. As a fairly new blogger, I struggle with this issue--so far I have posted only one really negative review out of almost 100 book reviews. Mainly the reason is I start a lot of books but if I'm not interested I don't bother to finish them, and therefore don't feel it's fair to review them. Sometimes I'll finish a book and it leaves me so lukewarm I don't feel I have anything very illuminating to say about it, so I wind up not reviewing those titles either. Perhaps I should review those lukewarm ones as well, but there's only so much time for blogging and I prefer to try to talk up titles I really love, since no one is paying me to write reviews.

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  16. I agree with you about negative reviews. I wrote a negative review for a book and I explained why I didn't like it. I think that sometimes negative reviews make me want to read a book as well because if I see their reasoning for it then I think I wonder if that's how I'd feel about it so I read it to find out for myself. Great post. I sometimes feel bad about writing a bad review.

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  17. As an aspiring author, I understand that book bloggers will write negative reviews. As long as they do them like you say--respectfully and not personally at the author, I'm okay with it.

    I do know a few authors who give negative reviews. Personally, if I really don't like a book, I just wouldn't comment on it. I feel like as an aspiring author I should support my fellow writers. I think it's a different role for authors and book bloggers, who do such a service to authors BTW.

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  18. I really enjoyed reading your post and other’s comments. As a teen public services assistant, I read your reviews often as another way to keep up on teen literature and I really like the way you write your reviews. You make a good point that negative reviews are okay as long as you do not take it to the level of bashing. I like to know why a person did not like a book. This post reminds me of when I write reviews for our teen writing contest at my library. I try to provide what I call constructive criticism. Without hurting a teen’s feelings, I provide areas where they need to improve on and recommendations. My coworker, that runs the teen writing group, says that the teens really do appreciate the feedback. Perhaps authors could benefit from negative reviews by learning something from them. If people always tell you that you are great at something, you might not think you need to improve. As you said, everyone one has different tastes and feelings on books and just because it receives a negative review does not mean a book is necessarily bad.

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  19. Great post! I rarely comment, but I read your reviews religiously, and one of the reasons is because you are critical. Not mean-critical, but thoughtful. It's obvious that you take care with your reviews. As a reader *and* as an aspiring author, I appreciate that!

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  20. Hear hear. I also take pride in posting about every book I've read. Yes I aim to always do so fairly and sometimes I've fallen short, but sometimes I've fallen short of my standards on the gushing side as well. Disliking a book is NOT disliking an author. They are two completely different things. In our negative reviews we may pick apart a book... but that isn't a reflection of the author. I always hope that maybe something I've said will help someone hone their craft. If they even read my reviews :)

    And some of the reactions I've seen from fellow bloggers really saddens me on these posts. Just like we can critique a book without bashing an author, can't we do the same for the reviewer? Sigh. I've also had authors friends attack. Unpleasant, and does NOT give a better impression of the book!! hah

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  21. Wonderful post! I think it's really hard to write negative reviews, luckily I don't have to do that very often because I tend to like the books I choose to read.

    I posted one of my first negative reviews yesterday and I hope that I mananged to explain to my readers why I didn't love the book and at that I was respectful to the author at the same time.

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  22. I have nothing against reading negative reviews that just shows me that the blogger I'm following is honest :) But of course it should be respectfully written not some personal attack on the author.

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  23. I was wondering what was going on around the blogosphere as I've seen chatter on twitter and posts on blogs about this issue. LOL

    I agree, a reviewer has the right to their opinion as well as the right to express it. Like Adele, I think honest criticism is the name of the game but when someone gets into spiteful and hurtful behavior just for the yucks and giggles it's pretty offensive. In fact, I saw a review today where the blogger bashed a book within an inch of it's life in the most hurtful way. It's neither constructive nor professional and frankly makes me think less of the reviewer than the book.

    I love that negative reviews give your kids a "cool factor"! See negativity can have a silver lining.

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  24. I appreciate that not every reader will enjoy every book, which is why I enjoy reviews that are honest and fair - whether that reviewer loved or hated or was just meh about the book is not really the point - it's whether I can tell if I will enjoy it or not.

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  25. I think it's okay for reviewers to post negative reviews. I think it opens the door for further discussion and for people (the author included) to think about the book in a different way. But I'm not sure as a soon-to-be author if I will ever want to write a public negative review. I feel like I'm too close to the subject to be entirely objective. If you think about other fields, you don't see film directors reviewing movies, or Toyota reviewing Honda vehicles. :-) It feels better to have another group of people handle the reviewing of literature, although there are authors who seemed to have been able to do it successfully.

    Thanks for the thoughtfully written post.

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  26. Excellent, excellent post. Bravissimo.

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