Posting Negative Book Reviews

Why do I always feel so guilty when I write a negative book review? Do all of us writers feel that inner conflict when faced with reviewing a book in a less than favourable light?

Perhaps. Perhaps it’s because we understand the labour of love that is creating and writing a story. Our characters become our friends, family. We feel protective over them. I know I certainly do. But here’s the thing: once we tell a story, put it out there, it’s not just ours any more. It belongs, in a sense, to everyone that’s invested the time to read it. I mean, that’s why we write, after all; to inform, to excite, to move, to provoke. 

So I ask myself: why be afraid of expressing a negative emotion or feeling? They can be as emotive and passionate as their positive counterparts; they’re valid, as long as they are delivered in a respectful fashion.

I have always maintained that I will not be disparaging towards other writers. It’s not necessary. But I’ve given myself a talking too today and told myself to be brave with my true feelings when it comes to writing and posting book reviews, otherwise my glowing reviews of the books I love somehow lose their merit, become less credible. 

So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to write reviews about the books that provoke me, excite me, affect me in such a way that I feel compelled to express it out loud. Really, that’s a good thing. It means that, negative or positive, the book I’m reviewing has succeeded. It’s made me feel something that I want to share.

 

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12 Comments

  1. Writing a negative book review for an established writer who doesn’t give a tinker’s cuss what I think about his/her book anyway is one thing. Writing a negative review of a struggling indie author’s book is another. There are usually two cases that present themselves: a friend asks you to review her/his book and you hate it; you pick up a book by a complete unknown that looks interesting and you hate it. Either way I feel that my telling the truth isn’t going to do them any good and it’s going to make me feel bad, so I abstain. Cowardly, I know, but I don’t feel obliged to save the world from a fate worse than death by blowing the whistle.

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    • I agree with you, Jane, in as much as there are different types of negative reviews. Being callous, rude or offensive is one thing, but honestly describing how a book makes you feel is entirely another. Some books disappoint me or frustrate me in such a way that I want to express it. The same goes for books that excite me or impress me. After all, books are subjective and I’m merely talking about expressing my own emotional reaction, not in finding fault. You’re right, it doesn’t make you feel good. But I don’t think it’s always necessary for a person to like everything about a book for it to have value, and as a general rule, it’s usually books I love that motivate me to write a review.

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      • If there are enough things I like about a book to have a balance on the positive side, I’ll write a review of a book I ended up not liking entirely. As you say, often there are scenes or aspects of a far-from-perfect book that stick in the mind and that’s worth letting people know about. What I don’t do, and what I object to other reviewers doing, is to write a very critical review of a book they never finished and got for free into the bargain. It’s a bit like complaining about the quality of the free gift in a cereal packet. I admire you for sticking to your guns and trying to explain what you didn’t like about a book. From experience I know many writers don’t want to hear criticism and I prefer not to get involved in having to justifiy my own opinions so I just keep quiet 🙂

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      • That’s a very good point, reviews need to be balanced, and I like to think I do that when I write a review. I talk about what I like about a book, sometimes where it fell short for me, and my overall feel for the book. I hope if you’ve read any of my reviews you’ll see that. My role as a reviewer is to encourage people to read. It’s my love of books that drives me to write a review in the first place.
        But I’m certainly not trying to be the book police, that’s neither my right nor my desire. So it’s not so much sticking to my guns, more like clarifying my intent.
        And I share your feelings about reviewers giving scathing reviews though they haven’t taken the time to read the book. That’s not for me.
        Again, thanks for sharing your opinion with me. I think the lesson here is to be fair, balanced and respectful, and as a general rule, I’ll continue reviewing the books I love 🙂

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  2. I agree with the comment above. be kind and constructive when reviewing small writers that need to know what works and what doesn’t attract more of his audience.

    In the case of a book that has been seriously overrated by a marketing campaign focused on profit, you actually have an obligation to stand up and warn unsuspecting prey that they’re about to be taken for fools.

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  3. I find that I also very rarely give negative reviews (and hate to do it). For me, it’s that I’m reviewing books that I’ve read for pleasure, and if I don’t like it … I generally don’t read it. And if I don’t read it, I don’t review it.

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  4. I must admit. I’ve become a lot more understanding since I’ve started writing. The author wrote what worked best for them, they had their reasons etc. But the biggest thing I’ve done is put my genre goggles on. I found I was being way too critical of books that went down a path I was uncomfortable with. eg. Erotica, PNR. I also stopped reading them…

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    • I know what you mean, Lorelle. As a writer (oooh, weird!) myself now, I find I don’t really want to be critical of another writer’s work. Unless, as Jane Dougherty commented earlier, I can balance it out with positive things. But I felt compelled to express how “Allegiant” made me feel rather than critique the book itself, and I think I’ll stick with those types of reviews rather than overly critical ones.
      And I like what you said about the writer having their reasons. So despite how I felt about “Allegiant” I’m still thinking and talking about it.

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