But, the fact is, sometimes I read a book that I just don’t like. The reasons vary; sometimes its undeveloped characters that I just can’t seem to care about, sometimes the story line is uninteresting, boring, too unbelievable, maybe the author of the piece just doesn’t string words together in a smooth enough fashion to suit my tastes. Regardless of why you love or hate a book, the first thing to remember is this.
It’s your… OPINION
Yes, it’s an opinion. NOT a fact. Unless you are a +3 Epic level Queen High Ruler of the Literary World, your review is simply your own personal opinion of the book. That is something people forget often when writing reviews. You need to explain within your review WHY you like or don’t like a book. You can site examples if necessary but please keep in mind you are basically telling someone you don’t know why they should or should not read this book.
So! Let’s take a look at what I consider a BADLY written review, this is taken directly from Amazon and it’s a review of Chris Philbrooks Adrian’s Undead Diary.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
childish comments about fat people make good zombie fic?, August 30, 2014
This review is from: Dark Recollections (Adrian’s Undead Diary Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
You know, I could handle the awkwardly handled first person narrative. I could handle the use of current colloquialisms, even though I knew that they would date the book, leaving it potentially difficult to understand in the future (honestly, it kind of spoke to me, using my kind of language in some cases). I could even handle the sadly obvious attempt on the authors part to insert themselves as the “hero” of the story, a’la the “Marty Stu” Adrian, who “never loses his cool under pressure.” Frankly, all of these writing flaws are quite common in a beginner. I’m a big fan of the zombie genre, which is populated by amateur writers, so this sort of thing is not unusual. No biggie, especially if there are some interesting new concepts and plot twists being presented. Here’s what I couldn’t handle. The following is a bit taken from the book, verbatim: “I have never seen such fat people move with such vigor before. One lady with a mega-fupa* was literally tearing up pavement as she ran. I still laugh today thinking of her jiggling rolls as she nearly ate s*** getting into her far too small compact car. It might’ve been the springs, but I swear to this day that I heard her car cry out in pain when she got into it.” wut? Is the author in grade school? Is he an internet troll who gets lolz thinks that this sort of thing is a normal viewpoint? I would rather read a TW Brown r@pe scene (and I can’t stand TW Brown) than read another page of this drivel. Go get some counselling or something Philbrook, you need it. (* a “fupa” is a term for “fat upper pubic region.”)
UGH!! SO HATEFUL!!
So, why is this review bad? Firstly is the most obvious, a personal attack on the author. Please remember that unless the book is dedicated to you personally, the author is NOT writing this book for you specifically. It’s for “the readers” a general population of people that the author hopes to appeal to. As such, a review should NEVER contain a personal attack. She called him names and suggested he needed therapy. That is just mean and does zero to help another reader decide if this book is something they would like to read.
Here is my revised version of what she could have said instead:
I didn’t enjoy this book. Personally, I found the narrative to be awkward and the use of current colloquialisms makes me fear this book will not be understood properly far in to the future. I felt that the author injected himself into the book as the hero and in my opinion the main character was entirely too perfect. I read a lot of books in the zombie genre (she SHOULD give examples of her favorite authors at this point so the person reading the review would know what she likes and then be able to determine if they may like the book based on their shared interests). My biggest complaint in this book was that the main character made fun of overweight people. I personally do not find this funny and so it detracted from my enjoyment of the story so much that I am not sure I want to continue reading any more from this author.
SOOOO! The difference is pretty clear, right? No personal attacks, no statements of fact, because this is, after all, merely your opinion. This review made it clear why she did not like the book. If you ARE finding yourself writing a negative review, you should actually include a couple of authors that you do enjoy so that the person reading the review will know what you are comparing this book to. I wouldn’t suggest adding specific titles because that gets seen as pimping those books. But properly structured sentence, such as “I normally enjoy books by INSERT AUTHORS NAME and this book was very different” followed by why you didn’t like it. Because let’s face it, every book you read is either liked or hated on that base line curve set up by the books you DO like.
There is one instance where stating a fact is ok in my opinion. If the book was released with glaring and multiple editing errors. Multiple missing or incorrect punctuation or lots of misspelled words, some people get nuts over that one. I was going to say…”that is not a grey area, it either IS or IS NOT edited correctly” HOWEVER…there are exceptions and you need to be aware of this if you plan on pointing it out in your review.
For instance in the case of the book above that I used as a review example, the book is a diary written by a dude in the apocalypse. It has errors because the main character has no interest in correcting his errors being that it is his personal diary. In this case the occasional error is merely making the story more authentic. Another case in point is any book by Cormac McCarthy. I have seen multiple reviews that point out his lack of punctuation. Fact is its part of his storytelling. It is one of his trademarks. He writes in simple sentence structure and he doesn’t believe he needs punctuation to make his sentences read correctly. Some people argue that fact, I personally enjoy reading his work and found his lack of punctuation gloriously pure. Again, OPINION. So be careful when suggesting that editing issues were what ruined a story for you.
So, you read a book by a Facebook friend. You hated it. OMG, what the hell are you going to do!!! RUN! HIDE! Discreetly unfriend? Drop out of groups the person is in thus avoiding? SIGH, people!! Sigh!! I’ve done it. I’m speaking from experience here.
MOST people that are writing something are secretly hoping everyone will love it and have nothing but praise for it. PLUS? Even when the writer says “tell me the truth! Don’t hold back! How can I improve if you don’t tell me what you didn’t like?” its truly a hard thing to do, isn’t it? You don’t want to hurt their feelings! Whether you found a few things you didn’t like or if you just hated the whole things from start to finish, its best to approach this exactly the way you do a bad review. You hated the story? Why? Break it down into manageable blocks.
For instance, if the writer happens to have a lot of religious reflection and you are opposed to that or have very different feelings regarding religion, you could explain to that to the writer; i.e. “I personally don’t like to read a story that includes religion.”
If you found continuity or timeline issues in a story, those can be fairly easy to point out. But not connecting to the main character can be difficult to explain to the writer so be concise so that they may use your critique in a positive way. “I personally think you need to flesh-out Jack, I didn’t find myself connecting to him and so it was difficult to stay interested in his story.” See? This is HELPFUL!
Then you might balance your review by finding something positive. Every work has something positive. It might be hard to find, but do it!! Was the setting interesting? Was the plot original? Did you like the characters names? Find something. You can do it! After all these writers are human and everyone needs a little pat on the back to go along with the “this is what I didn’t like” part.
Next we have the issue that has been discussed in a lot of groups lately. Whether or not to actually publish a bad review. EEESHHH! I personally have messaged writers to tell them that I didn’t like their story and so I will not review on Amazon. Why did I do that? I wimped out. Truly. What is the point of a review system if they are all 5 stars? How can a potential reader decide whether to part with their hard earned money if they only see the positive reviews?
I recently purchased a book that after reading the reviews, all five stars, decided that if it was so well loved then certainly I would love it too!! Guess what? I didn’t love it. In fact not one reviewer mentioned that there was graphic rape in the book. Even the synopsis of the book left that out. Are you going to tell me that all those reviewers were just ‘totes ok!’ with that subject matter? No, what happened here is that the reviewers were friends with the writer and simply wrote glowing, generic reviews to appease said writer. Of course we want to want to support a friend but understand that you are doing a disservice to the purpose of having reviews to begin with! Honestly can be both fair and balanced.
And now I am going to get on my soapbox for a minute about those of you who will not give a book 5 stars. I don’t get it. No one is asking you to review Shakespear and Chaucer and so the argument that a book is rarely so AWESOME as to deserve five stars is silly. Did you love the book? want to read more by the author? FIVE FRIKKIN STARS!! and to truly deserve one star I think you need to actually HATE it. It must be written like a third graders homework. It must SUCK, like in suckinessess truest form. I have only given one EVER one star review and I hope I never have to again. But even a book that you think deserves one star should have a properly written opinion/review. I think it might be even MORE important if you are giving a book such a low score, to properly explain why. Never forget that this is still someone’s hard work, their hopes and dreams may be pinned on it and if you are going to tell the reviewing world that it totally sucks balls, you really owe it to them to explain why.
LASTLY!! yes, I am just about done. A few words about bullying authors via reviews, Twitter, Facebook, etc. We, as a society, have called attention to this subject when it applies to kids; and collectively,(with the exception of a few assholes), have decided that we will not allow that behavior. How can we as adults, allow this, PARTICIPATE in this!, and still expect our children to do different? Shame on anyone that thinks this type of behavior is acceptable. It really is just low and scummy and I hope anyone who does this sort of thing is blacklisted from the reading and writing world.
QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? send them my way!! Need help writing a bad review? I am HERE!