Discussion: When Negative Reviews Seem to Contradict Your Own Thoughts

Discussion

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?

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7 thoughts on “Discussion: When Negative Reviews Seem to Contradict Your Own Thoughts

  1. I think that’s the wonderful thing about books. Everyone can read them and not everyone reads them the exact same way. I feel this is why books make such wonderful discussion topics, because everyone will have their own viewpoint and thoughts to share. I also think personal experience shape what makes some people see certain books in negative or positive ways. I like reading negative reviews for books I really loved because I like seeing others viewpoints and how they interpreted the book. Great post!

    1. I think personal experiences play a HUGE part in how someone reads a book. I remember reading a fairly positive review of a book I loved that complained about how shy the main character was at the beginning, which was the reason I connected with the book so well – so even positive reviews can be a little contradictory at times, which is definitely why it’s great to discuss these books! I definitely want to get involved in a real life book club so that I can do just that at some point outside of the blogosphere!

  2. I refuse to read negative reviews for Harry Potter because I am so passionate about those books that any nay-saying lights a fuse. However, I’m actually interested in reading negative reviews for pretty much any other book I’ve read. It’s fascinating to me when people’s opinions contradict my own even if they are negative. I like that an opportunity to discuss an interpretation has been opened, and often, I’ll leave a comment expressing how different my thoughts on a certain topic. If it’s the other way around– if a blogger loved a book I didn’t love– I’ll proceed with caution when commenting if my feelings toward a subject are negative. I recognize that book worms are sometimes sensitive when someone dislikes a book they loved, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

    1. Yeah, I can definitely struggle with reading bad reviews for something I love with all my heart, like Harry Potter. I tend to prefer negative reviews when it’s a book I already dislike or something I’m unsure about whether I want to read or not, but reading negative reviews of things I like can be interesting at times. That’s definitely great that you try to be sensitive even when you dislike something that someone else loves – I don’t think I’m super-sensitive about it, but it can be a bit saddening when someone insults something that I really loved reading or that meant a lot to me.

  3. You make some really good points here. Sometimes it’s hard to read a review and think, “Really? How could we have seen this book so completely differently?” But, like you say, it’s a fact of life. I sometimes re-evaluate my ideas when I read a review like this, but more often than not, I just agree to disagree. After all, we all read a book and see it through the lens of our own life experiences – what might seem empowering to me might look wimpy to someone else. And that’s okay. We can’t all agree on everything! 🙂

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Reading the review definitely me made look back at the book and try to see if I saw what the reviewer did – and, even though I saw how she might interpret things the way she did, my interpretation of things remained the same, so it was definitely a case of “agree to disagree” in the end. Life experiences will always color the way we read books, and it really would be a bit boring if everyone simply agreed and didn’t get the chance to have lively debates and such – although there are days I just wish we could all agree to do away with the stress of arguing!

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