Miscellaneous · Writing Tips

Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About


We had a very exciting day yesterday! Take Me Tomorrow hit the top 100 in dystopian novels! It was even next to two of my favorite novels, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, and Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi so my little heart was filled with overwhelming joy.

65 in dystopian!
65 in dystopian!

Thank you for your support! Whether or not the sequel is released is entirely up to you, the readers and fans, so I hope you continue to check out my latest novel. (Because I really want to release the sequel!) Be sure to let me know if you post a review on your blog, so I can share it with everyone. Just email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

To celebrate, I finally uploaded the soundtrack of Take Me Tomorrow to my favorite music station, 8tracks, so you can check it out by clicking here.

In other news, I was interviewed by Diary of an Eager Reader, and you can read it by clicking here. We talk about my biggest challenges as a writer, but we also discussed Take Me Tomorrow if you want to read more about it! And if you want to interview me, again, I’m available at shannonathompson@aol.com. I love speaking with you! So please don’t hesitate to message me.

Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

We’ve all dealt with this. You’re interested in a novel, and you tiptoe over to Amazon to check it out. Once you read the synopsis, you scroll a little further (hesitantly, of course) to see what other readers are saying. That’s when you read “Best Book Ever!” and “I hate this piece of crap” right next to one another. Confusing? Yes. But even worse are the ones that don’t explain.

Today, I wanted to talk about my top fiction complaints that have left me staring at my screen a little too hard. I only hesitated to write about this because I’m an author, too, and I don’t want any reviewer to think I’m complaining about them. In fact – this might seem strange – but I don’t mind these complaints as an author. If I saw any of these on my books, it doesn’t bother me. After all, readers are allowed to say whatever they want. But it does bother me as a reader when I’m looking for book suggestions because the reviews suddenly become very difficult to sift through. That being said, I normally don’t buy books based on reviews. Generally, I read the synopsis, take a look at the first three chapters, and go from there, but I do find myself reading the reviews after I’m done reading, and these are the top complaints I see that I truly don’t understand:

I hate this genre

So…why did you pick it up? No. Seriously. I want to know. Did you think this would be an exception? Why did you think it would be an exception? Why did it not turn out to be an exception? I don’t necessarily mind this complaint if they answer these questions, but I hardly ever see that. I just see one or two stars and this single statement. This doesn’t help me decide if this book is good or bad or in-between or anything. It just tells me about your preference, which can get really confusing since genres can describe a wide range of stories. In fact, genres are normally only picked for marketing reasons.

I bought this book for are friends, and there not happy with it, so don’t waist you’re money.

Sigh. Seriously. ::facepalm:: This kind of review blows my mind – especially if they complain that the book wasn’t professionally edited.

Parent/s and/or sibling/s are dead (or absent)

Warning: longest rant to come:

I realize that there is an abundance of these instances, but of course there are. Someone is going to be dead or absent or mean or have some kind of conflicting problem. If a character’s family were perfect, how annoying would that be? (Not to mention that it would be entirely unrealistic.) I don’t know about you guys, but every person I’ve met isn’t perfect, including parents, and “imperfections” is generally why someone is interesting because it’s make them…you know…human.

When it comes to the young adult genre, I think it’s also important to remember that teen readers are in a time in their life where they are striving to be independent, so they probably don’t want to read a novel full of parental influence. Not that parental influence is a bad thing, but a teen might even look at a perfectly good parent as a bad parent just because they are teens. I know I was that way at one point, so if the book is told from their perspective that could be another reason this trend happens.

But I want to add this to the conversation: As a kid who went through the loss of a parent, gaining a stepfamily, and watching my dad get a divorce from said stepfamily, I am not special. I met dozens of teens that were also going through many of the same shifts I was going through. The divorce rate is currently 50%, and 1/7 people will lose a parent or a sibling before the age of 20, not to mention other issues families can have. But you still feel rather alone when you’re young, and seeing teens in books going through the same kind of struggles helps. That being said, I would like to see more books with both parents actively involved, but I wouldn’t complain about a book where a parent or sibling is absent whether it is physical or emotional because it happens often in real life.

Factually wrong information in general

We’ve all seen it. That one review that says something like, “This book is told in third person, and it’s really weird.” But when you open the sample novel up, it’s told in first person, and you’re sitting there, scratching your head as you seriously consider whether you forgot the definition of first and third person until you realize – nope, you’re not crazy. The reviewer put the review on the wrong book. Or – worse – they didn’t read the book at all.

There are too many boys/girls in the book

Why does their gender matter? As long as the characters are round – complicated and they are there for a reason – I could care less if they are boys or girls. I understand this complaint if it follows up with “every girl was falling in love with him for no reason” but I have seen someone mention exact numbers like, “there were 10 boys and 4 girls” without elaborating on WHY this was annoying…especially when the book takes place in an all-boys school or in some other instance where the extreme numbers make sense. Without mentioning a specific book, I did read a book about a boy character who had a lot of friends that were girls in which someone complained about it, but I didn’t understand, because the boy was raised by his mother and sister, so he was more comfortable around girls, and it made sense. I can relate to this. As a girl raised by my father and brother, I mainly had guy friends growing up. That doesn’t mean every single one of them felt romantic toward me. In fact, I was as attractive to them as a lamp would be – meaning, not at all – but I don’t see anything wrong with a boy having girls around him or a girl having guys around them as long as it makes sense to the story and isn’t an excuse to have an empty array of love interests.

(Insert controversial political or religious topic here)

Keep your politics out of fiction reviews unless the book is specifically about discussing them. I’m looking at you, anti-reviewers of erotica. (At least, this is where I see it the most.) I have nothing wrong with someone having specific beliefs about when a man or a woman or anyone has sex with someone, but don’t shove it down others’ throats by filling up erotica book reviews with “I only read romance novels when they’re married like you should be” when you haven’t read a single page of their book. It doesn’t help potential buyers, and it will probably only hurt your review ranking, especially if you’re – in fact – wrong because I have seen this on a book where the characters were married, but (I’m assuming) the reviewer was mass reviewing erotica novels because it was against their personal beliefs. Amazon should not be your political or religious platform UNLESS the book is slated toward that discussion. Then again – on the contrary – I see nothing wrong with someone reading and reviewing a novel and stating something along the lines like “this book will not appeal to readers who are uncomfortable with premarital sex.” Just don’t go mass searching for these novels just to put them down.

And finally –

Complaining about another’s complaint

Haha. Yes, I just did it to myself. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I am here, talking about the types I hate, but here’s the truth – readers are allowed to review a book for whatever reason they want to review it as. There is no rule that states your review has to be detailed or helpful to someone else, but I do believe Amazon asks reviewers to be helpful (and definitely not spiteful.) But I am amazed sometimes by the amount of drama I’ve seen unfold on someone’s review by other reviewers. If you think it’s spiteful, please report it to Amazon or Goodreads, but yelling at one another is getting us nowhere. We all have different opinions. I’m sure I’ve written a 5-star review on a novel that another reader thought was so bad it was insane. For all I know, someone is writing on their blog right now and using my review as an example as what not to do. But that’s okay because we’re all allowed our own opinions. That’s the beauty of it all! Just try to back up your opinion with sincere criticism and encouragement.

So those are my top types of reviews that I cannot stand as a reader. What can I say? I meant to do five, but I kept typing. Have you ever seen a review complaint that you couldn’t believe? As a reader, do they ever sway you one way or another?

Feel free to share below!


23 thoughts on “Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

  1. I have read a few books about topics I also research and a few times, it left me scratching my head because I didn’t think that the other writer and me had actually watched the same movie or TV show. I can understand when people have divergent opinions but when they bring up certain “facts” that I don’t see at all in the original material (even when I go back to check again), I’m speechless.

  2. I do tend to read reviews before I buy a book, and I always check out the one-star reviews first, mostly for entertainment.

    I read one recently that said nothing about the book at all, but was a long rant replying to something that the author evidently said in some forum about paranormal fiction as a genre. (And this was on Amazon, not on GoodReads, where I expect that sort of thing.)

    And I remember running across a long dissertation about how terrible it was that Christians were allowed to push their values on everyone else posted as a review of “To Kill A Mockingbird”. I suppose you could call “To Kill A Mockingbird” a Christian book, but the values expressed in it are pretty universal–justice, tolerance, compassion.

    Lately I have seen a few (usually though, these are five star reviews) that are flat out spam, cut and pasted as reviews of totally random products. These don’t stay very long, but they make me wonder if that ever works.

    “Hmmm… I’m looking for a mystery, wait–here’s an ad for discount Rolex imitations! That’s what I really want.”

    1. Lol on the advertisements! I’ve seen that, too, and I wondered how they even managed to stay up when I’ve heard of so many real reviews being taken down. Great examples!

  3. The fun of odd reviews. They’re more interesting now that Amazon no longer has the 20 word minimum. I think must people are more interested in putting up stars and no review like Goodreads.

    One of my favorite complaints is when someone rants about me writing in present tense. They hate the style, I don’t understand the English language, and the tense is always jumping back and forth (it doesn’t, but people do talk about past events). It’s really become something I expect now.

    Though my personal favorite is when a fantasy author is said to be factually wrong on something unique to their world. For example, a dog being called a noble shepherd instead of a German shepherd. No Germany in the world then the second makes no sense.

    1. Oh! That fantasy complaint. That is one I wish I remembered because I see it more than I would expect. Like you said, I’ve seen readers say like “this fantasy world makes no sense” without any explanation and/or types of complaints that you were talking about: you can’t mention Germany if Germany doesn’t exist. Great addition!

  4. I look forward to the next month and hopefully plenty of things like this I can look back and relate on. As a reader, I usually go by the description, the amount of reviews and a general sense from what people are saying.

  5. There are a few reviewers on Goodreads that I trust to not bash/praise a book just for the sake of doing it. I’ve learned to see when someone is genuinely complaining about things that they saw wrong with the book instead of just saying “this book sucks, don’t waste your time.” I try very hard to not be one of those people because I know how much those people annoy me.

  6. I hate it when there are personal attacks on the writer! (I just blogged a little bit about this very thing.) “He’s a bad person! I know because I saw him kick a puppy once. Don’t buy this book!” And the reviewer leaves a one star review. That has nothing to do with the book! Sure, I probably don’t want to buy a book from a puppy kicker, but please leave your personal vendettas out of it.

  7. The “not my genre” thing bugs me. I LOVE seeing/getting reviews that say “This isn’t usually my genre, but I loved it because…” and maybe even say why they gave it a chance. But if you buy something you know you’re not going to like, that’s kind of your own fault. That’s like leaving a review on a petstore’s website complaining about parrots being too loud and feathery. Yep, that’s kind of how they are… maybe you need a hamster? 🙂

    Not really helpful to anyone trying to decide whether to buy the book. Or the parrot.

  8. Yes, I saw a one-star review the other day on a science book that said something like “this book was too difficult for my 10-yr-old grandson, so he couldn’t read it.” The book is marketed as an adult science book.

  9. Great post! Really feeling this after trawling Goodreads reviews on YA paranormal novels, which are pretty much guaranteed endorphins if you’re in a certain mood; there is hardly ever any middle-ground, mostly veering strictly between “where has this book been all my life” and “I wouldn’t give this book to my worst enemy”, and the hyperbole that ensues can be pretty amusing. Occasionally they can be useful, but by and large I find them to be too hyperbolic one way or the other.

  10. Those people who pick up a book in a genre they dislike and then leave a review that they didn’t like it because they don’t like that genre really leave me confused!

    Great list, and so true!

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