This is a question I have been asking myself with my latest NetGalley read. Should I review it on my blog? Or should I just send the obligatory mediocre review via the NetGalley website?
I know a lot of bloggers fall into the “keep your mouth shut,” category, and I think that is well and good. Why should a reader/reviewer waste anymore time creating content for a book he/she/they disliked? Does crafting hate about a writer and their work turn them into a troll? Yeah, I guess it could if not handled respectfully.
But just like anything in life, we have to take the good with the bad. And I think the same goes for book reviews. But here are five [d: vijf] things I think about after reading a not so stellar book in order to determine if I should or should not review it on my personal blog.
- Is this an author’s debut work or are they a seasoned author? I believe writing is a process. The more you write, the better you become. Perhaps an author’s first read isn’t that great, but maybe they will get better as time goes on. (Unless you are super lucky and amazingly talented and your first work is a total hit. J.K. Rowling, what a show off.) This is one thing I try to research on, and try to address if it is something that can be turned from a negative comment into a positive.
- That brings me to my next point: try to find a silver lining. I like to describe myself as someone who always tries to look at things from multiple angles (aka what some people might call ‘overthinking’). But this is just how my brain is hardwired. So I think that is why I try to always turn something I perceived to be negative into a positive. Or to try and get into the author’s mind, and argue for what they intended in an effort to make the review come across as less negative. Here’s an example of what I mean by this cut from one of my reviews this year:
“The dialogue also felt a bit awkward to me. It was overly formal and explanative at times, which made it sound either cheesy or just cringe worthy. After reflecting on this a bit, I think the author was trying to set a “southern tone….”
- Is there problematic content in the book that isn’t addressed in a healthy fashion? Are women or other minorities used as plot devices to further the white, male agenda? Are there troubling sex scenes that seek no type of resolution? Whatever you consider ‘problematic content,’ I think these types of things should be addressed. I think it’s important to explain why you felt a book or some component of a book perpetuates something negative in society. And for that reason, calling out these things in a review is acceptable as long as you have valid points to back up your argument.
- Am I not the “target audience?” As much as we want to believe that all books are for everyone, there might be times when this doesn’t ring true. Books are created for a lot of reasons, but one of the major ones is: are they profitable? A lot of market research goes into books and an author’s fanbase that come from the major publishing houses. As a result, they discuss things like which audience they want to target and capture with each read. We as readers aren’t aware of what ‘audience group,’ each book is targeting, and as a result, we might pick something that research suggests isn’t favorable to us. Now, this doesn’t mean we as readers are limited in what we are allowed to like or dislike. I’m just stating that publishers and authors might take different approaches to writing, editing, marketing, if their intent is to appeal to a specific target audience. Sometimes works don’t appeal to us for that reason. This thought process usually generates the “this read wasn’t for me, but might be for someone who likes x, y, or z…” statement.
- Can I understand something better about the book or what the author’s overall message was by reviewing it? Basically, does the book you were not so crazy about have a good overall message? Is it worth exploring in more detail through your review? Is there something worthy about it that you want others to know about? This kind of also ties back to my number two [d: twee], but is more specific in what it is asking. I think if there is some golden nugget that is wholly unique in a book you’re not a fan of (yes it’s happened to me before), then it is worth reviewing and mentioning.
I know these things might seem like they take a negative review and turn it into a positive one, but I don’t think that is the case. I think this thought process works to create constructively criticized reviews. And I think it also helps answer that burning question of: do I review this book or is it just a waste of time?
The answer to my initial question of whether or not to review my latest NetGalley read was found as I wrote up this blog post. I think it is important to offer up an honest review to the team who gave you the free advanced copy, which I have done. But I don’t think you are under any obligation to do a full court media press of it, if you don’t have more than a few sentences of commentary to offer up.
How do you all feel about bad book reviews? Do you have some type of rational behind writing them? Or do you just don’t mention them at all? Would love to hear some differing opinions on this as its my first ‘opinions,’ piece! 🙂
Until next time my bookish friends!