Today at The Book Bratz, I, Jessica, will be discussing an important topic: the difference between negative reviews and book-bashing reviews. This topic is crucial to discuss because countless times bloggers have written reviews of books with just the intent of expressing their opinion. However, especially when dealing with something (a book or a topic) that you don't like, more strong and hurtful feelings come out than you may intend to. This is where your review crosses into the territory of book-bashing, which is a hurtful, offensive, and absolutely unacceptable form of review writing that should never be done if you're operating as a professional or aspiring-professional in the blogging field. It should basically never be done, ever. The question is: how can you tell the difference between a negative review and a book-bashing review?
Negative reviews express their reasons for not liking the book in a calm and professional manner. Here is an excerpt of a review I have written in the past and rated two stars or below:
"I waded through this book for a good few chapters before I realized that it was so heavy that my mind was starting to wander. And that's when I knew I had to put it down."
Book-bashing reviews express their reasons for not liking the book in a rash, offensive manner. A fictional example:
"This book was vomit-inducing, horrible, and just needs to be burned because it sucks that badly. I didn't even get past page ten."
*Notice that in the negative review, I explained that the book wasn't capturing my interest because it was too heavy of a topic. I also stated that I gave the book a chance. In the book-bashing review, the book is called rash and offensive things such as "vomit-inducing," "horrible," and that "it just needs to be burned because it sucks that badly." The reader even admits that he/she didn't get past page ten. The book wasn't even given a fair shot to see if it would improve.
Negative reviews offer constructive criticism - ways that they wish the book had been improved.
"I wish that the author had developed the protagonist more, or added a few more scenes that would explain certain situations in more detail. If she had, maybe I would have understood the plot better."
Book-bashing reviews offer criticism on trivial things or things that can't be fixed - or are not viewed as constructive criticism.
"The only thing the author could have done to fix this book would be if she went back in time and convinced herself to never write it."
*Notice how the negative reviewer actually explained several key ideas that would have improved the book for him/her. It leaves the reader with several points to think over, wondering what could happen if those events were changed in the writing. The book-bashing reviewer just continued to insult the book without pointing out what could have been fixed to leave them less confused or frustrated. It leaves the reader cringing and getting a hostile tone.
The intent of a negative review is to state why the reader wasn't a big fan of the book.
"So even if this book wasn't really my cup of tea, that doesn't mean it can't be somebody else's. It was a nice, easy read about a young girl navigating her way through high school, sticking to her morals and finding herself among her peers and family."
The intent of a book-bashing review is to attempt to turn all potential readers away from ever picking up the book.
"Do me a favor, and don't ever pick up this book. It sucks so bad that it isn't even worth your time."
*Notice that the negative review states that even though the reader wasn't a fan of the book, other readers are encouraged to give it a try. The review even sums up the story for anybody that would be potentially interested, even if that specific reader is not. The book-bashing review's clear intent is to ward all potential readers off from ever giving the book a fair shot, which is rude and unfair because everyone has a different reading taste.
Negative reviews stick to talking about the subject at hand: the book being reviewed.
"All in all, this book definitely missed the mark for me, which was disappointing."
Book-bashing reviews get personal and more often than not lead to personal attacks on the author's life or personality, which is not the subject of the review.
"This book sucked and not only can I not stand it, but I can't stand its author, either. She's a catty, snobby, vindictive person who deserves to have nobody read her book."
"What the heck was this author even thinking? She seriously must be dumb as a brick to write terrible stuff like this. I mean, did she even go to school? Get a degree in English? Who gave her the right to write this nonsense?"
*Notice that the negative review focused on the book while the book-bashing review turned its focus to the author and his/her personal life, possibly because the reviewer had nothing left to say about the book. Leave the authors out of it, unless you're giving them praise. If you have a personal problem or something of the like with the author, don't mention it. Leave it out. You are reviewing and critiquing the book, not the person.
How do I know if my review is classified as negative or book-bashing?
There's a simple solution to deciding if your review is negative (in which case you have every right to post it) or book-bashing (in which case you should definitely rethink posting it). You just have to ask yourself a simple question: Would it be okay if I read this review out loud to the book's author?
Think about it. You'll naturally feel a little bit uncomfortable saying anything not positive about a writer's work to their face, yes. But if you're constructive and are honest with your feelings while remaining calm and professional, and you offer ideas to fix the solutions and have rational explanations for everything you've said, your review is not book-bashing. It's okay to not like everything you read. In fact, it's pretty normal. And definitely acceptable. What isn't acceptable is launching a tirade to scare readers away from the book and to make the author feel bad about himself or herself. Explain your feelings. JUSTIFY THEM WITH REASONS WHY YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU FEEL. Remember that someone will be reading your review - more times than not, the authors themselves.
What do I need to remember when writing reviews about books I didn't like?
You need to remember that authors are people too. They are people who have put months, years, maybe even decades into the work you're writing about. It's okay not to like everything you read, like I said. It's expected. If you aren't crazy about a book, you have every right to say so. But you shouldn't take to social media with the intent of lashing out and being cruel and offensive and hurtful. And you always need to remember that you are reviewing the book, not the author. Take all of your personal beef with him or her and toss it to the side and write about how the book honestly makes you feel.
The best piece of advice when writing a review of a book you didn't like is to write all of your thoughts and feelings into the review first, raw and emotional. After you're done expressing your feelings, go back and revise it. Swap out offensive adjectives with kinder and more polite ones. Delete anything you wrote about the authors themselves, or anything that is so mean or offensive that you have no way to make it sound kinder. Read your review out loud and ask yourself if you'd feel comfortable emailing it to the author right that second. If you don't, continue fixing it. If you do, then you successively wrote a negative review.
Keep in mind that negative reviews are normal, and no blogger will ever truly be able to get away with not writing one. You just have to remember to review the book itself, not the author, and to make sure that in the end you would feel comfortable sending it to the author. (Because, believe it or not, whether or not you tag an author in his/her review, they'll find them. They'll read them. And if you're cruel and bash their book, their pride and joy, they'll be hurt.)
Here's what some of you had to say about negative reviews vs. book-bashing reviews:
@thebookbratz Negative reviews are constructive, and they give me things to chew on. Book-bashing is cringe-y and often @ the author too.— Sydney (@sydneyny_) July 16, 2015
@thebookbratz book-bashing is more offensive and less constructive criticism. It's more attacks against the author— Rachel (@yaperfectionist) July 16, 2015
@thebookbratz i think the difference is the objectivity. Negative reviews are constructive and objective.— Ri (Hiver et Café)❄ (@Astaraya) July 16, 2015
@thebookbratz I think a lot of bashing starts as people trying to be funny (hyperbole) but loosing context and going too far. Less is more.— Whitley Birks (@whitleybirks) July 16, 2015
@thebookbratz IMO, negative reviews are criticising bad things & constructively explaining why—bashing is insulting/flaming the work/author.— Kat (@KATUTlN) July 16, 2015
@thebookbratz I've seen some reviews on Goodreads that are just plain nasty. It's fine to not like a book. But you don't have to be a jerk.— Sarah (@thereadingpetal) July 16, 2015
I hope that this post helped to make you more aware of the differences between negative and book-bashing reviews, and that when you write reviews on unfavorable books in the future, you keep these ideas in mind! Remember, it's okay not to like something - but never okay to be hurtful about it.