On writing negative reviews

Today I'm going to talk about one of the HARDEST things in book blogging: negative reviews.

Negative reviews have always been particularly hard for me because I have an insatiable need to be liked. If someone ever gives me the slightest impression that they don't like me, I instantly assume the "tail between my legs" posture. Head down, shoulders slumped, maybe some slight whimpering. I hate it.

To compensate for this, I often find myself being very hard-skinned. I pretend that things don't bother me and that I don't care about what people think.

To compensate for that, I'm always very careful about how I word things. If I want to be rude, I'll be rude, but I generally try to keep things polite and considerate. (Because remember that I need people to like me) This works pretty well for me in my real life because I have always been a very good public speaker.

This doesn't work so well for me in blogging. When you write something, you can't add the emphasis you want as delicately as you can while speaking. This is why I italicize a lot of things, in the vain hope that you will understand what I'm trying to get across.

Negative reviews are just a part of blogging. You aren't going to like every book you read. There are some bloggers who choose not to review books they didn't like, but I don't think that's quite fair. If all I ever see online are positive reviews, I'm going to read the book. But what if there are even more people who didn't like the book, but I'll never know because they never posted?! No. It just doesn't work.

When I first started blogging I wasn't afraid to just come out and say "This book sucked." But over the last year or two I've had a revelation that I am under absolutely NO authority to say that. Who am I to judge the character of a book?! No one! I'm some random girlish-woman who likes to read. Not a librarian. Not a publisher. Not even a professional critic. I created a website, and started typing.

If a book is published, that means someone loved it enough for it to see the light of day. That person may be an agent; an editor; or, in the case of self-pubs, an author! Someone loved this book so much that they wanted the whole world to be able to read it. Therefore, who has the right to murder a book by a bad review? No one! Just because you and I aren't friends doesn't mean I'm going to sneak into your room at night and stab you to death!

Therefore, I've started trying my hardest to make sure that people understand that when I write negative reviews I am writing purely from my own perspective. Is everyone going to feel the same way I did? Absolutely not! Will one of my readers read and [hopefully] love the book? Probably!

In all of my negative reviews I always try to include one thing that's positive. For example, in my review of Die for Me I was sure to mention how much I loved the original paranormal twist. And I was also sure to mention that this book came into my hands at a very bad time, when I was coming to the end of my paranormal romance rope. I thought I managed to balance the fact that I didn't like it, but it was still a book worthy of someone's love.

But later that day, my mom told me "Wow. You really didn't like that book."

And that's when I realized that all my efforts might be in vain. Despite the fact that I desperately try to remain kind and courteous while writing a negative review, it is still a negative review. And if people want to see compliments as patronizing, kindness as sarcasm, or gentleness as polished-cruelty, then they're going to! And since you're reading this and not speaking to me face-to-face, my intent could be easily missed. People read into things what they want to. What's important is what you mean.

Therefore, I'm writing this post so that I can link it in my future negative reviews. If you want to believe that I'm trying to be mean or cruel to a book, then there's nothing I can do to stop you. But with all the finality in my body, I declare that I am always trying to be the nicest person I can be. And if I mean to be rude, you won't be able to miss it, but that's a rarity.

However, I am also striving to be as honest as I can be, and therefore I can't just pretend to like everything I read. Some books won't be up my alley. Just because that's true, doesn't mean no one else will like them. Perhaps someone will read my review, and my negativity prompts them to pick up the book. Who knows?!

Negative reviews are hard. They're especially hard when they're for a book by an author you love, or if you want every author to be your best friend (*points at self*). The important thing is to stay true to yourself. For me, myself is someone who wants to be liked, wants to be nice, but also wants to be honest. And that's how I write my reviews, good and bad. Is it easy? NO! I'm terrified every time I post a negative review. But it's what's right for me.

And if you don't like it you're welcome to leave a rude comment, just know that I will then spend the next hour hiding in a corner.

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2011


  1. This reminds of a certain author who said that it is so easy for bloggers to write negative reviews, when actually it's the complete opposite.

    I agree with everything you said and I try to do the same, but unfortunately, a negative review is a negative review and an author/publisher is probably not going to like it (understandable, although I don't think they should get offensive about it).

    I had a similar dilemma recently (http://prettybooks.tumblr.com/post/5512280609/review-the-shoeless-kid-by-marcelle-dube-adult) and I hope I dealt with it the right way. I'd be more upset if someone bought a book because they thought I was recommending it when I actually was indifferent to it or disliked it. It is better to be honest, but not unconstructive.

  2. Actually...reading my review back, it is pretty harsh :| I wanted to write something positive but there wasn't much :/ It was just an okay crime book that wasn't terrible but wasn't exciting!

  3. I don't think you need to apologize for a negative review as long as you are giving reasons for why you didn't like it and not just saying, "This book sucked!" I always try to read a sampling of all the reviews on Amazon so I can get an overall feel for the book. Sometimes when I read a negative review I find out that there are things in the book I don't want to read about - violence, language, etc. Negative reviews are important to me for that reason. I do get the impression you are trying to be kind but fair when you review a book you weren't thrilled with. I think you do a great job, but some people are going to disagree with you. And that's OK - it's possible to disagree without being disagreeable. Opposition in all things, right! :)

  4. 100% ditto what Gina said. Like, every word. She was so eloquent!

    On the flip side of her example, a book might have a bunch of negative reviews b/c of language or violence (things that do not necessarily bother me, if they fit the story) so I will still read it if everything else seems to be fine.

    Negative reviews aren't about trashing a book; they're about informing the readers. Personally I find them very valuable, and if a book has no negative reviews, I get really suspicious.

  5. I think one hard thing is when you are writing the review and think back and think, they weren't any good things too me and I have to keep thinking that might be something. And these are mostly with my one star reviews.

    Authors who think it's easy to write a negative review are soooo WRONG! I wish I could like every book, but it's just not possible and then I hope I like the book I read and I just don't. But true thing is not all reviews are positive and you truly are a good reviewer to include both good and bad reviews b/c you are giving your honest opnion.

  6. First off, I totally love the part about the itallics. Me too! And as much as I am rarely misunderstood when I speak to someone in person, the same cannot be said for my emails and texts.

    There is honor in truth, even if the truth is just your own, humble opinion.

    Take care.


  7. I'm in a master's program where I have to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of books. So criticism is definitely a factor. And you're right: it's not easy to write a negative review. I admire your courage for doing so.

  8. I agree with you, it is so hard to write a negative review. I cringe when I try to review something that I didn't absolutely love, and will spend time in the review discussing why I was eager to read ths book in the first place, what didn't work for me, etc. I also try to make a point to say that while it wasn't for me, I know that other people will love it. Something I try to keep in mind when I'm providing readers' advisory to my teens at the library, too!

  9. I really enjoyed this post. I often wondered how book reviewers felt about posting negative reviews. I like to read all reviews, good or bad, I just feel embarrassed a little when I read someone really trashing a book or product. There are a million ways to say you don't like this or that, and most of them are kind gentle ways but still get the point across. So far, I really like your reviews. You always point out the likes and the dislikes in a very constructive way.

  10. I agree, I hate writing negative reviews, but it's a necessary evil of blogging. But there is a definite distinction between a negative review and being mean. Luckily most of the negative reviews I've read are polite about it.

  11. I like to read, A LOT! and for me is kind of difficult to buy books because I live in Latin America, imagine when that book sucks, I go to bloggers to know what to read, but especially to know what not to read, because it's not easy to spend that kind of money.
    I hate when bloggers don't do bad reviews and now they don't even put the stars, some of the bloggers that I used to read started this trend and sorry but it is ridiculous, the only thing that I get from that it's that they sold themselves to publishers.
    Now I don't always agree with your reasons not to like a book, for example the swearing or the sex doesn't bother me, so if the rest of the review says that is good beside that, then no problem for me, but what bothers me is instant love in YA (I can live with it in paranormal romance), love triangles (where the female lead is playing both teams, I can live with it if she never says yes, of any kind, to dude number two) and cheating, if I read this in a review it's not the book for me.
    Now I tried not to sound to critic to other bloggers, I'm not one, but still I'm anonymous because I don't follow any blog faithfully, I just enter and read, so no other intention in the mather, best wishes!!!

  12. Whenever I read a book that I don't quite like, I have to put off reviewing for a day or so, otherwise it will come out much more negative than it should. Then after writing that one, I have to wait a bit before going back, rereading and editing.

    I really hate writing negative reviews. I feel bad and it seems as if I'm criticising every little thing! Definitely ruins the cheery mood I'm in.

    But yes you're right. Negative reviews do need to be put up or else it wouldn't be a very accurate representation of what us reviewers think!


Thank you so much for commenting! I read each and every one.

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