Today’s post is based on a conversation I had with a writerly friend a few days ago. Those of you who know me in person are aware that something I perceive to be illogical can rile me up inordinately fast. This particular conversation involved someone who had commented on one of my friend’s stories. The part that sparked my annoyance was the fact that this commenter said that the book was “too dark and scary”.
This got me pondering reviewers and readers. A review of a book is always a good thing, regardless of its nature; it tells the writer what a reader thought. There is, however, a problem. The bad reviews can be accepted, or ignored, depending on whether or not the author of the review is offering constructive criticism or just complaining. The good reviews are a great thing, especially when they’re both sincere and helpful. But what about the reviews that are based on nothing more useful than “taste”?
A good review is based on “taste” (person preferences, that is) and reasoning. There are reasons a book appeals to someone. My taste is towards epic fantasy with over-arching historical emphasis and towards science-fiction with a good amount of action. However, even the best fantasy history or sci-fi adventure will get dropped if the author didn’t bother making it “good” in literary terms. Avoidably bad grammar, pathetic style, poor sentence structuring… all these and more will make me put down a book and write an unfavorable review. Likewise, a book that really doesn’t suit my taste will get put down; but I wouldn’t give it a bad review, unless there was something else wrong with it.
Who gives a bad review PURELY on the basis of taste? Personally, the modern high-school romance/growing-up story is not to my taste. But would why post a poor review of a book just because I didn’t like the content that made it part of a genre I don’t like? If I don’t LIKE a genre, I don’t pick up a book from that shelf!
People are free to post a bad review on my writing style, my spelling, my plot, my character development. But they should NEVER, EVER post a bad review on my stories because they don’t like people who hunt animals for money. They shouldn’t post a bad review because the story doesn’t feel “post-apocalyptic” enough. They shouldn’t give it a bad review if they would prefer a female lead. No bad reviews because the animals are too “far-out” or unrealistic. “Taste” should dictate what people like, not give them an opinion on the quality of things they don’t like.
Readers: please comment! I would very much like to know what other people think of this topic.