Negative reviews are simply a part of your life if you’re in the reviewing and blogging world. Maybe you’re the one who’s giving a book a bad review, maybe you’re simply reading them, but either way, you’re going to come across them because no book is universally loved, not even popular ones like Harry Potter (which I love) and the Lunar Chronicles books (with which I’m one of those few who doesn’t really like them).
When I’m trying to decide whether or not to read a book, negative reviews are my favorite to check out because they give me the best idea of whether I would enjoy the book or not since they’re the most likely to pick out specific flaws. Sometimes I don’t like these negative reviews, though – namely, when they’re really bad reviews of books I love that point out flaws that seem to contradict my own thoughts on the book.
This post came about when I read some bad reviews for a book that I recently read and loved, 17 First Kisses. When I read the book, I thought it did an amazing job of giving readers a sex-positive story with incredible and dynamic friendships and interesting and often troubled romantic relationships. I admired the main character and really felt for her when she legitimately thought that she was a slut simply because she had kissed a few boys in her short life. There were some slut-shaming comments, but I viewed them as signs that our society is messed up and we need to stop with all the slut-shaming and girl-bashing. I thought that Claire was growing and her use of some of those things at the beginning were signs that she need quite a bit of growing up at times.
So, imagine my surprise when I read a couple reviews that seemed to think the exact opposite. Rather than finding the friendships dynamic and realistic (which means the girls sometimes got into petty and silly fights), these reviews thought that the friendships were shallow and toxic. The main character was silly and shallow for caring about a boy so much over her friend for even a second. The slut-shaming was a sign of a book that truly believed in those comments rather than a sign that the main character needed to and would grow. There were so many quotes in these reviews that the reviewers would interpret one way while I took them a completely other way.
Even if we were able to ask the author about every little decision and line and plot point she made, we’d never really get to know which is the “right” way of reading the book. After authors let their books out into the world, they can get interpreted in any way and there really is no right way of figuring things out, no matter what we all think. I think my opinion is correct because of course it has to be, it’s my interpretation! But every single person who reads the same book is going to think the same thing, so we’re all both correct and not. For me, my interpretation of the books I read are correct, but they’re correct for me.
That being said, it can be really hard to read reviews that aren’t just negative when you loved a book, but are negative reviews that seem to think the exact opposite of what you do. It’s always surprising to learn that people might disagree with you, even though it’s pretty much impossible for everyone to agree on anything, even dark and huge issues like murder and incest and war and such – there are always going to be people disagreeing, even if it’s just about a little, smaller part of the issue.
It hurts reading reviews that contradict my own on such a huge level, but that’s simply the way the world works. It’s one of the reasons why I only really read negative reviews of books I already know I don’t like or ones I’m not sure I want to read or not. I wish I could convince everyone to agree with me on everything, but I have a feeling the world would be a bit of a boring place if I couldn’t get into heated (in a good way, not a frustrating one) arguments about the things I care about and love.
Plus, if there weren’t dissenting views on things like books, then I wouldn’t be able to come up with discussions like this and you would be left without another great post from me – I mean, doesn’t everyone agree that all of my posts are great?