It seems that the bookish community has had a shifting opinion on the idea of book reviews and what they should be. It might just be my tiny Twitter bubble, but it seems to be that more and more people think that writing negative book reviews is rude. And that if you didn’t like a book, you shouldn’t write about it, or even rate the book at all..
I think it all started when people started to get pushback for tagging authors in negative reviews they wrote. Now, I can get behind not tagging authors in negative reviews. I’d never do that, not only because it’s considered rude, but also because it’s just a little.. awkward? Why would I go out of my way to let an author know that I didn’t like their book by tagging them?
But this also brings me to the point as of why I think negative book reviews are so important. Book reviews aren’t meant for the author, they are meant for the reader. The reason why I write reviews, on this blog and also on Goodreads, is to inform others about books they might like, or that if they have a similar reading taste, won’t be worth their time. If nobody wrote negative reviews, we will completely eliminate the whole reason book reviews exist in the first place.
In the past, it has totally happened to me that authors have found my (negative) review of their book by Googling reviews or scrolling down on Goodreads. I have received many messages – some angry, some clarifying and some understanding. When this happens, an author goes out of their way to read negative reviews of their own work. At that point it is not my responsibility anymore, because my reviews are meant for readers.
Of course, book reviews should always be written with a certain respect in mind. It’s never okay to shame an author, or to attack them personally just because you happen to dislike something they’ve created.
I recognise that many of the books I don’t like are for very personal reasons — I’m a picky reader, and I’ll often dislike a book because it just doesn’t fit into what I would personally like to get out of it. And that’s okay, but that also means that my opinion isn’t the truth, it’s just one of the many opinions of a book. All of those opinions, especially those that have a great set of arguments as a foundation, should be taken into account at equal value.
This is why I think negative book reviews are so important. That balance needs to exist for the readers to help them what to pick next. I will never tag authors in negative book reviews, and if they go out of their way to read negative reviews, I feel like that is their own responsibility. Negative reviews are helpful and necessary, as long as they’re done in a respectful way.