Discussion: negative reviews

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?

20 thoughts on “Discussion: negative reviews

  1. I’m a little hypocritical when it comes to negative reviews. I appreciate when people can be honest about a book because it gives a better picture to those who look at the reviews when deciding to read it or not. Despite that, I find it really difficult to give a bad review. Maybe it’s the writer in me, or just that I know how much work it takes to write a book, but I just can’t do it.

    Before I starting book blogging, if I didn’t like a book I just wouldn’t give it a rating. Now that I do blog, I probably rate books a little higher than I should in some cases. See? Hypocrite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha it can definitely be hard to write bad things about books, especially knowing how hard they are to write. I don’t mind writing bad reviews, but I definitely feel bad about giving a book a low star rating, which doesn’t really make sense. Like I’ll write out all the things wrong with the book and then still give it 3 stars or something

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy reading negative reviews if I’m uncertain about reading a book. They help me to see whether or not I would possibly enjoy it. I do see the merit in negative reviews for books I love, too, but I like them less. 😉

    I agree with you, though: it bugs me when negative reviews aren’t helpful. Like you said, don’t attack the book. Point out what the issues were. If you can be funny while doing it, that’s even better. But there are some negative reviews that are just mean, and I don’t like those.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too! I find if it’s a super hyped book that everyone seems to love, the negative reviews are more honest about the faults of the book and generally help me decide whether it’s something I’d be interested in reading.

      I feel like if you’re going to say bad things about a book, it might as well be constructive rather than mean (just like any other criticism really)


  3. I both love reading and writing negative reviews, for all the reasons you mentioned. Whenever I’m writing them I just try to be as objective as possible and figure out how many of my criticisms are personal hang-ups and how many are actual faults of the book itself, and then try to make that clear in my review. I hate reviews that don’t take books on their own terms, like when someone reviews a book written in 1600 and criticizes it from a modern perspective – that’s about as helpful as someone reviewing a fantasy book and going ‘too unrealistic, there were too many dragons.’ I also usually try to find at least something positive to highlight in the book and end my review with ‘this didn’t work for me, but you may love this book if…..’ to give the book and author the benefit of the doubt. That said, I don’t feel guilty about writing negative reviews – once a book is published, an author can’t control how it’s received, and obviously it’s impossible to please everyone. Also, I actually tend to trust reviewers who write negative reviews a bit more than reviewers who are only ever positive? I mean… do you really like EVERY SINGLE BOOK you read, or are you just trying to appease authors? When every book on someone’s blog is 5 stars, I start to take those 5 stars with a grain of salt.

    All that rambling to say that negative reviews absolutely serve their purpose in the bookish community, and it bothers me when people only see them as being hateful, rather than a means of providing honest and critical feedback.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get that! I read a review criticizing a classic novel for not being diverse, ever though the book took place in ancient China. Obviously all the characters are going to be Chinese????
      And I feel you, I get suspicious when all the reviews are 4/5 or 5/5 stars, unless they state that they don’t review books they didn’t enjoy which is fair. But I still like knowing why they didn’t like a book. Not every book can be perfect and even if you enjoyed reading it, I think it’s useful to know the faults of the book.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my god…… that is so cringe-worthy. That’s exactly what I mean about people failing to take a book on its own terms… just because someone wanted a book with a different diversity make-up doesn’t mean that the Chinese book was a failure??

        Very good point about people who choose not to review books they didn’t enjoy – I definitely respect that more than when people give a book they hated 4 stars. 4 and 5 stars start to lose their weight at that point.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly! The whole point was it took place in ancient China! It can be bad for other reasons, but not lack of diversity.

        And I would definitely rather people say they don’t review bad books than give books they didn’t like high ratings just because they feel like they have to

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love reading negative reviews, especially if it’s a popular book I had a problem with. And how are these people so creative? I could never think of some of there stuff they say in they’re review! Writing negative reviews are fun too,though I’m always nervous that I’ll spoil something major, so it takes longer to write them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I get that! If it’s a book I don’t think I’ll read or don’t think I’ll like, I like knowing what happens haha. But there are some books that I knew nothing about and I was completely blown away, so I’m glad I didn’t have any spoilers for them.
        But I have also been known to Google “[book] spoilers” because I’m nosy haha

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally agree with you! Although I feel bad writing negative reviews, they are my favorite to read. I always wonder if people will get angry that I bash their favorite books, or if the author will read and take offence, or maybe I just missed something about the book that makes it great… but I do love reading those so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! We totally agree with you! We love negative reviews because they are usually more detailed about what is good and bad about the book! Sometimes glowing reviews are just the person going on and on about how they love it and it’s the best things ever without ever really saying why it is! Again, really awesome post!

    -Ash & Lo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh yes, I love reading negative reviews! Well, I’m also a bit of drama seeker and I especially love to read negative reviews of super hyped books and then the arguing on the comments. I’m a bad person *facepalm*

    Liked by 1 person

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