Hello everyone! Today I thought I’d talk to you about something that’s been nagging at me for a while now. Negative reviews are some of my favorite posts to write- apart from being fun, they’re also therapeutic. But looking back at some of my old reviews, I noticed that I apologize a lot. Which got me thinking: why should I apologize for simply not liking something?
We love some, we don’t like others so much
That’s understood, right? Just with anything that depends on taste, you’re bound to enjoy some things more than others. You might be a fan of rock so you dislike music by the likes of Taylor Swift and One Direction, and vice versa. You may enjoy political dramas on TV, so you’re not the biggest fan of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, or America’s Next Top Model. It’s all about taste- the word and the phenomenon exists, so we might as well embrace it.
It’s the same way with books. You may enjoy certain tropes in a genre and really hate other ones. I, for one, am not a fan of love triangles whatsoever, which is why if a book or series contains an over-the-top love triangle, chances are that I probably won’t like it. Another person may think love-triangles are the best thing since Nutella, so they primarily go for books that contain them. That’s completely fine.
Isn’t that common sense?
It should be. I thought respectful negative reviews weren’t a big deal in the bookish community, since everybody has books they dislike. And while the large majority of the members of this community are mature and accepting, there are others who launch attacks on you for simply not liking a book that they enjoyed. I get one or two hate-messages on tumblr now and then because someone came across my review and thought I was an idiot with bad taste in books. “That book is just realistic!!!!!!!!!!! You don’t understand them!!!!!!!!!!” Okay, cool? Or maybe I just have a vastly different taste in books, and I should be able to write an honest opinion without getting hate? That’s a wild idea.
Didn’t we start book blogging because we wanted to talk about books?
Notice how I put emphasis on the word “talk.” I’ve been noticing this increasingly throughout not only the book community, but also on the Internet in general. There is little to no tolerance for talking or conversation. Rather, it has become about disagreeing and slander- something I was the target of last month. It’s not a pleasant feeling, and instead of getting your point across, you’re making the other person increasingly hateful of this community. It’s not helping your cause, unless you’re doing it for comeback points- in that case, I don’t even know what to say.
It’s true; most – if not all – of us joined the book community so we could discuss books, whether they are our all-time favorite reads, or books that we disliked and want to discuss our dislikes with other people. Negative reviews are a huge part of that. If you’re one of those people who goes on a negative review and attacks said reviewer for posting it, maybe you should think about what you are doing. Instilling fear into reviewers for putting up an honest review is both suppression of their freedom of opinion, and also false advertising for the book. Slandering negative reviews and only supporting glowing reviews is false marketing.
So if negative reviews are natural, and even important for other people to make an informed decision, why do we apologize? Do we genuinely feel bad for disliking a book? Except from one or two instances, that is not why I find myself apologizing. I love writing negative reviews; they’re some of the most fun to write. Not only are they fun, they are also therapeutic and educational for myself. What don’t I like about a book? Why not? How would I fix it if I were an author? Realizing, upon reading many books, that characterization matters the most to me has enabled me to spend more time on my own characters than anything else. Taking a step back and analyzing someone else’s work will help you fix your own. And constructive criticism should always be welcome.
Reviewers add disclaimers and apologize because they do not want to attract the dreaded Twitter/Tumblr-mob. The Internet mob-mentality is something I’m very much against (perhaps it’ll be the subject of another post in the future), and many quieter members of the community are aware of the phenomenon. They know that a certain group of people will come flocking to their reviews to give them “a piece of their mind.” This largely exists on the Tumblr platform where anonymity is easier to maintain and popular users have thousands of followers that join in for shits and lulz. To avoid this, reviewers are forced to put a disclaimer before their reviews saying that they do not mean to offend anyone who made the book or liked the book, and that their opinions are their own.
Of course they’re your own fucking opinions. If people aren’t mature enough to understand that people with different tastes and opinions exist, you shouldn’t be the one apologizing for it!
Unless your criticism isn’t constructive, you shouldn’t need to apologize
I know I need not do it, but the sentiment still exists- it’s almost second-nature to me when I say, “I’m sorry, it just wasn’t for me.” Perhaps the reason for this is that I am aware that so much hard-work and commitment goes into writing a book. I can’t even write an 8-page short story without tearing out at least one patch of my hair. I apologize because I genuinely do not want to offend people who spent their time and sweat into making a book, as well as to readers who enjoyed it. But again, I shouldn’t have to do that because is it not obvious that my reviews are my opinions and do not exist with the intention to offend other people?
But I also understand that some reviewers take their dislike to an extreme. Instead of talking about the elements of a book, they instead actively look for ways to attack an author. I know this because I am guilty of it, too- something I realized and have tried my extreme best to eradicate. Using ad hominem attacks against an author is not okay. You are judging the content of a book, not the person who wrote it. Personal attacks are never okay, whether they are against someone you disagree with, or someone whose work you dislike.
Have a civilized conversation
You come across a negative review of a book you really enjoyed. Some points raised are good, others you disagree with. That’s okay. You can type up a comment that eloquently portrays your point of view without using cuss words, without using ad hominem attacks against the reviewer, and you can express exactly why you enjoyed the book. Civilized conversation is the key to everything. Cross-posting links to reviews and posts on your blogs and demanding that your followers attack the writer is not okay, and I cannot say that enough.
Some of the things you probably shouldn’t say to reviewers:
- The aforementioned: you just don’t understand the complexity of this book (don’t call people stupid).
- Unlike YA books, adult books are actually realistic (don’t imply that your taste in books is simply better than an entire genre).
- The author knows better than you about her own characters (reading is entirely subjective. What the author knows and what she presents on paper – which is what reaches me – are too separate things.)
- Show me your receipts- how many books have you written? (By that logic, you shouldn’t be able to say you don’t like a song or a movie or a TV show because you haven’t produced any of those things. In other words, next argument please).
Don’t ever forget the spirit of books
We all love and enjoy books. Our blogs celebrate reading and literature in their own little ways. But some of us tend to forget that books exist to facilitate conversation and ideas. Authors with every point of view from every field from every region exist because this large network of ideas is priceless. So as someone who enjoys books and literature, do not stomp on other people’s ideas or thoughts. You have every right to disagree, but don’t do it in a way so that the other person needs to apologize for simply writing their opinion on their own blog.