Is there ever a time when it’s just not fair to review something?
Here’s what I mean:
Let’s say you’re reading a book in a particular genre. And it’s a genre you typically never read. What’s more, it’s a genre that you don’t particularly like. For whatever reason, you read the book anyway… and — big surprise — you don’t like it.
Do you write a negative review talking about how much you disliked the book? Or do you just put it down, accept that it was never meant to be, and move on?
Of course, you may be wondering, why even start the book in the first place?
Well, there could be plenty of reasons. Maybe a friend has urged you to read a favorite book… or you stumble across something at the library that catches your eye… or you see the author on a TV talk show and think she sounds interesting.
For me, I’m having this dilemma at the moment thanks to my beloved book group. (Hi guys!) Our monthly book picks cover a lot of different topics, although we do tend to veer toward historical fiction on a regular basis. That’s not all, though — we’ve also done historical non-fiction, thrillers, and contemporary drama, to name but a few.
Our current book — recommended by one of our members — is a romance/chick lit kind of book, which really, really isn’t my thing. Still, everyone else was enthusiastic, so I figured I’d give it a try. Five chapters in, I’m just not digging it, but I don’t want to sit out the discussion, so I guess I’ll do my best to finish it. And who knows, I may end up liking it.
(Doubtful, but why pre-judge?)
Okay, assuming I finish the book and still feel unimpressed, should I review it? On the one hand, it seems fair for me to say, basically:
This book did not appeal to me, and here’s why.
On the other hand, it doesn’t seem fair for me to say:
This is a terrible book, and no one should read it.
(Granted, that’s not something I’d typically say in a review, but let’s go with it for now.)
If I don’t like the plot or the characters, but the writing is decent and it seems to be successful within the usual “rules” of the genre, then who am I to say it’s not a good book? All I think I can truly say is that I read a book that didn’t work for me. And perhaps a romance fan might really and truly love it.
(Likewise, if you read a really gory scary horror book even though you almost never read horror and end up hating it, is it fair to say it’s a bad book? Or is it more fair to say that the book scared the bejeezus out of you and was icky and unpleasant, and hey, I hate reading horror, so I didn’t enjoy it at all?)
What do you do when you read a book that, objectively, you can recognize as pretty good for its type, but subjectively, you really don’t enjoy reading?
I’d love to hear some thoughts on this!