Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Funny Thing About Book Reviews

I've talked about reviews some before on here, but there was a review incident recently that made me realize some new things about how we review as readers. And I think it all comes down to perception.

I hate giving books a low rating. I really, really do. And I'm not a fluffy person, so it's always befuddled me as to why that's hard. Even my negative reviews are packed full of positive things.

And what I realized recently is that oftentimes reviews come down to perception.

Let me explain.

When a book is very poorly written, doesn't engage me, makes me angry (in a bad way), I don't finish it ... I don't have much of a problem hitting the one or two-star button and walking away. It's when I feel like the problem was me that I flounder.

I mean, we've all read That Book. The one that everyone adores and recommends. Then you read it, and you keep checking the cover to make sure it's the same book. I hate that!! I often feel that if it's so well-liked, maybe the book itself is fine. Maybe it's just not for me. Yes, that is a legit thing.

Because I think reviews come down to perception.

For example, one of Those Books for me was Unblemished by Sara Ella. Generally well-liked or loved. Yet I felt super meh about it and haven't ever picked up the sequel, although I hear it gets better. So I felt really guilty rating it 3 stars.

But that's OK! Just because I didn't like it doesn't make it a bad book any more than a book should be defined by its negative reviews! Because there wasn't anything "wrong" with it. It was well-written and overall pretty original and interesting with a good message. Just ... not for me.

That's because I perceived it differently than other people. I wasn't a fan of the main character or her voice and got confused several times. It just felt a little flat. That could be because of me, my personal experience, my convictions or beliefs ... you name it.

Sometimes I've read a book and gotten a completely different perception of the plot and the meanings behind it all than someone else. (I read a whole ranting review on Fawkes the other day about how judgmental and misleading it was and thought ... wow. But hey, it was the reviewer's perception.)

I think the really important thing to remember here is that the reader's perception does not necessarily equal the author's perception. Ideally, it should. But any given book is not for every reader!

So when I don't read something the way an author intended for me to, it's not really their fault that I leave the book 3 stars. In fact, it may say nothing negative at all about them as a writer. It simply wasn't for me.

This means that we should be very careful passing judgment on what an author based on what we got out of their book. Because we don't actually know what they intended! There's a difference between reading and reading into something. 

Every truly negative review I've ever received has done one of two things:

  • taken something I wrote the opposite way of what I intended (so we actually agree at the end of the day; they're just convinced I'm a small-minded person now), or
  • disagreed with me from the get-go and so surprise, surprise they didn't like the book because they didn't agree with where I was coming from (be that grammatical or core beliefs).

You know what? It stings, but it happens!

Overall, I feel much better about leaving and receiving negative reviews--and even writing my books--knowing that it cannot be for everyone. That's just due to the uniqueness of people and the one-track nature of a story. Do your best, but embrace it!

If I'm honest, the subjectiveness of reading is beautiful. It's part of why I love it so and why it prompts good discussion (and disagreement). John Barton said, "You never step into the same book twice, because you are different each time you read it."

I think that's lovely. But that's just my perception. ;)
Do you agree or disagree with this whole perception notion? Anything to add?

If you want to read more about my thoughts on reviews, you can read about why authors love reviews more than chocolate and how I write a book review.

ALSO, there is a party happening on Facebook on Sunday, Nov 18th! Check it out HERE. :)


  1. I agree! People all have different tastes in books, and that's what makes the world go around! :)

  2. That is so true, and a good thing to remember too before posting unkind comments on somebody's review. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    1. I think so. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I don't think that means we always have to challenge people on disagreeing ;) So I'll review, but I'm unlikely to confront anyone else on thinking differently than me in their review. It happens! :)

  3. Such an interesting thing,but very true I believe. I'm one of those people that tend to LOVE the books most hate (little known books, classics, or such) and don't like the ones people love. Though I also like a lot of dystopian and contemporary too ;D


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