I don’t know if this is just a me thing (most likely not) but I love reading negative reviews. I actively seek out the 1-2 star reviews on Goodreads, the ones where people are fuming about how bad a book is. The ones where the review drags the plot, the writing, the characters, the author, just everything. They’re my absolute favourite to read.
For one, I personally think they’re the most useful. When I read a book, I’m generally pretty good about seeing the things I like because that’s what I focus on. And if there’s something glaringly wrong, I notice it. But I don’t often see the bad things about books, so when I’m writing reviews, it’s often hard for me to justify low ratings. UNTIL I read the negative reviews on Goodreads. There are so many times where the negative reviews have helped me gather my thoughts.
I also think negative reviews can be more honest. I like to think I’m pretty objective (years of academic writing will do that), but I’m definitely guilty myself of not mentioning the bad parts of a book when I love it. To quote BoJack Horseman: “When you look at someone with rose-coloured glasses, all the red flags look just like… flags.” I feel that way about books too. When I get caught up in a good ending or characters or writing, I miss the big issues with the book. Generally those issues don’t change how I feel about a book, but they are important to acknowledge.
Finally, I just think they’re funnier tbh. I’ve read so many hilarious negative reviews. Like genuinely funny, critical, well-thought out reviews that gave some of my favourite books 1-2 stars. So I think they’re more amusing to read. At the end of this post, I’ve added some of my favourite quotes from reviews I’ve found thus far.
The reviews I don’t like reading are the ones that attack the book. I feel like there’s a difference between being critical and critically appraising a book and outright attacking it. Being critical is useful to authors and readers, and I think it’s totally fair and valid. Attacking someone else’s work, though, is never okay. Unless it’s outright offensive, of course, then attack away (like the reviews for Looking Both Ways. They are both critical and attacking, which is pretty impressive if you ask me).
Negative reviews can get frustrating, of course, especially when I think the person just missed something. One of my favourite books, Nothing by Janne Teller, is a perfect example of this. I fully, 100% acknowledge that it is a disturbing, disgusting, and horrifying book. I’m not letting my younger sister read it until she is at least 16 years-old. BUT I think it is amazing and so important. It opened my eyes to so many issues and really made me think about my life. And there are some people on Goodreads who saw the message but hate it because they can’t get past the bad things, which is totally fair. But there are others who did not see the message at all, and that’s frustrating because I feel like they discourage others from reading it.
Overall though, negative reviews are better in my opinion. I find them generally more critical and honest. They help me gather my thoughts, especially about books I love.
“Oh but let us for one second talk about the love interest. Mr. My Name Is So French It’s Borderline Racist Étienne St. Clair. He is literally every “male love interest” YA cliche rolled into one festering tumour of a character. He’s American BUT has a British accent, he has messy hair BUT his room is meticulously clean, he’s book smart, smells nice and is probably the Second Coming of Christ. He is UNBEARABLE. He’s like Augustus Water but this guy doesn’t have the common courtesy to die at the end. How rude.” — about Anna and the French Kiss (emphasis added by me because that’s hilarious)
“I was supposed to care when the people started dying right?” — about And Then There Were None
“Miles, the main character, is as interesting and charming as toast.” — about Looking for Alaska
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on negative reviews?