I was about to write a review on Goodreads for a short story I read that I really appreciated in terms of writing but that gutted me in terms of subject. It was part of the Love’s Landscapes event.
Goodreads’ rating system is five stars max. One star is ‘I didn’t like it’, two stars is ‘It was okay’, three stars is ‘I liked it’, four stars is ‘I really liked it’ and five stars is, you guessed it, ‘I loved it’.
First, I have to mention that the story was based on a written prompt from a reader’s point of view on a gif, chosen by said reader. The author writes a story based on that prompt, tags it and puts a content warning. The prompt was really fun, it described two young guys dancing closely and rubbing against each other and the reader asked for a story with a frottage scene included in it. It sounded interesting. The cover is also very cute and nice.
At the beginning of the story, there is a warning that it contains child abuse and drug use. I saw that. It also mentioned other things like sex industry and public activity (of the sexual nature, I presume).
The writing was excellent. British English at its best, with arse and everything. Really good writing. The subject matter, even though I was warned, gutted me. In my opinion, the child abuse theme is the prevailing one in this book, not the romance between two young guys.
I reached 66% of the story and gave up without having reached the scene that would include the prompt. To me, the story had nothing to do with the prompt at all. I’m guessing the scene is at the end, when the main character gets together with the guy he met who tries to help him? I hope anyway.
The point of this post: I went on Goodreads to leave a review for the author. My initial reaction was to write to her to congratulate her on her superb writing skills. Then I was stuck. I couldn’t give the story a three-star rating, I hadn’t liked it. I thought to leave a two-star rating, ‘It was okay’, and explain why I was giving it that rating.
I started writing the review, first congratulating her on her writing, then continued with why I hadn’t finished the book but inviting people who liked such hard and sad subjects to read this story, they’d love it, but that I read to escape and live new experiences through other people’s words and this was not an escape for me. Then I thought, well that’s unfair, the writing’s good but I’m gonna make her ratings go down because the subject matter wasn’t for me, really. As an aspiring author, I can understand if one wouldn’t like the negative comments and I know some authors find ratings very important.
Then I read the author’s bio, which she ends with: ‘Just a quick note: If you don’t like me, blow me!’ so I deleted the whole thing. Screw that.
Anyone has an opinion on reviews, their worth and if we should write them?
2 thoughts on “Reviews”
I enjoyed reading the thought process of your dilemma. I also struggle with writing reviews. I typically do not write a review if I don’t like the story — even if the writing is good when the writer is not well-known, nor do I rate the book. Occasionally if a book is getting rave reviews and I didn’t like it, I might write an honest review, especially if it’s a bestseller.
It’s a hard thing in today’s market. There are so many independent authors who truly rely on these ratings and I don’t want to drag their ratings down. I understand but dislike this. I prefer to read honest reviews. Maybe (and I’m somewhat solving my own problem) a compromise could be not assigning a rating in stars but writing an honest review. In your case, you could praise the writing but say that you prefer reading happier stories or whatever. I recently read The Interestings by Meg Wolizer and liked it a lot. I was reading reviews after and one that I liked, respected and understood was by a guy who said that the writing was good and he could see why many people enjoyed it, but as a conservative midwesterner, he felt he had little in common with the characters and had a hard time relating to them. In other words, it was a good book but not his preference. I loved the book but can see that many people would not. Even if I had read his review beforehand, it wouldn’t had kept me from reading the book and likely would have made me more intrigued.
Yes! The problem is in the star rating! Like Amazon. You can’t write a review without giving it a rating on five stars. That’s why my blog on book reviews doesn’t have ratings on any scale. It’s just reviews.
You nailed it.