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.