I’ve recently read a round of books I did not finish (DNF). I hate not finishing a book. No matter how poorly written or boring the book is, it’s always more physically painful to leave it unfinished. I’m not sure why, but maybe it’s because deep down I don’t want to be a quitter. However, as I’ve gotten older and have had to choose daily between life, work, grad school and fun, my time is more and more precious. Making it not easier but definitely necessary to put a book down when I’m just not feeling it.
Recently, I’ve had to DNF multiple books in a row, which is almost unheard of for me. I was in the worst book funk, but I made myself give critical reasons for why I was putting the book down to justify my actions, giving me the reprieve I needed to move on. Unfortunately, this meant writing (*gasp*) bad reviews.
Let’s be honest, negative reviews are the worst (to write for the reader and to read for the author), but they are necessary and can be good for the reading community, which is why I’m highlighting three reasons negative reviews can be positive.
Reason #1: I don’t trust a five-star review until I’ve read a one-star review.
We’ve all been there. The latest novel is the best book every written and we MUST read it, and the five-star ratings are piling up at the author’s feet like celebratory flowers. Typically, I’m quick to jump into the fray to see what the hype is all about, but I do so with caution. I start with the reviews themselves. Why did they like it? If I agree, then I go search for negative reviews, yes, those pesky one- to two-star monstrosities filled with disappointment. Why? Because the negative review can sometimes convince me to read a book more than a five-star review. If a reviewer can articulate why they didn’t like it, I may love it for the same reason they don’t. For example, there are a lot of haters out there for love triangles. Me? I love ‘em. Send them my way. Did you hate the excessive violence? I’m down for bloodletting any day of the week. However, the main reason I look for one-star reviews is to get a balanced view of the book. At times, a not very well-known book may have five-star reviews from friends of the author that doesn’t accurately represent the quality of the piece.
Reason #2: Negative Reviews Help Other Readers
One of my biggest blogging pet peeves is reviewers not rating a book or leaving a review because they never finished the book. As a reader, I want to know that you couldn’t finish the book, and more importantly, why. This helps other readers make educated decisions on what to read next so they don’t waste precious time, or worse, precious money on something they won’t like. I know it’s never fun to rate something with one lonely star, but if you use a Goodreads ranking, one star means “did not like it,” meaning it’s completely okay to broadcast to the world that you didn’t like it. It doesn’t mean you hate the author or want bad things to happen to those who loved the book. It means you’re being an honest reviewer, which is important.
Reason #3: There is no such thing as bad publicity.
This is a common, often overused phrase, but one that works perfectly here. At the end of the day, readers are readers despite the ratings. Think of how many people gave scathing reviews and low ratings to bestselling books like Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight. I’ll stand and shout from the mountain tops in defense of these books. Hell yes, I read them and loved them and would do it again. Haters are gonna hate. The people who griped about love triangles and werewolves and sexual explicitness were convincing me to read the book while they were putting them down. I mean, who doesn’t love a sparkly vampire? Times have changed but circa 2005, I was ALL OVER IT. People freaking out about Fifty Shades helped propel this book into selling millions upon millions of copies to consumers that didn’t even read for fun anymore but decided to pick it up because it was all over the news. Opinions from every side are important and even negative attention can bring readers in who’ll love the book.
The Asterisk (*): But Please Don’t Be Mean
Now, I am a firm believer in negative reviews but I don’t think they should be mean. Don’t attack or insult the author. Don’t write negative reviews about genres you know you don’t like. Listen to your own preferences and respect the tastes of others. Make sure to criticize with legitimate reasons. Don’t cut down entire novels with vague explanations. If it doesn’t suit your mood, explain that in the review. I think every reader can identify with that. I know I’ve had to do the whole it’s-not-you-it’s-me book break up. As readers, reviewers and bloggers, it’s our right to have an opinion but it’s important to do so with class.