DNF-ing Books – Do You Have the Right to An Opinion?

Posted June 13, 2018 by Amber in Bookish Things, Reading / 15 Comments

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This is one of those topics that pops up in the book blogosphere every so often and something that everyone has an opinion about.  It’s been a while since I read a discussion post on DNF-ing books, and I thought it was a good time to throw one out there.  Everyone does a lot of summer reading, so there’s always the question of “Should I stop reading this?” and “Should I write a review?”.

The answer, of course, is complicated.  My personal opinion is that: if you aren’t enjoying a book, stop reading it.  You aren’t doing anyone a favor by continuing.  Even if it’s an ARC, you have to weigh your pros and cons because you will not be helping the author by giving a salty review.  And this comes from someone who has dragged her feet through ARCs and given them negative reviews.

Regarding DNF reviews though… complicated.

I review my DNFs.

“Why!?” you may ask.  “Are you some kind of monster?!”

I like to think that I am not a monster?  The thing is, my reviews are as much for myself as they are for you lovely folks.  I like to know the reasons why people put down books just as much as why they pick them up.  Most of the book community hates this type of behavior, by the way.  Especially if you’ve dissed their favorite book.  I got a salty comment on my DNF review for Crewel last month, and I’ve had quite a few people disappointed in me for putting down The Never Ending Story.  Here are the tales on both, so I can give you an example of my process.

In the case of Crewel, I was struggling with the book even before the Last Straw, and the Last Straw came when there was some rep that made me uncomfortable.  It’s a minority opinion, and I’m okay with that.  I also don’t discourage others from reading it – everyone has a right to their own reading choices, and what was uncomfortable for me may not even register for others.  I gave the book 1 star, because I was 78% of the way finished and felt I had invested enough time into the book.  Additionally, it’s an older book with a good rating on Goodreads, so I didn’t feel as though that star would hurt its overall rating.

Then, on the other end of things, I was listening to a poor audio recording of The Never Ending Story, but after I got fed up with the recording, I was not invested enough to seek it out in a different format.  No harm, no foul, no star rating because I didn’t even hit 50%.

Sometimes, I DNF because I’m bored (The Stand) or I realize early on it’s not the book I’m looking for (Waterfall).  Whether or not a book gets a star rating depends on how far I get and the reason for DNF-ing.  There’s a big difference between “This book was flat and unimpressive” and “This is not my genre”.

In the case of The Never Ending Story, it wouldn’t get a star rating if I was only putting it down because of the recording.  After all, that’s like someone giving a product on Amazon a bad review because the shipping box was dented.  Exasperating.  And unless I hit the 50% point, or have put a great deal of time into the book (10+ hours), I don’t think it’s fair to give it a starred review.  Doubly true for any ARCs.  Older books, a star rating is so minute it usually doesn’t affect the overall rating; with an ARC, there are fewer reviews and it’s easier to damage a book’s reputation.

At the same time… we have invested our time and possibly our money into these books.  We should have the right to have opinions… right?  For example, if you go to a restaurant and order chicken, and you don’t like the chicken, you are allowed to tell people you didn’t like the chicken.  People don’t jump of you for being chicken haters or restaurant haters.  Maybe the chicken was undercooked.  Maybe it was too spicy.  Or too bland!  Maybe it was just a bad chicken day for you.  These things happen, and most people just say, “Sorry to hear that!  I liked that chicken.”  Nobody is going to drag you back and make you finish every single bite of that chicken so you are sure of your opinion.

So that’s my opinion on the matter.  YES you should be able to review DNF books.  YES you need to say why you put it down.  NO you should not tell people not to read the book because you didn’t like it.  YES you can leave starred reviews, as long as they’re sensible and fair.  NO you should not bash the people who loved the book.  YES we should be open to intelligent conversations about the ups and downs of books we DNF’d.  NO we should not let people intimidate us into leaving only good reviews, and finishing every book we start.

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Have you ever DNF’d a book?

How do you feel about reviewing books that are unfinished?

Does it bother you when people give star ratings to books they haven’t read (i.e. 5 stars a year before release)?
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15 responses to “DNF-ing Books – Do You Have the Right to An Opinion?

  1. Honestly, I like the “my blog, my rules” motto, so you can do whatever you want. I don’t write a lot of DNF reviews, mostly because I hate myself and force myself to finish things even if it’s an ARC. I think if it’s from Netgalley I’ll still give them why it didn’t work for them, but I still feel like I like DNF reviews because it helps me decide if I don’t want to read something.

    • Amber

      I love DNF reviews for just the reason you said. I go looking for those or for the 1 star reviews too see why something didn’t work for someone and whether or not that will affect me. Not just for books, either. I just find that negative reviews (except flame reviews) are more useful than positive ones? I have a really hard time DNF-ing ARCs though. I’ve only done it twice, and I feel terribly guilty about both.

  2. I feel as though it’s okay to review a book that you DNF in the way that you state why you did not finishe reading it. I don’t think that people who DNF should RATE a book. I feel that it is unfair to give something 1 star if you didn’t even complete it. How do you know that the ending would not have gained it another star or 2 after blowing your mind??

    • Amber

      I guess it depends on how you rate your books? I actually use an algorithm that takes into account Characters, Plot, Setting, Writing, Pacing, Personal Enjoyment (and narrator, if it’s an audiobook) and averages out a star rating… so for me a twist at the end might move up my plot rating, but wouldn’t have a huge impact on overall rating. But I’m really weird in how I rate books… I don’t think most people micro-rate that much?

      I almost never give an actual star rating, though (I think maybe twice in the last 28 years lol) and even then, the book needs to have a LOT of ratings already… over 1000… so I know I’m not destroying it’s overall reputation or anything. And there better be a whole bunch of reasons. 🙂

  3. This is a great discussion post! It’s funny, I used to NEVER dnf a book before I started blogging, but becoming a book blogger has strangely made me more of a dnf-er. Blogging is time consuming and I’m not wasting any of it on books I don’t enjoy. Most of the time I’m too lazy to write a dnf review on my blog, but I’m surprised so many people are haters of that idea! I mean, we’re here to talk about books and dnf-ing is a big part of that!! Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and share their experiences.

    I do review my dnfs on Goodreads though. No star rating, but I always say a few things about why I couldn’t finish it. That’s mostly just for me though because I tend to forget about it once I toss it aside. Lol.

    Loretta @ The Laughing Listener recently posted: May Speed Round
    • Amber

      DNFs are sorta that “ugh an extra blog postttttt” feeling. 😛 I’ve actually just started using a new archive plugin that’ll let me link to Goodreads for DNF reviews and I am so excited lol. I agree it’s important to make a note of why you didn’t like something though… if you’re like me, you’ll get nostalgic and pick it up again and regret it. 😛

  4. I dnf a lot. I generally post on Twitter why I did but I don’t do a full review.

    I hate when people give ratings to books they haven’t read like giving star reviews to unreleased books.

  5. Great post and I love your gifs 😍 Since I started blogging I have only DNF a couple books but I didn’t get very far into any of them so I didn’t write a review. If I would have gotten farther and been able to form actual opinions I would have left a review!

    Brittany recently posted: The Unique Blogger Award
    • Amber

      Haha, are you a Supernatural fan? I was feeling Supernatural vibes for this post. 🙂

      Sometimes, you can tell pretty early when a book is not for you. If it’s not clicking, then it’s not clicking! 🙂 Not enough content for a post, but enough to know it’s not gonna work. 🙂

  6. I don’t personally rate my DNF’s but I always give a short review, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with rating a book you DNF’d either (I mean, so long as you got to a reasonable point… I WILL be annoyed if someone rates a book after DNFing on like, page three or something, because that’s just ridiculous). But like, I think it’s totally reasonable to give a book you read half of a rating.
    I just don’t because I feel bad, and am always worried that the bit I didn’t read might have been really good. (This is also the reason I don’t DNF much…)

    • Amber

      I actually have a post from either late 2016 or early 2017 talking about how I don’t DNF things. A lot has changed in a year! 😛 I’ve resigned myself to the fact there are too many books in the world.

  7. So, for the most part it doesn’t bother me if people leave reviews for books they DNF. I think it makes a little more sense to be a substantial amount of way in, like maybe 50%, or at the very least state how far through they made it, but generally speaking, I think it’s fine and people should be allowed to review how they want. However, for ARC’s, I don’t know…I know it’s tricky because sometimes you just run into a book you absolutely can NOT get through, but at the same time, it feels a little unfair to judge without knowing the whole story? I’d say for ARCs, at the very least 50%, because sure, sometimes you just can’t finish for one reason or another, but I think it’s fair to at least mention where you stopped.

    • Amber

      ARCs are so so tricky, especially if they’re something you’ve requested and it didn’t turn out the way you thought. I’m one of those people who will request ARCs from all over the spectrum – not just anticipated reads from big publishing houses – so the quality of book I get is super hit-or-miss. I think reviews for ARCs need to be very careful one way or the other, but doubly cautious and well-explained if you’re DNF-ing and ARC. I don’t review those personally, because I don’t feel right about blasting an ARC I asked for and didn’t enjoy to the point of not finishing. Although one of my favorite reads this year was DNF’d by loads of people who got ARCs, so I guess the spectrum of interest is important. 🙂