Why You Gotta be so Mean?

Um—thanks for the title, Taylor.

Some how Taylor Swift’s song “Mean” came to mind as I was poking around Goodreads one evening a few months back. While I don’t check out a lot of reviews, from time to time my curiousity gets the best of me. I want to know what others had to say about a book I really loved. I won’t mention any book title because it’s irrelevant. It could be any book for that matter. What doesn’t feel irrelevant was the one star ratings this amazing book received. I was totally shocked. But I’m a grown-up now with a book of my own, and another one on the way, so I have to suck it up and accept the fact that not everyone appreciated this particular book I happen to love. Fair enough. It’s a free country and thank goodness for that. What disappointed me, though, were some of the nasty reviews. Yes nasty! Mean and down right negative to the fullest degree. Is it possible to have a negative review that isn’t nasty? Of course it is. We’re all adults. Saying we didn’t care for something doesn’t have to sound nasty at all.

I liken it to zucchini. We grow a lot of them, and if you know anything at all about zucchini you know they grow like crazy. Zucchini-growers usually have zucchini coming out their wazoos. You even ask perfect strangers if they’d like to take some home because you’re so happy to share.

Now you either like zucchini or you hate it. It’s understandable. What I’ve noticed through my years of growing them is this: if you ask someone who has a 101 different recipes for zucchini in their drawer if they’d like some they’re tickled pink, couldn’t be happier. But ask someone who hasn’t any idea what to do with them and they get a little huffy under the collar. They make nasty comments. It’s never a simple, “no thank you.” Poor, poor misunderstood zucchini. You remind me of that book I love that received the nasty comments.

This has me asking the question, WHY? Why would someone take the time to write such nastiness? I guess I’m a Pollyanna in many ways. I like to look on the bright side of things. It doesn’t mean that I talk myself into liking something if I honestly don’t. I mean if you don’t like zucchini, I can’t persuade you otherwise. We like what we like. Period. We don’t like what we don’t like. Period.

I couldn’t understand why a few of the reviewers were so upset. Okay there’s nasty and then there’s just NASTY.  This felt NASTY, personal to the point where I had to wonder what it was about this book that triggered such hostility.

But I’m not a therapist, nor do I want to be. And yes, I’m a Pollyanna, and will probably remain so all my days. Negative does not have to be nasty. You can decline my zucchini without hostility. It’s okay, it’s just zucchini.

Do you ever check out the reviews of some of your favourite books? Have you ever stumbled across a NASTY review? Most importantly, does the thought of zucchini make you happy or hostile?

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  1. Laura … love zucchini !! About negative reviews. I liken this to what Thumper’s mother told him … “If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say anything at all.”

    I never understood the need for some to vent such negative thoughts and they do it all the time about movies and books … they talk trash about public figures and brand people in the tabloids. We seem to be living in a very mean time and it makes me wonder. Isn’t there anything constructive these folks could be doing? Have they ever worked hard to make something special and then had someone trash it? And mostly, it’s this anon business of the net. They would never say something like that to a person’s face. The best solution if it happens to us, is to ignore it or let it roll off … there is always a big ugly hairy fly in the ointment :)

    • Talking trash about book or movie just isn’t cool. As I said, I think everyone has a right to voice their opinion, and certainly should say if they didn’t like a book, That’s fine. I just don’t like people who have a case of the nasties. And you’re right, the Internet makes it easy for people to be rude. They’ll post things that they wouldn’t dream of saying. I guess the written words gives them more power.

  2. Well, sadly I have a terrible intolerance to zucchini so the thought of zucchini frightens me. Shudder shudder. Lol
    But, I’m also envious of anyone who eats it–breaded and fried,mmm, delish–so this is a particularly confunding vegetable to me. Lol

    Yes, I’m seen some downright nasty reviews. Some people just like to get ugly and make sure everyone sees. I see it as a reflection of them, and not of the book.

  3. I have written less positive points in my reviews when deeming it necessary, but it’s always intended to be constructive; I see no reason for nastiness. I always think how my words could affect that person and try to be fair and honest. Besides, I know – if the time comes for a review of my own work – I would be quite hurt should it be nasty. I think it is mean-spirited and sometimes arrogant to tear apart someone else’s work that was written from a sincere perspective. If the book is not wildly misleading the human race, then how hard is it to be nice?

    I love zucchini! I have a zucchini loaf recipe that is so yummy.

    • Lynn, your reviews always seem fair to me, and I think that’s the key. I think authors do want fair reviews, but nasty isn’t fair.
      Hey, a fellow zucchini lover. Glad to know you!!!!

  4. Zucchini loaf anybody? Yes!

    I know a few nasty people, some are even related. They say something nasty and it’s usually without thinking. So, I figure okay, they spoke too soon. But when a reader writes a review, they have time to edit their words. Why they would leave in such nasty comments means it’s not at all about the book or the author, it’s about them. It’s about their disappointments and bad memories. It’s about how their chemistry got screwed up somehow and they think the nastier they are, the more profound their take on life. Doesn’t make much sense. But I think it all stems from the same thing. What does their nastiness get them? Attention. It also says a lot about their miserable attitude toward the outside world. I try to stay away from people like that. When it’s family, I shuffle off to my corner and get back to work. Not much else you can do.

    Good points, Laura. I like how your mind works.

    • So true. Joylene. A written review does give us plenty of time to plan and decide what we will say. It’s not spur of the moment and something said without putting thought into it. I agree better to stay away from those kind of people. I hate being dragged down.

  5. Why? It’s simple: meanies get attention – both positive and negative attention. I figure the people with time to write 500+ words of pure ugliness are lonely people with nothing better to do than tear apart someone’s work.

    Next time you’re reading reviews take a gander at how many LIKES are on those nasty reviews. In particular, humorous nasty gets even more “likes.” I don’t get it, either. This is coming from someone who’s written a 1-star review; granted, my review was written from a place of complete confusion over how the book in question was a so-called “bestseller” on Amazon and received such high reviews. (It was later revealed that at least some of those reviews were by the author himself.) I didn’t want anyone to waste their hard-earned money because of lies and deceit. And I kept my remarks factual, not emotional.

    For the record, I l-o-v-e zucchini and wish people around here had so much they gave it away. :) My fave recipe is garlic spaghetti and zucchini – yummy!

    • Yes, meanies do seem to get attention.Myself, I’d rather be known for being fair and polite, honest, but never in a mean way. I actually never thought to look at the “likes.” Good grief! So authors write their own reviews? Wow! I’m so niave when it comes to these things.
      Leah, I wish you were here when the zuchinni are growing like crazy, I’d give you as many as you’d want and then some.

  6. I love zucchini; it’s so versatile.

    But I don’t like nasty reviews. I would never write one because I wouldn’t review a book I hadn’t read and if a book was that horrible, I would have put it down unfinished. Like your other commenters, I always wonder what’s wrong with that person when I read those nasty reviews. They certainly come off as immature and thoughtless, if not angry, bitter, and rude. A kind person writes a negative review without resorting to nastiness.

    • Zucchini really are versitile. If only people knew.:)

      I don’t like nasty. Negative is one thing, but nasty is a whole other level.

  7. I will be different and say I don’t mind NASTY reviews. I mean, sometimes they are just so ridiculous it’s almost funny! I don’t usually think of the author’s feelings when I read a nasty review because being out there, you have to accept that some negativity will come your way. That is just the way it is. I have never read a review and thought of it as a personal attack on the author that wrote the work being discussed.

    I can even understand why some reviewers feel the need to get nasty, when they invested time and money in to something and felt let down. I especially understand it when we are talking about a popular book that a lot of people love. There is a certain satisfaction in tearing something popular down that you dislike.

    I dunno. Perhaps I would feel differently if I were an author!

    • Yes, the nastiness can sound rather ridiculous, but I don’t think I’d like it if it was aimed at me which it could be one day.You just neevr know. It seems the more popular a book is the more nasty some people are. Maybe on some level some of them are a bit envious of the author’s success. Who knows? Or maybe they’re just nasty.

  8. Hilary MacLeod

     /  October 22, 2012

    I thought that by linking reviews and zucchini, you were in the enviable position of receiving lots of them. Reviews, that is.

    • Lots of zucchini and hopefully lot of reviews when the next book is published. :) I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

  9. Nasty reviews are entertaining. I admit, I read them with a smile. I never take them seriously regardless of who they’re directed at. So if you get one, don’t worry. I’m smiling at them and I might just buy your book because of them.

    I look at passionate reviews this way: if a person is inspired to write a review with feeling, then the story obviously moved them. Perhaps the wrong way, but it did move them, and that’s what we–as writers–try to do. And as someone said, readers invest time and money in our books; they have a right to air their opinions. But they are only opinions. The “I love it!” and “I hate it!” words are directed to all books; there are no exceptions. I hated “The Road”. Others loved it. I loved “DaVinci Code”. Others hated it.

    The nasty reviews I don’t enjoy are those personally directed at the writer. Readers can write what they want about the story, but the writer is not fair game. Those nasty reviews are not read, not recognised and not even considered honest opinions.

    • I think tastes for books are all over the place and there’s nothing wrong with that. As individuals we like different things and that’s okay. Taking aim at the writer is not cool in the least. We all write from a different place, and so our writing, and the stories we write, are different. But that just shows our uniqueness. Than goodness for that!

  10. Oh, and I don’t like zucchini, but I’d never turn them down. I bet my chickens would love them!

  11. I grill Z basted olive oil and oregano.

    • Onion, tomato, basil and zucchini , a little grated cheese, makes a great casserole. Love it! Will have to try it with oregano,

  12. I’ve not read many reviews, so I’m not familiar with nasty ones. Zucchini makes me very HAPPY!

  13. If I could I’d send you a truck load of zucchini just ti make you smile, Patti! :)
    I really don’t take time to read many reviews and maybe that’s why I’m so niave when it comes to nasty reviewers. I’ve got a lot to learn.

  14. I have also been shocked to read some nasty reviews of books I loved. But those same books also got 5 star reviews fro others. Some classics get bad reviews which I find almost sacreligious. But I guess we all have different tastes. I do think the nastiness is quite unprofessional in my mind. I think if you really don’t like a book, for whatever reason, don’t do a review.

    • Glad I’m not the only one, Darlene, to be shocked over nasty reviews. While ratings don’t bother me so much because I do understand we all have different reading tastes, I’ll never understand some of the nasty comments. You’re right, it is unprofessional, however, most of the people writing reviews aren’t really doing it on a professional level so perhaps they feel differently.

  15. This is a great post. The zucchini analogy is brilliant. Not everyone likes or gets the same thing. Books that have gone on to win prizes or be enjoyed by many readers have been viciously slagged by some reviwers. The nasty reviews do a lot of damage to the book’s success and the author’s emotions. Richard Ford, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, admitted that he shot the book of a reviewer who was mean to him. She was also an author and they shared the same publisher. That’s how crazy it made him.

    • Thanks, Elaine! Thanks for sharing this story. I guess emotions run very high for some authors. It wouldn’t be easy, though, to read nasty things about a story we put our heart and soul into. Here’s hoping we never have to learn how to shoot. ;)

  16. I don’t know why people are so mean, either! Even if you don’t like something, there’s really no need to go on a rant. My only guess is they’ve got something to prove to themselves or it makes them feel better about themselves to put someone else down.

    • Exactly, C.B. Sometimes we need to put things into perspective. I mean really, why pop a blood vessel over a book you didn’t like.

  17. I like zucchini. I agree with you that a negative review shouldn’t be vindictive. It’s only one opinion. It’s sad when a person trusted with an author’s work takes it upon himself or herself to do harm. Blessings to you, Laura.

    • So true, Carol Ann. Doing harm to another isn’t a cool thing to do. I do believe in honesty, however, and we so have a right to say if we didn’t care for a particular book. But leave the nasties behind. Thanks for dropping in. :)

  18. Who reads the most books? Writers, of course. I think at times the nastiness stems from professional jealousy (or unprofessional, as the case may be). I’ve been shocked at the extreme vitriol in response to the success of “50 Shades of Grey”. And yes, I may be nasty by saying so, but it’s pretty bad writing. Could only make it through the first book and was impressed I managed that. But I’ve read far worse. Why do writers get so nasty when one of our colleagues has meteoric success? Perhaps some of us think it’s taking a spot on the bestseller lists that should have been ours, but to me, any time a book causes huge buzz, it gets people reading, and that’s a win-win for everyone.

    • Hi Holli! I’ve missed you around here. Glad you dropped by. :)

      Proffessional jealous certainly exists, and I think you’re right, often times the success of another is hard for some people to appreciate. I know many people who have read “50 Shades of Grey” many of them are people who don’t usually take the time to read so your point is valid. Reading is good for everyone and, hopefully, these same people might choose something with a little more literary flare to it. In the meantime they’re reading..

  19. I’ve missed you, too! Expect me to be a lot more “here” in the New Year. :)


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