An Open Letter to Anyone Who Reads Reviews

Honestly, today’s discussion is pretty straightforward and can be boiled down into one phrase (at the end, of course), but I still feel the need to emphasize certain points for any person who reads reviews.

There’s a whole entire community (aka the book community) dedicated to books and also reviewing books and reading reviews. And this post is for the average layperson (not the publishing professionals or authors) who reads reviews from some of their favorite book bloggers, bookstagrammers, booktubers, etc.

Because sometimes I feel like we fall into the mob mentality or put too much weight on one person’s opinion, and this can be harmful in taking the spotlight off of the real issue, and potentially bringing unwarranted negative attention to books who don’t actually deserve it (although in most cases, it is warranted).

The Mob Mentality

I mean, Book Twitter is awesome at times, but I also feel like it can fall into really big spirals of focus on one particular thing, and not really look at many other opinions.

For instance, the piracy discussion of July 2018–most of the conversations on authors’ profiles were US focused and very oriented to that specific group of people, despite INTL bookworms’ protest.

Or, when Handbook for Mortals debuted at #1 on the NYT Bestseller’s list last August–we fixated on Lani Sarem and her novel and what her motivations could have been, but didn’t really give a huge amount of time to hearing her side (but it does seem that the evidence points against her).

Or the soap dick extravaganza of a week ago–so many people focused on the soap dick included in a clearly labeled NSFW box (although putting that in places is not a good idea, as the label states) and not on the more pressing issue of unlicensed fanfiction being sold.

There are so many awesome people on Book Twitter, but take things with a grain of salt. We can get a little crazy at times.

I hope that readers on Twitter acknowledge while problematic things can definitely seem to happen in and out of books, it is good to take a little time and look at both sides before jumping on the bandwagon to bash a book or someone.

Usually, outrage is pretty valid, but it doesn’t hurt to give something a few minutes of contemplation and really look at the available facts and multiple opinions.

Which brings us to…

Championing One Reviewer’s Word as Law

People have different opinions on books. I think the best example of this is looking at what happened with Laurie Forest’s The Black Witch

Initially, the reviews for it were pretty high–Ben Alderson (on YouTube & founder of Oftomes Publishing) and others really liked it, but then after Shauna’s review came out (detailing passages with unsavory lines), he and others removed his review and people on multiple platforms pointed to Shauna’s review, leading them to flock to Goodreads to 1 star the book.

And the point of this post isn’t to bash on the practice of rating books you haven’t read (that I talk about in my Math Lesson on the 5-star 1-star cycle of rating wars on Goodreads), but I think it’s noteworthy to look at how one review can bring all of the giant spotlights to a book very few people have read.

And though I feel Shauna’s points are pretty accurate (although possibly somewhat written to anger), the giant influx of 1-stars from people who hadn’t read the book seemed pretty extreme.

I feel like it’s important to not take one reviewer’s word as law, especially for a book that isn’t out yet and that you haven’t read. And although in the case of The Black Witch, ended up being quite justified & agreed with by multiple people who did read the book, it still conveys the message that we need to look at what multiple people have to say.

Especially #OwnVoices reviewers, because #OwnVoices reviews can give more insight on their own culture! But also know that #OwnVoices reviewers can disagree; i.e. I loved The Bird and the Blade, but I know other #OwnVoices people who were very unhappy with how the book ended. And both of our opinions are valid and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to read.

And this doesn’t just apply to books with huge controversies, but books you encounter day-to-day, too. It’s good to be aware about these things and I think reviews are crucial in understanding whether or not you want to read a book.

But, to you out there who read reviews, every reviewer and reader is different and they all experience books differently. You experience books differently than they do. And what they hate might be something you love.

It’s good to find reviewers who share reading preferences with you (as seen by the “Compare Books” function on Goodreads) to help find a group of reviewers to follow who will provide book recommendations that you’ll probably like.

But it’s also good to read reviews from people who have differing opinions so you can gain insight to potential new reads. You never know–what that reviewer might say they hated in a book might be something you actually like in a book.

So, the whole point of this is to say

Don’t take one person/reviewer’s word as law. Look at as many opinions as you can before making your judgement.

I hope everyone who reads reviews can get the most out of their review-reading experience by looking at multiple opinions and using these to determine whether or not a book is right for them, or whether or not a book will be triggering, or whether or not a book is problematic.

It can help you find new reads you never thought you’d pick up, and also make educated decisions on what not to read and what to read! Life is too short to struggle through bad books, and this is just one way you might be able to streamline your TBR to hopefully be filled with books you love.

much love, vicky

How do you decide if you’re going to read a book? Do you look at reviews?

24 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Anyone Who Reads Reviews

  1. That piracy discussion was such a trainwreck omg. The soap dick thing, while absolutely hilarious, is an excellent example of how book twitter tends to focus on the wrong things sometimes. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a wonderful post, Vicky. You always bring excellent discussions to the fore and I greatly appreciate you opening the dialog and sharing your thoughts in a constructive way. Mob mentality is a scary thing, and I definitely take reviews with a grain of salt because I know no two reading experiences are the same. This is why I don’t read other reviews before I write my own review because I don’t want to have my thoughts colored by other people, and why I write my reviews the way I do – constructive and highlighting who might like the book when I didn’t. I don’t get rating books when you haven’t read the book, it’s petty and I wish people didn’t do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great way to do it! Sometimes I feel like ratings for books come in waves and the first wave of big name reviewers really sets the tone for everyone else–like once a few big names 5 star The Cruel Prince, it skyrockets and almost everyone loves it (or, at least, that’s all you hear about). (I think it’s happening with Wicked Saints right now)

      And part of it is justified, but its like the hype grows exponentially & can get crazy & people might be influenced by the book’s clout?

      Your method is really good to cut out outside influences from changing your opinion! I find myself to be very fickle at times so after a year I might only remember a book with fondness, or I might realize I didn’t really like it & it was just because of hype.

      I think it’s a good idea for reviewers to highlight who books might appeal to, even if it didn’t appeal to the reviewer (which is something you do that I love!)

      (And the rating books thing is SO annoying gah)

      Like

  3. You always write some of the best discussion posts, Vicky and I appreciate your insight on everything so, very much, thank you for everything you do for this community ❤
    I am reading a LOT of reviews – I read reviews on book blogs and on goodreads and I know that sometimes I tend to feel a bit, influenced by what others are saying, even without having read the book. That being said, I am learning to definitely take every reviewer's opinion with a grain of salt and always to try to see both sides of one story. It's important that every reader's experience is different and this is something that really needs to be acknowledged, too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, thank you Marie for always reading my posts and responding so insightfully!

      And I get that! (I mean, that’s basically the whole definition of hype, hehe!) I find it crazy though how sometimes one singular review can cause such a huge uproar about a book, justified or not. I’m pretty sure you’re doing a great job, Marie, and what works for you might be what works for the majority of readers!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Totally agree with what you said. Book Twitter the last 2 years has taken some getting used to, and I think either it’s calmed down a lot or I am getting immune to it. I get annoyed when people bandwagon and I am a rebel at heart and can just never see myself taking someone else’s word as law and going around ALL CAPSing about a subject with only secondhand knowledge.

    I think it’s important for us all to think for ourselves and look at all angles like you said.

    As far as how I use reviews, I do read them before I read a book lots of times and if I read MANY, I can usually gauge what my expectations of the book should be for myself. I usually don’t let them deter me from reading something I think sounds super interesting.

    Great discussion topic!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, I’m going to have to say immune vs. getting used to it! And true! I feel like so many people who talk about the big blow up things haven’t actually experienced it or even seen what it was about, which is a bit of an oof

      And that’s definitely a good way to use reviews! I know some people avoid them completely, which is totally valid, but using them is also a good way when you’re feelings are a jumble & you find that one review that makes you go YES! that’s exactly what I was thinking! & reviews as a whole can help decide whether or not you want to read a book.

      Thanks for your insightful comment, Michelle!

      Like

  5. Well said Vicky!🤗 I remember about the issue on The Black Witch last year if I’m not mistaken and read some author’s tweet about how they don’t like the book but since I haven’t read it yet, I don’t want to easily get swayed by others’ reviews if I haven’t read the book yet. But tbh, I’m surprised Ben Alderson took his review down on his platform.😥

    I think one negative review shouldn’t magnify how meh a book is. I respect everyone’s opinion and so far, I haven’t encounter anyone in the community who disrespect a reviewer base on how they like a book or not. And of course I also want to appreciate the author’s effort even how badly a book was written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah! I always find it a bit distressing when people take down reviews etc.

      I think the evidence is stacked against TBW, especially after reading the first couple hundred pages and DNFing it, but I think I definitely gave it a fair chance before pulling it through the mud.

      I think looking at all the reviews as a whole is a much better indicator of a book’s greatness! Thanks so much for the lovely words, Karlita!

      Like

  6. Vicky this is a wonderful post, I have linked to it for my Sunday post, hope you don’t mind 😀

    All your points are so valid, and I do feel that the book blogging community sometimes jump on bandwagons, some know nothing about the actual content or argument, but goes to jump in because x, y and z blogger/booktuber etc is on that side of the fence. What happened to individualism and freedom of speech?

    I think that it’s ok to read all reviews, good or bad, but essentially it’s up to you, whether to choose to pick it up or not. I find the whole rating in goodreads before it’s read, even those that rate a book they’re highly anticipating just wrecks the average number of the real reviews, those who have READ the book. I think someone needs to write a how to guide with using Goodreads as it’s very obvious that the rating and reviews is for those that have READ the book. It’s frustrating when you have to wade through the ratings just to find one person that has actually read the book.

    Well done, fantastic post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! It’s no problem at all!

      The bandwagon can be so crazy sometimes.

      And I feel like reading reviews can definitely vary from person to person–one person might be helped a lot by reading them, while others might want to avoid it completely. It’s focusing in on one review to judge a book rather than multiple that I find people miss out on potentially wonderful books!

      And the pre-rating really gets to me I still don’t understand *face palm* Thanks so much for stopping by & glad you enjoyed reading!!! ❤

      Like

  7. This was a very interesting post! I do read reviews but I read multiple before forming that opinion. Although I do admit that I follow that mob mentality sometimes with book controversies and reviews but it’s good that you’re bringing this issue to light! Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this! Apparently I’m just spending my afternoon browsing through your backlog but this post is SO GOOD. Especially:

    “There are so many awesome people on Book Twitter, but take things with a grain of salt. We can get a little crazy at times.”

    PREACH, love. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahhh omg i’m not complaining, ahahaha thank you <333

      WE DO GET CRAZY!!! sometimes it's good crazy, sometimes it's bad crazy, but twitter is wild, and book twitter is honestly actually tame O_o

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is such a great post! I totally agree, it’s so important to look at multiple reviews, especially for super popular books. There are some books that are super well-loved in the book community, and I got caught in the hype and immediately added them to my TBR. But then I read some 1- and 2-star reviews and learned that there were some super problematic things, and decided that it wasn’t something I wanted to read. And it’s fine if other people want to read it and love it, it’s just not something I’d read.

    Also YES about the own voices reviews! I always try to look for own voices reviews for certain books, especially ones where the author isn’t own voices. I feel like it carries more weight if an own voices reviewer says “hey, this thing is problematic and shouldn’t be portrayed in this way” than when someone who’s not own voices. Not that non-own voices reviews don’t carry weight, I just think we should pay attention to the people who have actual lived experience.

    Also totally agree about the Book Twitter thing. It can be a great community, but it can definitely get out of hand and miss the point sometimes. But I guess that’s true about any community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Thank you so much for your insightful comment–Book Twitter & the whole community in general can get obsessed at times, and it takes a little bit to step back and realize that part of why you want to read the book is hype (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). And sometimes OV reviews give a lot of insight. Other times I’ve seen some that I want other OV to corroborate (mainly bc it’s written by a Muslim male vs. female and I have a feeling that his perspectives don’t necessarily match? Bc the author is OV too and so it feels like a he-says-she-says thing Idk.)

      Liked by 1 person

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