Negative Reviews Don’t Mean You’re a Better Reviewer

There seems to be this weird idea that negative reviews are worth more than positive reviews.

It’s not everyone. And by and large the YA community is pretty good at NOT being condescending/snobby/toffee-nosed. But then sometimes I see reviews dismissing the opinions of people who like a book. Like:

“This book is awful and I don’t see why anyone would willingly read it. Everyone who likes this book is an idiot.”

I mean, I’m exaggerating a BIT, but it does happen, and it makes me so mad. Just because you write a negative review doesn’t mean it’s a BETTER review than a positive one. When did we all get so negative? Sometimes when I watch movies I go on Rotten Tomatoes and check out the reviews, and they are so snarky.

Thank goodness our community isn’t like that for the most part.

And it makes me feel sorry for the authors.

Even one mean review can throw out a ton of positive ones, which frustrates me because negative reviews should NOT have more weight.

That’s right, T Swizzle, you tell ’em.

I don’t write negative reviews all that often.

I would much rather flail. And I always make sure to say that other people might like it.

Negative reviews definitely have a place, and I’m not saying we should only write positive reviews – not every book is made equal, and there’d be no integrity to the system if we gave everything five stars. Plus, negative reviews can be entertaining. But when you’re insulting the author personally, or dismissing the opinions of people who DO like that particular book, then I have a problem.

And don’t even get me started on the people who dismiss YA as a whole.

Okay, calm. Calm.

I guess what I’m saying is don’t let one negative review stop you from wanting to read a book.

Or even LOTS of negative reviews. When I read The Jewel this year, it was after reading lots of one- and two-star ratings. I really enjoyed it. But sometimes I do make the mistake of taking the negative reviews into account more than I should.

There’s this weird habit where I look at the average rating on Goodreads, and if it’s below 4, I seriously reconsider wanting to read it.

LIKE. WHAT EVEN, EMILY? Afterworlds is rated below four, and I LOVED that book to pieces.

In my opinion, anyway, negative reviews shouldn’t mean you’re a better reviewer, or hold more weight than positive reviews.

What do you think?


36 thoughts on “Negative Reviews Don’t Mean You’re a Better Reviewer

  1. I completely agree! Like you, I don’t usually write that many negative reviews, because there genuinely aren’t that many books out there which I’ve come across that I really dislike. Even in reviews which I might say that I had problems with the book or didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, then I never be nasty about it (I think I’m a bit of a softie!). But – at the end of the day, with every novel you have to remember that an author put work into that, many hours of effort and time to create something they believed would be a success. Which it can definitely be – even if it doesn’t appeal to everybody’s tastes. One person’s opinion can differ from another’s, which means that you might just love something that it seems the majority of the book community didn’t. I ended up liking The Jewel more than I thought I would too, which just goes to show how we should still be open minded and willing to try things even if other people have shared a differing view.

    Fantastic discussion Emily 🙂

  2. Great post! I’m hesitant about negative book reviews, (I’ve so far given one *wipes forehead*) but what you said is absolutely right. As long as I’m not saying mean things about the author/ to the author, and readers, then negative reviews aren’t bad. There shouldn’t be that weird weighing of reviews, reviews are reviews not actually whether a book is good or not.

  3. Oh oh YES I agree! I hate it when books are bashed on for no real reason. I’m okay with hating books….not every book is for every person, right?! And some of us are more critical thinkers and harder to please…and that’s OKAY! But I totally totally think a review should never contain “no one else should read this” or “this book is dumb and how did it get published” It’s just so rude and wrong. I sometimes feel like readers think they know more than the entire publishing house that PUT the book together. o.O It saddens me. Professionals are behind every (well, traditionally) published book and they didn’t think it was rubbish.
    I have been writing quite a few negative reviews lately. *sigh* But I think it’s me, not the books, for sure. XD

  4. YES I agree with you 100%. While I have written some reviews, I try not to bash the book. And truthfully, there is normally at least ONE thing that I liked about the book that I could mention. I tend to give out pretty high ratings because if I enjoyed the book even in the least, I acknowledge that.

  5. Absolutely agree Em! Reading is so subjective so not everyone is bound to like the same book/story/character etc. Just like in life, I cannot fathom why anyone can find the pleasure in putting others down. I like reading negative reviews, but I’m also so weary of reviewers that take it too far like you mentioned. Anyone that finds the need to diss an author or others for their opinions makes me want to do an automatic bird-flip to them. It’s just not necessary and we’re not professional reviewers – so why the sass!? I’m just like you, I always make sure I acknowledge that others have liked the book, and state WHY I personally didn’t. It’s also a reason why I don’t usually DNF a book, or at least give the book 10 chapters to convince me otherwise.

  6. I totally agree with you. Especially about the reading the Goodreads ratings and reviews before actually reading the book and being discouraged when its really low or even moderately low. That’s why I’ve started reading the book first, reviews second. That way I’m going in with my own opinion and not letting other readers influence me. Though I have to say some of those ranty reviews, for books and movies alike, are quite hilarious.

  7. I so agree! The YA genre gets so much scorn but it has tons of amazing books in it that I love.
    There is a time and place for negative reviews but they shouldn’t be valued as better. They are exactly the same–someone’s opinion.
    Also, shout out for the awesome use of the taylor swift gif 🙂

  8. I don’t try to write a less or a large amount of negative reviews but there was a time when I enjoyed doing so. Sadly. As I’ve grown thought, it just becomes evident to me that my opinions may not line up with everyone elses so now whenever I write a negative review, I try to keep that in mind and try my best not to overlook the good things about the book however little I feel like there might be.

    I also totally get put off more by negative reviews! It’s so hard to not to do! I’ve been trying to get better about that though and try not to let negative reviews affect my decisions about books I was really looking forward to or thought would be right up my ally!

    Great Post, Emily! 🙂

  9. To be honest, I love reading snarky reviews because they are entertaining. They aren’t a bad thing, but as you pointed out, anything that involves insulting the author or the reader is going too far. As long as it stays within the boundaries of the actual book, then it’s fine. Negative reviews (and reviews in general) are there so that potential readers can see if they would actually enjoy the book. For example if a negative review mentions a love triangle, then someone who LOVES love triangles will actually consider reading the book because of that (and vice versa).

    For me, I read a lot of different reviews from different people before reading/buying a specific book. I think because of that, I’ve been reading a lot of books that suit me, which leads to higher ratings (and me being happier overall). So yeah, negative reviews are really helpful, but they shouldn’t cross the line.

    Awesome discussion post Emily!

  10. Agreed! Even though I don’t want to let it persuade me, sometimes the negative, not-so positive reviews *do* get to me. I think the thing is – there are so many books to read, and hearing peoples thoughts can be really helpful on what we read/next. So if I hear lots of bad things, I’m like…hmm, maybe not? It sucks when I’m anticipating a title and then the early reviews unnerve me. In the last month, I added a title, loved the sound of it and then recently read a negative review. Yes, it was just one review of many, but if what she said was true, the book and me would not get alone. It’s hard because only you know you and there’s not another you out there to help keep up with you overflowing TBR.

    The life of a bookworm…

    Awesome post!

  11. Pingback: Weekly Recap| Jan 4-10, 2015 | Oh, the Books!

  12. This is such an interesting post! I have to admit that I do tend to write quite a bit of negative reviews, but I try my best not to insult the author personally or anything. I read quite a lot of reviews on the internet too — but I don’t let them stop me from actually reading a book. Not if it’s something I want to read. Everyone has different tastes / opinions, so you shouldn’t really judge something you’ve never read based on another person’s opinion, you know? Oh my gosh you are sooooo right about Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve visited that site a couple of times, but I just don’t anymore because sometimes I feel like they’re waaaaaaay to critical. xD

  13. This is a really thoughtful post and I’m so grateful that you wrote this. I can’t even tell you how many times I turned away from a book just because of the negative reviews or from the 1 to 2 star ratings on Goodreads. That’s why I try not to put ratings when I read books because I want people to try it out anyway. But it goes both ways: when a book has these rave reviews, and I don’t enjoy it, I feel pressured to like it. Sometimes, I even FORCE myself to like it.
    And oh my gosh, yes. Those people who diminish people’s intelligence just because they have differing tastes. They’re everywhere!

  14. A very interesting post, hun! Confession: whenever I check out goodreads about a book I’m considering to buy, I’ll always go to the negative reviews first. I just find them more helpful because they point out the negatives then I can determine whether or not I would think the same as that reviewer. I mean, I’ll read books that get negative reviews, but I’ll normally back away if I read a negative review that mentions all the things I hate in a book. I must agree: I really hate it when a reviewer starts bashing the author and other readers. Everyone has their own tastes! <.<

  15. Yes, I totally agree!!
    I don’t understand why people can’t just agree to disagree sometimes. It’s ok not to like a book everyone else loves, and it’s also ok to love a book everyone else hates.

    That being said, I actually find it easier to write negative reviews. I mean, on the one hand, I feel kind of bad, because I know someone put a lot of work into the book. But on the other hand, negative reviews are SO EASY to write! I find it so much easier to describe what I didn’t love, as opposed to what I did.
    On the other hand, I love loving a book so much that I just want to throw it at everyone. I just find it harder to write a review. When I try it often ends up saying something along the lines of “Trust me, this was awesome. Go read it”.

    I think the reason negative reviews are sometimes given more weight is because people in general have a tendency to remember the bad instead of the good. You can get 100 compliments in one day, but if one person says one thing bad about you, that’s what you’ll think about for the rest of the week.
    I don’t know why we do that, but we do.

  16. I agree! I have to admit I do enjoy reading negative reviews but not those angst ridden blog posts wherein you couldn’t tell whether a writer is pointing out her thoughts or just looking for attention that’s why it was written the way it was. I, for one, understands when I love a book everyone hates. We all have different preferences, it’s not new. But when I see a blogger nonsensically trashes a book just because it didn’t meet his/her expectations, I stop reading. Just because you hated the character, or the story doesn’t mean everyone will, too. That is misleading the audience.

    I’m not saying you should only tell good things about a book because that could be misleading too. What I meant is just because it’s not your cup of tea doesn’t give you the right to direct others away from it.

    Very interesting topic Emily. 🙂

    Ella @ The Filipina Booknote

  17. THANK YOU! Just…THANK YOU!!!

    I don’t understand those people who only ever write negative reviews. I believe that everyone has the right to their own opinion, but there are people who never ever write positive reviews for books. How can you live like that? Surely there has to be one book in this world that you love, or just even slightly enjoy – what’s the point of reading otherwise?

  18. Great post. I find myself being intrigued if a book has negative reviews. I try not to let it affect my opinion. I’m still willing to give a book a go, even if my blogger friends haven’t enjoyed it. How can you say you don’t like it, if you don’t try it? I also definitely think there is a place for negative reviews, but as you say, they shouldn’t have more weight than positive!

  19. I completely agree! I think it is natural for someone to not like a book or a movie at times, so I understand why negative reviews exist, but they are so over the top. I mean as a reviewer you are giving your honest opinion and I do doubt that when you read a book you think all these negative things about the author, you are focusing on the book, maybe you do not like a character. Anyway, a negative review does not make you a better reviewer. If anything, if it is over the top, it makes you a less reliable one.

  20. I don’t write tons of negative reviews either, because the truth is, I don’t really have many negative things to say about the books I choose to read. I think a lot of people might think that people who write negative reviews are more critical and better readers, because they can discern between positive and negative aspects of a book more emphatically, but that’s simply not true. I try not to look at negative reviews when I’m considering reading a book. I mostly base it off the blurb or positive reviews. Also, In my reviews I try never to bash authors because I know that it hurts and that they’ve put so much time into their books. If I could rate books based on effort, they would all get five stars.

  21. Very, very interesting post! I read this one before going out this morning and had no time to comment because I just know that I want to say a lot LOL BUT HERE I AM NOW.

    I totally get you and this post. Negative reviews definitely do not make for being a better reviewer. Both reviews have merits. Everyone’s opinion has merit. Everyone’s opinion should be respected. When reviews attempt to make their opinion the holy opinion, or when they personally attack the author, I immediately flinch. Because that it not alright to do. Reviewing is all about perceptions. I respect them all.

    I must say though, I’m more of a negative reviewer, to be honest. And I think it’s because I think too much about things, try to get a little too analytical. But it’s my train of thought and sadly, it often veers to the more negative side of life (I think I’m a lover, but friends have accused me of being a hater. The nerve.) But I also believe in respecting opinions (SO IMPORTANT IN DAY TO DAY LIFE) and aesthetic liberty. Remove the author’s morals and beliefs from the art. Always.

    Fantastic post, Em! Definitely got me thinking.

  22. For sure negative reviews shouldn’t be taken word for word (snobbish reviews should freaking be ignored!) – but sometimes when you’re reading the review and they have valid points to make then I take those into account. However I do understand what you mean and I guess a way to make myself not take those reviews to heart is by reading a positive review of the book and comparing the points made, eh? (Haha, a debate between reviews…whoa).

  23. I completely agree with what you said. I don’t mind negative reviews as long as they don’t bash the authors or the readers who enjoyed the books. For an instance I once read a YA book and a negative reviewer said something as to why would a anyone enjoy this or something along those lines and I liked the book and it just made me feel quite offended for someone to say something like that in their review!

    Fantastic post! 🙂

  24. Yeah, I think so, too. When I first started reviewing books, I felt weird because I gave a lot of them high ratings, which no one else did. So after a few months I upped my standards and now fives are just the ones I absolutely *love*. Although I sometimes don’t accept review books if they’re below an average 4-star rating by an unknown author and I don’t like the premise, which I think is pretty weird, because I loved Afterworlds too! 😀 We blogglings are a weird and non-mathematical bunch. I mean, counting is too much effort. Sometimes I just think writing two long essays and filming a video summarizing my thoughts might be easier. 😛

  25. I agree. I do find negative reviews easier to write though and often they are better written on other blogs too. I definitely would rather see flailing most of the time even if snarky reviews are often quite entertaining. If I write a negative review I usually put that it just wasn’t for me and that someone else might enjoy it.

  26. Why would you even be so rude as to be inconsiderate of other’s feelings and opinions (including the author) BECAUSE HUMANS HAVE FEELINGS…right?! I think it’s really selfish of a reviewer to take it into their own hands and completely bash a book and tell no one to read it ever in a million years. 1, it’s not nice, 2, they’re not the only one entitled to an opinion in the entire world.
    Oh look. I’m ranting.
    I guess this pisses me off too :/

  27. Pingback: Week in Review: 1/11/15 | Books & Cleverness

  28. I really have to agree. I get that people don’t like EVERY BOOK. But I feel like some people just read books to hate them, you know? And then there five star reviews are like FINALLY YES SOMETHING DECENT. I mean, I guess I’ll say FINALLY after a bit of a slump. But my slumps aren’t like hate, hate, hate, less hate, MORE HATE, okay, whatever, FINALLY. If anything it’s decent, decent, decent, FINALLY. Even if I do hate the book, I blame characters or elements, not the author him/herself. One exception might be this “horror” I HATED because I do think the author tried too hard to fit EVERY SCARY THING POSSIBLE in there… which sounds harsh, but it’s not really the author himself, just an overcrowding issue… you know? And I wouldn’t tell people not to read it. I just can’t finish the series…

    Anyways, I agree that not everything should be positive because not all books are the same or mean the same to me. My five stars aren’t as rare as my one stars, but it’s not my go-to rating. And no matter what I consider EVERYTHING about a book. What I didn’t like, what I couldn’t look past, and what could be admired anyways.
    Usually negative reviews deter me from BUYING a book but not necessarily READING it.
    And I’ve always not-liked books that other claim is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. It happens. Sometimes it the book itself, sometimes it’s just the mood I’m in. So the only judge I trust is myself (:
    And also you ’cause you’re awesome ;D

  29. Pingback: Stacking The Shelves | Happy Birthday to Me + BIG NEWSBookish Serendipity

  30. I do agree on some of these points. There some books I’ve read with one bad reviews that i find amazing. Sometimes though if I see several of the same types of comments by different reviewers, I might take that into account. I know that when I write a negative review, I do it so that others can know what didn’t work for me with the book. They can certainly take it with a grain of salt because they may love it. But if the only people who reviewed a book are the ones who loved it, then readers can’t get a clear picture. And I hate it when people hate a book so much that they say every person who liked it must be an idiot. Oy, not good.

  31. I was *just* thinking about this yesterday! I tend to be pretty positive when I review books, because I enjoy the majority of books that I read. Sometimes it’s appalling to go on Goodreads and see some of these poisonous reviews! Right on with the T-Swift gif.
    But I also fall prey the 4-star thing: if a book is above 4 stars I go right away buy it, but if it’s below I definitely hesitate. I think It’s best to look at reviews of bloggers you trust, rather than the showy negative reviews that are at the top on the Goodreads profile.
    Great post!

  32. This is an amazing post! I used to always think that I was too positive and that people wouldn’t be able to trust my opinions and whatever. But then I thought, well, I’m not gonna lie and say I didn’t enjoy a book when I did. Plus, I also way enjoy flailing than being negative! I think that as long as you talk about everything properly, there should be no difference in weight. 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s