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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