The Reader Behind That Review You Hated

My last post was about the author behind the book you hated, but in order to make this issue a bit balanced, I decided to write a post about the reviewer. When a bad review comes along, authors probably don’t stop to think about the person who actually took the time to put that review out there and what their purpose was in writing a bad review.

Right now, I’ll tell you that I don’t rate or review books and I’m sure some of you may think I have no business writing a post about the reviewer. Luckily, this is my blog so what I say goes!

Sometimes, I’m completely confused about some of the reviews I’ve read online, especially those reviews for some of the books I absolutely loved. Is that the same book I read? Nope…couldn’t possible be. But it is!  People see things in totally different ways. Just as all writers bring something different to the page so do all readers.

A friend of mine told me she had a difficult time with my last book because she grew up in a home where alcohol was a really big issue and, like the protagonist, Cammie, she didn’t know who her father was. I totally understood why she might find, “Flying with a Broken Wing” a difficult read. Cammie’s aunt Millie is a bootlegger, after all, but I never would have thought of this book as being “difficult” for anyone to read. Many people have found it funny, in fact.  Still, her comment opened my eyes a little bit to the experience that each reader brings to a book. There could be many reasons why someone disliked a book or even wrote a bad review that might not have a thing to do with the story or the writing itself. Perhaps there was something in the book that reminded them of a bad experience they had or one of the characters reminded them of someone who made their lives miserable and they just couldn’t get past that.

We can’t know what all makes up that reader’s life experience, who they are and where they’ve been. Did they grow up in a loving household? Maybe they’re unwell or feeling unloved or lonely. There are so many factors that could go into this. Perhaps the only way they have of expressing their negative feelings is to lash out in words. Perhaps again, they feel an obligation to warn other readers that they’re about to waste their valuable time reading that 500 page book that they determined was gibberish.

One thing I have come to understand about this world I live in and my experience in it, my opinion, and my expression of that opinion, is only important to me (and perhaps the sacred few who value what that opinion might be.) I have lived long enough to know that, while opinions are sometimes important, many times they really are not. What I like or what I don’t like makes absolutely no difference in the big scheme of things. We won’t all like the same book, any more than we’ll all like the same clothes or food or cars or people. Thank goodness!

I’m all for responsible reviews where a reviewer is able to give their opinion about a book, maybe even point out some obvious flaws if they feel so inclined, hopefully in a constructive way. It’s important. Diversity makes this world a better place to live.

Any writer will agree that expressing yourself through words is important. We were born to communicate, but communicating in a responsible way only makes you look classy and maybe earns you some respect along the way if you care about those things. Truthfully, those things aren’t important to everyone. I know that.

I love what author Sue Harrison had to say about my last post. If a novel is too horrible, I simply don’t review it. Why break somebody’s heart because of my (perhaps erroneous) opinion!?!”   Smart lady!

Have you ever given consideration to the reader behind the review? Has your own life experiences ever influenced your reading experience when it came to a certain book? Have you ever wondered about the reader behind that bad review?

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11 Comments

  1. I have read a few bad reviews of books that most reviewers wrote favorably about. I won’t judge a reviewer, but I do not review books unless I can honestly praise them and their authors. Maybe that’s because I am a writer, but I don’t think so. I think it’s just common courtesy. I’m not a professional reviewer. I’m a fan that praises an author’s work or keeps quiet. I still haven’t read your last book. I will soon. Blessings to you, Laura.

    Reply
    • Carol Ann, being an author probably makes us a bit more sensitive on this subject but, like you, I don’t think that would influence me. I wouldn’t want to leave a negative review, and certainly nothing downright nasty as I have sometimes seen. I’m just not that kind of person. Besides, I’d never want to assume that simply because I didn’t care for a particular book that there wouldn’t be hundreds out there who would.

      Reply
  2. angela wilson

     /  May 18, 2014

    It’s like movies. Some people give bad or good reviews, depending on what they like. I try to keep an open mind. And I enjoy talent and meaning. Some people are shallow or very judgemental. I always look for the meaning behind stuff.

    Reply
  3. I find I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to reviews of books or films. It is all so hopelessly – or hopefully – subjective. There have been books I just could not read because they stirred up too much pain in me at the time. It certainly doesn’t make that book a horrible read or even a fantastic read, just simply a book I couldn’t read. I honestly don’t understand the purpose of horrid reviews other than that the person, for some reason,felt that was the place for them to vent. I’m continually amazed at the things people feel they are entitled to express an opinion about!

    Reply
    • People do love expressing their opinions. I see it all the time on Facebook. Often times they sound quite angry. I have also seen some reviews where the reviewer sounded quite upset. I’ve never felt the need to express negative emotions that way. I’ve always felt a positive approach is a better way to go.

      Reply
  4. karenrsanderson

     /  May 20, 2014

    I normally don’t read reviews. Most of the books I read come to me via suggestions by valued colleagues or writer or reader friends. And no, I don’t always agree with their review or five-star suggestions. It is absolutely perspective! While I lived a glorious childhood, many of my friends did not. While I was heavily mired in three failed (and horrible) marriages, many friends have been happily married for 20, 30, 40+ years. While I have read, a lot, many of my friends have not. So their perspective about “good stories” is different than mine. I also consider friend Shawn’s perspective on fantasy – I don’t care for it. Or sci fi – don’t care for that either. I love horror – many don’t. So, yes, a matter of perspective.

    Reply
    • Welcome to my blog, Karen! So many factors can go into making up who we are, our likes and dislikes. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book simply because of a review. Even word of mouth doesn’t always work for me because my idea of a good read is far different from some of my friends. I don’t think I’ve ever read horror. Maybe one day I’ll give it a try!

      Reply
  5. I haven’t gotten involved in the reviewing process. I want to know the proper way to review, and certainly don’t want to write anything negative. Every person is different, and likes different things.

    Reply
    • I don’t review books but certainly admire those who do, although I’ll admit that I admire the reviewers who give a balanced review. I think even when we don’t care for a particular book there are proper ways of saying it that would be less hurtful or mean to the author.

      Reply

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