Tag Archives: what should I mention in my book reviews

The Controversy of Rating and Reviewing Novels

8 Mar

Readers and writers, please take a moment to read this anti-bullying petition that can help the reader-writer relationship as well as the book market:  Protect Amazon.com Users and Indie Publishing Authors from Bullying and Harassment by Removing Anonymity and Requiring Identity Verification for Reviewing and Forum ParticipationWe may not be able to stop all trolls, but we can and should take a stand against them. Let’s make the internet a more positive place for all.

Beyond that, I wanted to thank The Novel List for reading and reviewing Seconds Before Sunrise. “I was taken away by this new world Shannon A. Thomson created, and even when I put the book down, this world haunted my thoughts. It was addicting and ironic, haunting and mystical, hilarious and sophisticated. I cannot praise this author more for providing an unfamiliar perspective to YA fiction, and exploring new ideas that are clearly distinct and unique to her personality.” Read the full review here to find out what The Novel List never saw coming.

Last time, I wrote out a lot of tips for those readers who are starting up their own book blog. Today, I was going to discuss how to rate and review novels in the most appropriate way possible, but then I realized something: “appropriate” is very, VERY debatable. (We are not talking about the obvious ones: ex/ telling an author to go die. That is blatantly wrong. We are, instead, talking about review situations that are debatable.)

At first thought, it’s difficult to see how any controversy would come up during reviews, but here are just a few that I will be discussing:

  • Reviewing a novel one has not even read or only read a few pages of
  • Purposely reading a novel one knows they will hate
  • Judging a chronological series out of order

However, before we continue, I want to clarify that I am not encouraging reviewers to write reviews in any of these situations. I am also not discouraging them. Although I have my personal opinions about these situations, readers have the right to review novels at anytime for any reason. As a reader, I like to believe I am always respectable when I write a review. As an author, I would simply ask reviewers to clarify if these things happened during the reading process. (Ex/ stating you did not finish the book in the review.) The controversies below are not meant to hurt anyone. They are meant to remind ourselves to be positive no matter what. You do not have to respect someone’s opinion, but you should try to respect that they have the right to one.

1 STAR

1. Reviewing an unread novel

I’m starting with this one because it is the only one I will share my personal opinion on. Please, don’t. Just don’t. Even if your friend told you how horrible it was and you trust them, don’t. Even if you have seen the movie, don’t. Even if you hate things that author has previously written, don’t review their new pieces without reading it. Just don’t. I cannot even fathom a justification for reviewing a novel without picking it up at all. Other than simple hating, (like how readers did this to popular novels), I have seen this happen a lot when a novel challenges very personal issues, like politics, religion, or sex, but reviewing a novel you have not read is simply not appropriate. Finding a novel that you are willing to pick up is more important than tearing down novels you have never touched.

2. Reviewing an unfinished novel

This situation is a lot more understandable than the first one. The reader at least attempted to read the novel. In this case, a reviewer should state that they did not finish the piece, where they stopped, and/or why they shelved the novel. There are many reasons for dropping a novel, including lack of interest, annoyance with a character, or disagreeable prose. Explaining your reason will allow your review to still be helpful to potential readers. For instance, you could say, “This novel was too descriptive.” Even with a one-star, a reader who likes very descriptive prose will find this helpful.

3. Judging a chronological series out of order

I’ve seen it happen. Someone reads book three of a seven book series, realizes it, and still reviews it poorly anyway because they were confused. Of course they’re confused. They missed four books. That’s like watching the newest episode of The Walking Dead and expecting to understand everything. Some reviewers think this is okay because it will let potential readers know if the novels are stand alones, but if you’re going to review it out of order– just say you read it out of order.  (Fun fact: I accidentally read The Forest of Hands and Teeth and the Mediator series out of order, but I still loved them. However, I went back and read the beginning books before I ever wrote a review.)

two-star-rating

Beyond that, I wanted to include a shortened list of two more situations that I believe reviewers should state if their review was affected from them:

– If you hate or love a genre: picking up high fantasy when you hate everything fantasy means you know you will probably be rating a novel down. I encourage readers to try new genres, but if you know your tastes automatically affected your thoughts, just mention it. This will be helpful for readers, because it will show if that particular novel appeals to new readers of the genre.

– If any outside event affected your reading mood – We get it. We’re all human. Reading a novel on an airplane compared to reading in your comfy bed at home can affect how much you enjoy what you’re reading. If you’re in the middle of finals, stress could cause you to drop the book halfway through with no hard feelings against the book. You don’t have to tell us that you lost your job. Just state that if you think your sour mood might have affected your reading state. That’s much nicer than simply rating it one star without knowing for sure that it was the book or your feelings that week.

Basically, by keeping these situations in mind, readers can remind themselves that an author – who probably worked months if not years on a novel – is not being judged unfairly. While readers have the right to review a novel whenever and however they like, practicing mutual respect is vital in keeping a healthy reading environment. 

To conclude this piece, I want to share a wonderful quote that Ky Grabowski shared on her blog: “Write about the book you read – not the book you wish the author had written.”

~SAT

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