Discussion: Writing the negative book review without selling your soul (or making people cry...intentionally)

discussion             negative reviews

Reviewing books I hated makes me resort to Paint to show my sadness.

If you read here much, you might realize that I don't do fluffy gushy reviews.  I mean, sometimes I gush.  But even when I write a 5 star review, there will be something I complain about.  Maybe it's a quick complaint, and maybe it's implied, and maybe there were lots of others I thought about but didn't put in--but there's always something I pick at. 

My secret?  

I really hate it.  Usually.  Sometimes there are books I rage about (hem, After the Red Rain) but usually that's because I had such high hopes.  When I go into a hyped/anticipated book and don't like it, I feel angry and cranky and like I have betrayed the book and author with my lack of good feels.  Especially if it's an author I love.  Then I quietly write the review and hide and hope they never see it.  

So, from me (someone who feels icky about writing bad reviews) to you (someone who maybe feels the same), some tips on writing an honest review without curbstomping the writer's heart.  

1.  Don't tag the author 

Seriously, why is this still a discussion?  I can't believe how many people do this.  Just days ago, people were tweeting vitriol at Cassandra Clare about The Shadowhunters TV series...and she didn't even write the freaking thing!  Remember that authors are fragile fluffy bunnies with feelings, yo.  If this concept is alien to you, have someone tweet at you about how much your hair sucks and how you're a terrible person.  Then go write your meantweet. 

2.  Don't tiptoe around the obvious 

Um, yeah, so like, it was pretty good.  There were characters and stuff.  And you should totes check it out!  ...No.  We all know you're lying.  Just come out and say you didn't like it.  If you're ambivalent, fine, but you should never feel obligated to love a book.  Here, let's try it together.  "I didn't like this book."  Now let out a relaxing sigh. 

3.  Remember that your review might still convince people to read the book 

When I'm unsure about a book, I read the bad reviews.  Because no book is perfect, and because I'm a snob, and because I find it helpful as a reader to know what people didn't like about a book.  Because maybe it's something that I know will bother me--or maybe it's something that I know I won't care about and then I can just go read the book caution-free.  

4.  Don't attack the author either 

Again, this should sort of be implied.  But don't be a jerk.  "So-and-so is ugly and stupid and can't write" isn't constructive.  That said, it's okay to mention the author.  They did write the damn thing.  Maybe you want to comment that it didn't feel like they did enough research, or you feel like they're promoting some discriminatory views.  Say it--just use your respectful words.  

5. Remember that your rep is on the line 

I don't enjoy writing bad reviews.  (I mean, okay, sometimes it's therapeutic...)  But I write them anyway, because negative reviews are important.  As a reviewer, I don't want to be that person you can't trust because everything I say is glowing.  I mean, who seriously loves every book?  Some lucky person who never wastes a weekend reading something boring, but definitely not me.  People who 5 star everything are not people I trust for good recs.  

6.  You are a little fish 

Not to get all melodramatic on you, but keep in mind that you're one little person in a big sea of reviews.  Your one bad review isn't going to tank the book's hopes and dreams (three cheers for mixed water metaphors).  You are not that important.  I have acknowledged long ago that people are not living and dying by my opinions.  Come to the dark side and be free!

7.  Go read justinaireland 's twitter feed

Seriously, her crit is always so on point.  She's the master of calling people out for bad diversity writing without being nasty about it.  

How do you tackle negative reviews?
 What do you do to recharge yourself after hype-letdown?
What are some review no-nos you've come across?  


  1. Fantastic advice CJ^^ I can't imagine tagging the author on an unflattering review but I suppose some people get carried away with all the tagging and stuff like that. Bashing the author would be a HUGE no-no for me, I mean they work hard to write books. Doesn't mean we have to love them but we should all be respectful. You're right though, in the end we're all one blogger amongst a sea of bloggers so we should all feel free to voice our opinions - even if they are unpopular :)

    1. I can't imagine it either, yet I see it ALL THE TIME. It's horrendous! You can dislike someone without being nasty about it. I can't say I'm an expert on the matter, but I'm glad you found something helpful here. (: <3

  2. Usually when I come across a book that's that bad, I end up putting a spin on the review that means although it definitely wasn't for me, there's probably SOMEONE out there who'd like it. I try to make it so I point out the things I disliked, so other people who dislike that kind of thing can avoid it--and I definitely never try to call out the author!!

    1. Those are my favorite kind of reviews to read, because it's easier for me to tell if the book might still be something I'd enjoy after all.

  3. I too tend to read the negative reviews as I want to see what people didn't like about a book as much as what they loved. Just the other day I happened to notice that my reviews on Goodreads averaged a 4. It got me to thinking about it and I realized that I don't read books that I don't anticipate being good. If the book is not to my liking I generally won't take the time to finish it and it becomes a DNF on my blog and doesn't get a rating (though I will list what I didn't like about it) so I can see why my averages appears to be higher than normal. If I've read less than 50 pages, I usually don't even mention it.

    1. I'm about the same way. There are books I've given up pretty quickly, so I never end up even rating it. I've gotten better about guessing which books I won't gel with, too.

  4. I hardly ever write bad reviews, but sometimes it happens unfortunately. Not ever book is a winner. I definitely don't tag authors in bad reviews, only good ones since I don't like making anyone feel sad. It's also not the authors fault that I didn't like their book, even if they did write it, so there's no point in attacking the author. I never understood why people did that. Write your review about the BOOK, not the author.

    Great post!

    1. Yeah, it's so subjective, I can't believe people are so vitriolic giving their own opinions.

  5. Great post! I don't mind writing negative reviews. If I didn't like a book, I will definitely say so. And sometimes I'll finish a book instead of DNRing it, so I can write a review. I don't think it's fair to review books I didn't finish.

    I agree that negative reviews can be helpful. And they don't always mean I won't read a book. Some people don't like alternating POVs or YA or other things that I love. The rating isn't everything. There is a lot of good information to be shared with a negative review as along as it isn't just "I hated this book. the end."

    1. That's a good attitude to have. I've gotten better at not feeling guilty; just part of my personality, I guess.

      I think so too! The short kind you're talking about are the least helpful because they don't tell you anything about WHY.

  6. You're just one tiny fish in the sea unless it's on Wattpad. I left a bad review on one of the stories I read. I did not attack the writer. I pointed out things that didn't make sense to me and I said the story was poorly written. Well, people got mad at me and started telling me that I shouldn't have said the story was poorly written because I crushed the writer's dreams. They went on to praise the writer's ability and story, saying it was great. Which leads me to think that these people were either friends or relatives of the writer. The experience made me feel like Simon during American Idol try outs. That moment when you have to listen to someone sing and they are terrible at it, but they have friends and family there telling them that they're great.

    As for raving reviews, I know that there are at least one or two bloggers I follow who will only leave good reviews on other websites. So if a book isn't a Five star book, they don't post up the review for it. They do on their blog, just not anywhere else. I think it's weird but to each their own.