Writing negative reviews

There are any number of reason why you might decide a book is a meh read. One could be bad story telling on the part of the author, where a situation doesn’t ring true, or the characters do things that, quite frankly,  strain all credibility, to say the least. This happens a lot for me, especially in fantasy, where the author fails to give enough background, depth, or detail for either unfolding events, situations, or how characters behave.

Another reason could be because you didn’t identify with the MC or, in fact, any of the characters. They might lack any real depth, or character growth throughout the story. And let’s face it, whatever the story or situations, the characters are there to do the bulk of the work, and a lacklustre character can really bring a read to a grinding halt. This happened to me recently, with a particular read I won’t mention by name. The character was so insincere and vapid, I found them utterly unbelievable. 

Also stilted, awkward and repetitive dialogue can make your eyes glaze over. Mention why, what was it about the dialogue that irked you.

Then there are the mechanics, the book is full of silly grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, or poorly edited so that the story just doesn’t flow. Let alone, make sense.

When there are a number of identifiable and definitive areas you can point to, and highlight, I think it’s fair—as a book reviewer—to feel no guilt, whatsoever, in writing up a review pointing out what, for you, were these problematic areas were. Because, in truth, shouldn’t that also be a part of what we do, as reviewers? 

And don’t forget, if you are sharing examples in a review of what worked and didn’t work, for you, then you are not doing a disservice to the book, or the author. You’re helping your blog readers come to their own, informed decision, as to whether a book may or may not, be their next read, and why.

That said, however, it’s quite another thing to write a purely negative review for the sake of ‘dissing’ an author, or book, based on nothing more than a review that says, ‘I didn’t like this,’ without qualifying the reasons why.

If we cannot be honest in how we review a book, stating the good as well as the bad, are we not, in effect, short changing our readers?

What are your thoughts?

8 Comments Writing negative reviews

  1. AvatarSpells and Spaceships February 18, 2020 at 11:36 am

    Great post. If we praise everything we read and never criticise, are we reviewers or promoters?? The thing I struggle with is when I didn’t enjoy something but I can’t put my finger on WHY (or can’t describe why in words) – ever experience this?

    1. AlexAlex February 18, 2020 at 12:07 pm

      Exactly! It’s important to try be balanced in writing any review and to think about what worked, and what didn’t, and why.

      But yes, sometimes we can’t put our finger on it. If that happens, and it turns out it was a book I really disliked, but couldn’t figure out why, I don’t write a review at all.

      If, however, it’s something small and didn’t detract from the over all read, then it’s best not to worry. I’ll write to review but just maybe not score it quite as high as something that won me over completely.

  2. AvatarJonetta (Ejaygirl) | Blue Mood Café February 18, 2020 at 9:40 am

    It’s almost as if you had a direct line to my thinking on this topic, Alexandra💜 I’ll never understand why reviewers feel reluctant to offer constructive critical feedback. Equally, there’s no excuse for personal attacks on the author or vicious comments about the book.

    1. AlexAlex February 18, 2020 at 11:51 am

      Exactly, Jonetta. There are any number of reasons a book didn’t quite hit the mark. And, as reviewers, we shouldn’t feel awkward about offering positive criticism in our reviews. We have to remember we are reviewing first and foremost for us, book readers and bloggers.

      Oh, don’t get me started on the people who spew hate, online, for no other reason than to hurt people. It’s reckless, cruel, and just shows how ignorant the poster is.

    2. AvatarKrista Filomeno February 18, 2020 at 8:22 pm

      This needed to be said. Great article!

      1. AlexAlex February 19, 2020 at 11:23 am

        Thanks, Krista. I think it’s far more helpful to everyone involved to have honest reviews that talk about different aspects of the books we read. I know I find this helpful in deciding what next to read, especially as we all different.

        1. AvatarKrista Filomeno February 19, 2020 at 11:29 am

          To tell the truth, one of my current reads was found through negative reviews and a big controversy. It’s because people were discussing (or rather ranting and piling on 😅) the reason why they had a problem with it, that I was able to come to my own conclusion.

          1. AlexAlex February 19, 2020 at 11:45 am

            That’s a perfect example why you need to read reviews, and decide for yourself about a book, and why reviews need to be as detailed as possible (without going crazy, of course) in their reviews, because it makes all the difference.

            I don’t visit the blog of people who continually give 5-star ratings to everything, or only write a paragraph or two about a book. Because, for me, they’re not helpful. Nothing wrong with what they’re doing (for fun) it just doesn’t work for everyone.

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