Mon 3 August 2020
In the Media
Digital Reading
Young Writers in the News
Books & Reading
Goings On
You are here: Home > Young Writers' Hub > Blog > In Praise of Negative Reviews
In Praise of Negative Reviews
“If you didn’t read the book, why rate it? And why give it a 1-star rating?”

I love negative reviews. The favorable reviews could be written by sock puppets of the author or maker, but negative reviews are written by people who feel strongly about something and I’d like to know why. If I think they are idiots, those negative reviews add to my confidence that I am making a good choice. But if a product has a huge number of mostly positive reviews, a warning might be embedded in those negative reviews that would be hard to extract from the positives.

In the general case, a person who attempted to read a book and failed might rate a book to warn others about their experience. You might do this with a restaurant you didn’t eat at, if you made a reservation, arrived slightly early, and were still not seated (or had been seated but not yet placed an order, or whatever) an hour after the time of the reservation. There could be any number of reasons why you were unsuccessful at eating (failed to adhere to a dress code, restaurant closed by the health department, visible rat dung etc.) and a person contemplating eating at that restaurant might want to know which of those reasons applied — but the failure to eat a meal there is no reason why you shouldn’t post a review of your extremely negative experience.

If I were selling an historical novel about women and their intimate relationships, I’d be looking at the Romance Novel Consuming Audience and slavering. Copiously. But I’d also know better than to sell a book without an emotionally satisfying ending to this audience. There are romance novel series, but each entry has an emotionally satisfying ending — if not an Ever After, a Consummation that was Devoutly Wished. The reviews — positive and negative — of the book Rich Adin uses as his example are generally quite clear that an HEA is not something that the book will provide, yet it attracted a Romance Novel Consuming Audience that expected on. The product was not described correctly. Usually, books like this come with warning labels (“tearjerker” and “anguish” and “stark” being just a few examples of words that could have provided adequate warning). If the ride doesn’t say there are strobe lights and someone has a seizure, they’re going to be pissed and tell all of their neuro-diverse friends.

Here are a few examples of the negatives reviews of _Sentence to Marriage_.  A two star review by reading mom says “I wish someone would have mentioned how the sadness just keeps going on.” She notes that it is well-written, the characters are well developed and the story probably accurate to history but objects to the overall length, and “thought the details of minor events went on too long with not contributing to the story line”. A one star review by chris83 says, “Sentence of marriage should have been titled sentence of agony. This book was not a romance.” And there are many, many more in which the fact it is NOT a romance and does not have an HEA and is incredibly depressing are the primary features of the review. These reviewers are emphatic that they wished they’d given up sooner and gone on to read something else — exactly the kind of information this kind of reader needs and would want them to have, and which should have been provided in the Book Description.

Complete article here.