Negative reviews can be a bit of a sensitive topic among bloggers. There are some who never write or share them, some who only post them to Goodreads, and some who post them on their blog frequently. Personally, I don’t write them often simply because I usually enjoy the books I read, but I still share them on my blog and Goodreads. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about when I think it’s okay or even good to write a negative review and when you should maybe skip it. Obviously, this is my personal opinion and people are free to write or not write negative reviews as they wish. So if you disagree with anything I say, don’t get too upset about it. 😉
As I already mentioned, I end up not posting negative reviews very frequently but this isn’t due to me choosing not to share negative reviews. I know a lot of bloggers decide not to write negative reviews for a variety of reasons. Some bloggers would rather only spend their time promoting books they actually like. Others fear pushback from readers who liked the book or the author that wrote it. Others may simply struggle with writing a negative review. I write them, but you don’t end up seeing many because, as I said, I like most of the books I read. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences in how I handle a negative review vs. a positive one. For example, if I write a negative review of a book and see that there aren’t very many other reviews on Amazon, I usually don’t cross-post it there. If there are already a lot of other reviews, I might. The reason I do this is because I know some people like to read negative reviews before they buy a book, but I don’t want my negative review to be one of the only ones potential buyers can see, especially if it’s a book that isn’t badly written, but just wasn’t something I enjoyed. (This raises an entirely new question of whether people should write negative reviews only if it’s a poorly written book vs. one they personally didn’t like, I know)
Generally, I treat negative opinions the same way I would positive ones. There are some times where you might just not want to write a negative review, though. One thing that really bugs me is when I go on Goodreads to read a few reviews and decide if I want to read a certain book and I see one-star reviews that basically amount to “I hate this genre but decided to give this book a try and surprise! I hated it.” In my opinion, this is an unfair review, both to the author/publisher and readers. A lot of readers may not take the time to go through individual reviews, but rather only look at the overall rating for the book. Reviews like this aren’t a reflection of the actual quality of the book, but rather of that person’s individual tastes. And going into a book knowing that you dislike the genre is different from reading a book in a genre you like and not liking that individual book. In this case, I think you’re probably better off either not reviewing the book or not including a star rating so that it doesn’t affect the overall rating. I understand wanting to try and branch out into a new genre or give a specific book a try even though you don’t usually like that genre, but these kinds of reviews don’t seem very helpful to me. The readers looking at your review probably know they like this genre, so your review likely does nothing more than negatively affect the rating.
Another type of negative review that tends to be really frustrating for me is if an adult is reading YA and complains that the characters are too immature or that there’s too much high school drama. This can sometimes be a valid critique, as there are certainly kidlit authors who don’t write teenage characters very well and end up making a 16-year-old seem more like a 12-year-old or who go overboard trying to fit as much drama as they can into their story. But I’ve seen reviewers who consistently complain that main characters in YA are too immature and to me, this is a sign that you probably should just give up on reading YA. If you think every YA MC is immature, it’s likely that you’ve just reached a point where you can’t connect with or relate to teenage characters anymore. And that’s fine, but maybe don’t write reviews for YA books.
One time I think you should write a negative review is if you disliked the book because it had problematic content. I know this is a very sensitive topic and often causes huge arguments, especially on Twitter and Goodreads. As a result, I completely understand if people don’t want to put themselves in a position where they might be harassed or attacked for saying “I thought this book was homophobic” or something similar. But your review can be especially helpful to readers who might be upset and hurt by content like that. In that case, your negative review can be much more helpful than you might think.
I also think it’s completely fair for you to write a negative review if you read a book in a genre you like and end up not liking the book. Even though this may be more of a reflection of your personal tastes than the quality of writing (which I previously criticized), it’s likely that if a fan of sci-fi dislikes a particular sci-fi book, other sci-fi fans will also dislike that sci-fi book. It’s much different than someone who hates sci-fi giving the book a try and then writing a negative review saying they hated it. In this case, mentioning what you disliked about it will give other potential readers a chance to decide if the same things you disliked would bother them and take away from their enjoyment of the book, too. Reviewer and reader both being fans of the genre makes it a more fair and balanced review.
Clearly, there are a lot of things to take into consideration when deciding if you should write and share a negative review and obviously this is a personal decision that I can’t make for you. But if you’re having a hard time deciding whether or not to write a negative review, I hope this will help you make up your mind.