Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday Thoughts #1: Are Our Book Reviews Too Nice?

Sarah McCarry in her article for the The Huffington Post has accused YA book bloggers of being too nice in our reviews, not giving a fair critique of the material, and giving women authors preferential treatment.  That's a big accusation because she is criticizing the integrity of the people out there blogging.

Faking Nice in the Blogosphere: Women and Book Reviews

I admit, I rarely post reviews for books that are under 3 stars.  My reason for that is pretty obvious; if it was that bad I probably didn't finish it.  I give a book about 30-50 pages to hook me, if it doesn't get any better from that point, I will put it down and move on to something else.  I also won't review the book.  I might make a comment on Goodreads about why I didn't finish it, but I won't write a complete review for it because I didn't finish it and I don't think I should write a review for a book that I didn't read in its entirety. 

Am I nicer to women authors?  I don't think so.  I loved Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why (5 star review) and really enjoyed Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan (4 star review) as well as Jame's Dashner's The Maze Runner (4 star review).  And those are just the books I have read this year.  Of the 23 books I have completed this year 5 titles have scored 3 stars or less (note all five of those books were written by women).  I pick up a lot of books.  I have 12 books sitting on my desk right now, and if I am lucky, I might finish reading half of those, but if it doesn't hook me, or I am not interested I will put it down.

Does that mean that my reviews are biased?  I don't honestly know, but with my time as limited as it is, why should I force myself to read for "pleasure" a book that I can't stand or am not interested in?  If it is a book I promised to read either for a review, or for the book award committee I am on, I committed to reading those books completely so I will force myself through one I don't like.  In those cases, I will publish the review even if I thought it deserved only one star or less. 

I will admit to reading more books by women than by men, but that is where my interest lies.  I have always preferred to read books where the main character is female, and most of those books are by women authors.  Is that being unfair?  Perhaps, but that is a personal preference. 

My point is summary judgments can not be made about a person's reviews just because they haven't blogged about book that have less than 3 stars.  There might be a legitimate reason for that.  If I finish it, I review it.

Just out of curiosity I created a graph.  Out of the 110 books I have written complete reviews for on Goodreads, here is the result:


Looks like I give a lot of 4 star reviews.  But remember, if I don't like it, I often don't finish it.



So do you think YA Blogger are biased and write reviews that are too nice?  Am I being too nice in my reviews?  I really want to know what you think!

5 comments:

  1. What an interesting post! I just finished reading the article and I find myself agreeing with a lot of the author's points.

    I think, though, that there's a difference between being too nice and sugarcoating things. I have the same attitude as you- if I can't get through a book, I don't review it, with two exceptions so far. I'm still a pleasure reader at heart so if a book isn't doing it for me, why would I waste my own free time reading a book I'm not enjoying?

    It's a tricky situation, that's for sure!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree she may have some valid points, and I recognize there may be some bloggers out there who may sugarcoat their reviews hoping that they will get something back out of it, but I can't believe that doing that would ever work in their favor. If everyone gets a great review from that blogger, does their review really mean anything?

    On the other hand, I am not going to force myself through a book I don't like just to write a review for it so that I have an equal number of bad reviews as I do good. I have too many things I have to read, and too little time to get that reading done, to waste pleasure reading time on a book I don't like.

    When I am not reading for work, I want to enjoy what I read, even if that means tossing aside the first several books I pick up to find the one that will interest me.

    Thanks for your comment Emily!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think this is a very interesting topic. While that article makes several valid points, I definitely agree with the points you've made as well.

    I read books for fun. I have a fairly good idea of which books I am likely to enjoy, so I gravitate toward those before picking up anything that doesn't catch my interest. I assume that most book bloggers operate in a similar manner, and that single fact alone DRASTICALLY decreases the chances of the YA blogosphere being filled with negative reviews. As book bloggers, we are not paid for the time we spend reading nor are we paid for the time we spend writing and formatting reviews. No one would chose to spend their limited free time reading tons of books they suspected they would hate just to maintain some sort of artificial negative/positive balance in their review roster. Why would I spend my time and money purchasing a book that I'm likely to find irritatingly bad when I could pick up a book I'm eager to read instead? I wouldn't.

    On the rare occasion that I pick up a book which I end up disliking, there are two possible outcomes. Outcome#1: It is so terrible that I simply can't bring myself to finish it. In that case I truly don't feel qualified to write a full review. Or Outcome#2: I slog my way through the entire book & still find myself disliking it. At that point, I have already wasted a significant amount of time on a book that I didn't enjoy, and I am fairly unlikely to want to spend an additional portion of my day composing and formatting a full review. I may give it a star rating someplace like goodreads or shelfari, but I seriously doubt I will want to spend much time writing about a book I despised.

    As far as good reviews are concerned, I try to bring up specific elements that I liked and disliked within each book. I'll admit to being a glass-is-half-full kind of person, so if I can focus on the positive I probably will. I do have a a preference for strong female heroines and that has led me toward a lot of female writers, but I have also enjoyed books by Scott Westerfeld, John Green, Orson Scott Card, Jerry Spinelli, Lemony Snicket, Dale Bayse, etc. And all six of the couldn't-finish books I've picked up over the past few months happened to be written by women, so having a female author definitely doesn't guarantee that a book will receive a rave review from me. Anyway, that is my (somewhat scattered) two cents. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Violet,

    You make some great points. I review and blog because it is fun. I do this on my own time, and I don't receive any compensation for my reviews, except for the satisfaction it gives me to participate in discussions with other bloggers. When I am not reading stuff for work or for the committee I am on, I read for pleasure. I don't want to force myself through a book I am not going to enjoy. I agree, with the point you made, that if a book is that bad to read, why do I want to spend more time with it reviewing it. I do have some lower scored reviews on my blog, because those are often ones I am reading for work purposes. But the majority of reading I do is for me, for fun, and I don't want to give up my fun books to write reviews for books I don't like.

    Violet, Thanks for commenting. This article really made me think about what I review and how I review.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for bringing up such an interesting topic and sharing the link to the Huffington Post article. It was fun to think a bit more about what I review & why I review. :)

    ReplyDelete

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