The Art of Writing a Negative Review

Posted May 24, 2019 by Amber in Memes / 8 Comments

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I have no qualms about writing a negative review.  Even for an ARC.

I think this is something a lot of bloggers struggle with.  In the blogging community, your image is everything.  You don’t want to be perceived as a Debbie Downer about books all the time, because who wants to read such negativity day after day.  Trust me, if people want to be bummed out, they can just pop over to the news.

Nonetheless, I believe it’s important to have a variety of book quality on your blog.  Frankly speaking, it adds to your credibility.  Nobody, nobody likes every book they read.  And I’ve got to be honest here – some books are a major bummer and I really don’t want to recommend them to people?

I think there are are three common ways that people write negative reviews.

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#1. The Salty Way

I’m not often a salty person, but when I am, the review is long and super judgy.  This is only when I’ve hated a book so much that I need to rip it into tiny shreds.  These are for books that I find to be so badly written that I don’t understand why they exist.  Oh, and also for when I’m editing my own work, because it somehow makes the editing process more enjoyable to be a complete and utter jerk about it.

Salty reviews only work if you’re a.) right about the content and not just enraged about wasted time; and b.) you make it funny.  I really, really hope that my salty reviews are funny?  I’ve certainly tried, but IRL I have a bit of a sarcastic, dark sense of humor and I’m often afraid they just come off as mean.  But if I’m feeling salty about it, I really do feel like someone needs to cast a copy of that book into Mount Doom and be done with it.

Salty reviews are the sort that get one star reviews.  It’s not that they were bad books, it’s just that… well no.  They were bad.  There’s no apology for a salty review.  If you’re writing a review like that, you’re taking a stand and you’re going to have to commit to it.

Some of my saltier reviews?

Honestly, I cannot in good conscious recommend the above books to anyone, and I think I make that abundantly, insultingly clear in the reviews.  I’m really sorry if you like these books!  They are major #nope books for me.  Also, Little Brother is the lowest rating I’ve ever given a book at half a star….

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#2. Angry/Disappointed Reviews for Problematic Books

At some point, you’re going to run into a book that is problematic.  Regardless of whether or not you find it personally offensive, it’s kind of our duty as bloggers to shine a light on the things that are going to hurt other readers and give them a warning.  Book Twitter KILLS at this sort of proactivity, promoting a very active Cancel!Culture that is actually a bit disconcerting at times.

Nevertheless, it can be difficult to take a stand about the things you discover in a book that you are uncomfortable with… or just plain enraged about.  You can dance around the issue, or you can scream about it.  These sorts of negative reviews are wholly necessary, but they can bring down heat from people who don’t see it the way you do.

In my case, here are some books I’ve powered through because I thought it was important to discuss their problematic elements:

These books are… unfortunate.  A lot of them sounded like they could have been decent stories until I got into the heart of them, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.  Crewel is actually a DNF but so late in the story that I just couldn’t keep riding into the bigotry I felt like I was experiencing.  It’s the only review I’ve ever been trolled on.

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#3.  Books You Just Didn’t Like and That’s Okay

These ones, I think it’s important not to be mean about.  After all, it’s not necessarily the fault of the book or the author if it didn’t click for you.  Some books just don’t feel like they’re right for me.  I often keep reading them, hoping they’ll level out and I’ll enjoy them.  Or, sometimes, I’m just curious enough to keep going.

A lot of these books are often really hyped ones that are big in the community, and it can be a little scary to give them a negative review when so many other people loved it.  I think that it’s still important to be honest about these things.  The pressure to fit in can be strong, but you also have to be true to yourself. Believe it or not, most people understand that books are not one size fits all.  So even if it was a highly anticipated ARC, or a book that ALL your blogging friends are obsessed with, it’s vital to give it a true review.

I think that diversity in community is important, and that there are many different kinds of diversity.  We want to support #OwnVoice authors and we want to get behind books that show a different perspective of the world and call out injustice.  But within all that, we need there to be a variety of voices talking about these books.  We can’t love everything.

Here’s a few books I didn’t enjoy… and I tried to be polite about it, especially when it was an unpopular review:

The odds are that you, reader, will LOVE at least one of these books.  And I am so happy for you!  I don’t need you to apologize that I didn’t like it (that’s sort of weird).  There are plenty of books out there that I do like, and I don’t feel like there’s injustice in the world for these novels because nobody forced me to read them.  And I am so glad you liked them.  It takes all sorts!

This type of review takes up 90% of my negative review space.  There are lots of books that won’t be a perfect fit, and it was tough picking just five examples.

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Negative reviews add a sort of life to the book blogging community.  Positive reviews are easy.  Positive reviews talk about how much we love the book and why it was successful for each of us personally.  But a negative review shows the true depth of a novel.  While the saltier reviews are not likely very helpful for a potential reader, they can be super fun content to write.  After all, it’s sometimes nice to just rage about something!

But the other two types?  Reviews about problematic books, and reviewing books that you didn’t care for just because they weren’t a good fit for you?  These types of reviews are important.  They shape you as a unique individual, and put vital content out there in the community.  They give you the opportunity to connect with people who are smaller voices in the community about these things (in regards to unpopular opinion reviews) and they support authors who do write successful, respectful diverse books.

So even though writing a negative review can be intimidating, we should do it.  Don’t be afraid that the publisher will never give you another ARC.  Don’t be afraid of the backlash.  You have to be true to yourself.

Just do it in a respectful manner, and everything will work out.  I promise.  And if you get trolled for following this advice, come find me and I’ll bring my torch and pitch fork.

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Today’s Book Blogger Hop asks:

Do you continue with a book even though you aren’t liking it?

Short answer:  It really depends on the book, where I’m at when I decide it isn’t going to get better, and what I have to say about it.  If I’m close to the beginning, I’ll typically cut my losses and DNF, but if I’m more than halfway through or if I have something important to say about it, I’ll follow through.  Also, I dislike DNF’ing ARCs, so I try not to do that.

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Do you write negative reviews?

Do you believe it’s okay to be salty about a book you didn’t like?

Do you think it’s better to DNF a book or write a negative review?
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8 responses to “The Art of Writing a Negative Review

  1. I struggle so much on writing negative reviews. I Procrastinate So Much. Ugh because I put myself in the shoes of Author. I think I get more angry at the publishers because WHY didn’t they fix the obvious storyline and character development flaws .. ugh

    • Amber

      It is difficult to think about being the author reading negative reviews – even nice ones. I like to think that most authors keep away from the reviews. I do know that some bloggers choose not to review the books they didn’t like, so that is always an option!

  2. I don’t have any issue writing a negative reviews. I don’t write up DNFs. But I just try to be respectful and specific as to why it didn’t work. If I think it is a me not the book then I say so because I want to make sure that others who might enjoy the book aren’t turned off by what I thought just wasn’t for me. If it was what I thought, fundamental flaws with the book, then I just try to be specific and respectful about what was wrong with it.

    • Amber

      Respect is paramount! It’s fairly unproductive to just diss a book, but to sensibly lay out the good and bad and why things don’t necessarily work makes for a really valuable review. 🙂

  3. This post has helped me out a lot whenever I have to create a negative review for any type of book. So far the books that I have read I enjoyed to the fullest but there are gonna be some books we didn’t enjoy and just have to write a fair book review of it.

    • Amber

      I’m so glad you’ve had a really good run with the books you’ve been reading! I think I the hype on books grab us all sometimes, and we start reading books that we wouldn’t normally pick up… and then we don’t like them. 😛 I hope you continue to enjoy all the books you read – it’s so awesome!

  4. I honestly struggle to write a negative review. Especially if it’s a book that’s just not for me, so I’m going to have to implement some of these soon. Thanks!

    • Amber

      If you have to write a negative review, doing for a book that was well-done but not to your tastes is the best kind! You get to say what didn’t work for you, without actually taking apart the novel. Good luck!