2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 0 books toward her goal of 200 books.

What, oh What, is the Deal with Reviewer-Shaming?

I know, I know – I never post *real* writing/thoughts (as opposed to reviews/other people’s real writing/thoughts) – but this one has been bugging me for a while, so I felt the need…

More and more lately, I’m seeing EXCEEDINGLY seething and negative feedback (that, frankly, reeks of trollishness, but is from people who only do it sporadically so I don’t know if it technically counts) from readers when a reviewer says they did not finish a book – particularly if it was a review or advance copy.

I don’t understand why other readers get so upset when someone doesn’t finish a book… I can see where an author would – they wrote it. But another reader? If you didn’t write it and didn’t give it to me, why on earth do you think you have to right to yell at me for not finishing it?

Most of the grief I’ve seen posted about not finishing books comes from other readers. I did have an author contact me once via GoodReads – he was very unhappy that I had reviewed his ARC (which I’d accessed via NetGalley) and did not finish it but wrote a review and gave it two stars anyway. I don’t like giving stars on reviews to begin with – they’re very deceptive as an evaluative mechanism and don’t actually tell you much because there’s not a lot of discrimination in a 5-point system). I really don’t like giving them if I haven’t finished, because by definition if I haven’t finished it I did not like it. I take pains to point out what my issues were in the narrative, but the stars don’t reflect any of that. A book isn’t necessarily bad/not well-written because I didn’t finish it; as often as not it’s just not the genre or story that I couldn’t get into. And sometimes it’s inexplicable, I just wasn’t feeling it so didn’t force my way through it. Usually if I do that, the result is foregone – if I couldn’t find the story engaging enough to keep going, rarely do I find it redeems itself 90% through. VERY rarely I’ve been pleasantly surprised (e.g., The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), but that’s by far the exception and not the rule. But back to the point – this author basically told me that I owed it to him to at least finish the book before I said I didn’t enjoy it.

Excuse me?

I don’t owe the author anything beyond my courtesy and honesty. I was courteous in my review, explaining that there were no obvious problems or issues with the book, I just found myself unable to fall into the story enough to keep reading. I explained that NetGalley requires you to post a star rating if you post a review/comment; I said I disagreed with that policy and that from now on I would remove the stars when I reposted my NetGalley reviews to GoodReads. But I also respectfully stated that I was not under any obligation to either continue reading a book I didn’t enjoy OR to decline to share my thoughts because I did not finish it.

Most people – myself included – who post reviews on Amazon or GoodReads or places like that are not professional reviewers. This isn’t usually a paid job. They are volunteers, sharing opinions because (a) they were asked to, or (b) they enjoy doing so. It’s not a career. It’s not a task that anyone forces them to do. A reviewer doesn’t commit their life away or promise to read every single word no matter what happens in exchange for an ARC. They agree to tell people what they think about the book. Saying you didn’t enjoy it/couldn’t get into it/didn’t finish it is fulfilling the limited obligation that exists between provider and recipient.

As I tell every author/publicist/publisher/marketer that asks for a review, there are great books and great readers and the categories are neither guaranteed to overlap nor mutually exclusive. Some books are not for some readers. Some books are not for some readers at some times. That’s not an indictment of either.

I read and review as a hobby. If I am not enjoying a book, I am not going to force myself to finish it come hell or high water. There are too many other things to do with my time. I’m upfront about that, and if that changes someone’s opinion about providing me with a free copy of their book, I understand and have no hard feelings. When an individual approaches me about a review and I decide that I cannot get into the book enough to read it through, I let them know and decline to review it. When an organization like NetGalley or Edelweiss or Penguin First to Read or BookishFirst or a GoodReads contest (which provides books and semi-requires some form of feedback on the title), I give my honest opinion – the same way I do when I read material on my own and provide a review on my own. Sometimes that opinion is that I didn’t like the book. Sometimes that is based on a full read, and sometimes on the portion I read. I’m not telling people not to buy/read the book; I’m telling them that I didn’t enjoy it. That is my truth and my opinion and I’m entitled to both – just like I’m entitled to share both or not, as I decide.

My time is my own, to spend as I see fit. So is yours. Read what you like, stop what you don’t – whether it’s books or reviews. But there’s no need for yelling at people because they aren’t seeing things your way or doing what you want them to do. It’s pointless and frustrating for both you and the person on the other end – and is vastly unlikely to change the mind of either side. I have NEVER finished a book because someone yelled at me for having the temerity to write a paragraph saying I couldn’t finish the book. If anything, it has entrenched me further in my position that I should stop reading things I don’t enjoy. I give books a fair chance, but sometimes you can tell fairly quickly if something is not for you – and if that’s the case, I stop reading. I am not of the sound-bite-attention-span generation; I don’t enjoy the brevity of Twitter or headlines-only news. But I also won’t martyr myself to something I am not enjoying, and particularly not because someone else told me to…

If you don’t like reading reviews by people who did not finish a book, don’t. But there’s no need to slam people for it or be rude or vicious. Just don’t read that review or follow that reviewer. If someone feels strongly enough to be upset by a DNF (“did not finish”), then they likely thoroughly enjoyed the book. They should write their own glowing review, praising it. Potential readers then have a multiplicity of opinions – which is the point of community reviews. If they’re all rave reviews then something is probably fishy because everyone has different taste, which is a good thing because it means more variety in books for all of us.

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