{Aside} Rating On Goodreads Before You’ve Read It.


Fair Warning: Unpopular Opinions Incoming!

I’ve been debating writing this post for quite some time now. I’ve titled it “Unpopular Opinions” for a reason. I’m fully expecting this to spark a bit of discussion and yes, disagreements, but given that we’re all civilized people with strong opinions that are all worthy of merit, I felt more and more compelled to share my thoughts.

I wanted to talk today about the state of Goodreads; in particular a disturbing trend I’ve been witnessing of people maliciously rating books before they’ve actually read them.

For the record, I also take issue with people rating upcoming books that they’re looking forward to 5 stars before the book has even been published, but that’s really not what I want to focus on here. Yes, that equally skews the ratings of any book, but I think it’s more pressing that we talk about the more negative trend.

In some ways, it was easier being a member of Goodreads before my reviews started getting somewhat popular there, because I didn’t notice this type of thing as much. When I had my intimate bubble of a couple dozen something friends, it was easy to miss that certain books were generating controversy within the community at large. Now that I have considerably more friends than a couple dozen and am quite active in the reading community it is impossible to miss

It seems that every month or so there’s another new book that the community is hating on and maliciously demolishing its average score. In recent months I can remember these in particular taking a lot of heat:

  • Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
  • All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Black Witch by Laurie Forest
  • and by extension now, Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Linsay Cummings.

While I could talk at length on all of them, it’s really the latter 2 on the list that I wanted to focus on here.

The Black Witch currently sits at a 2.08% on Goodreads, with 473 reviews and 1,123 ratings. If you look through the majority of those one-star reviews, you’ll see similar statements: (these are actual reviews I’m copy and pasting)

“No thanks”

“I have no interest in reading this after whatI’ve read about it.”

“Look no I haven’t read it, but I am done with bullshit weirdly racist white savior books. Fantasy as a genre needs to fucking step up, and not use white as their go to race. Apparently the author made the MC refer to a group of people as “half-breeds”. I’m like really not ok w racially offensive language in fantasy books under the guise that it is a “made up race” and “the MC doesn’t know better”. If you want to write a racist MC make it blatant to the reader that they are a bad person, that they are a bad person even after they learn that their race isn’t “pure”. Fuck this book.” 

And so on, and so forth. I think you get the idea.

This book first came under fire when Shauna @ Bookstore Babe and Cait, a very influential Goodreads reviewer with thousands of followers posted separate reviews about this book potentially promoting racism. I’ve linked to book of their reviews, (just click on their names) if you’ve not seen them and would like the opportunity to read them for yourselves.

I take no issue with their particular behavior because they’re just voicing opinions that are perfectly okay for them to have. They both allege to have read the entire book before rating, and if that’s how they felt after reading the book, then that’s totally fair. I take zero issue with their rating choices, nor do I take issue with their complaints as I have yet to read the book for myself.

Who knows? I may end up totally agreeing with them. But I won’t be rating the book before I read it in an attempt to bring the author down.

It is my opinion that these rating vendettas that seem to embroil the Goodreads community once a month or so are what is unfair. 

We as a community of readers should be better than engaging in a hive-mind mentality that unfairly contributes to the destruction of people’s careers and livelihoods just because we heard that there might be ideas present in a book that we don’t care for.

If you check out the reviews for Zenith by Sasha Alsberg, you’ll see exactly what I mean. Zenith currently sits at a 2.83% on Goodreads, with 11 reviews and 42 ratings. This book publishes in August of this year, by the way.

People actually looked into the publishing company for The Black Witch (Harlequin Teen) as well as the editor of this book, and began witchhunting for other books that they were involved in! Here are some of the one-star reviews:

“So from the editor Lauren Smulski that brought us the Continent and the Blackwitch… *nervously grimaces*… Alright then. I’m suprised Harlequin Teen is not watching this editor like a hawk after all the racist books she’s helped publish.”

From Lauren Smulski – the same editor of that racist morass of irrationality that was The Black Witch and The Continent. Yeah, I think I’ll pass thanks.

It’s this kind of thing that I have a problem with. It’s irrational behavior, first of all. And secondly it is potentially harmful towards numerous people you don’t even know.

Ben Alderson, a huge Booktube reviewer, and future published author himself, originally gave The Black Witch a rating of 4 stars on Goodreads only to delete his rating entirely and admonish the publishing industry at large when he realized that people were hating on the book. He writes:

“I have removed my review… [Links to Shauna’s review] Having thought about this and read Shauna’s points… I can see that I have been completely wrong… The publishing system needs to change.” 

You’re telling me that you are reneging on a book that you originally loved and promoted to your fans, and now you’re calling for the entire publishing industry to be changed for allowing this book to be published?

Lets be real here: Ben saw his brand image in danger here and made the conscious decision to throw this debut author and the entire publishing industry under the bus in order to save face. And it just feeds the flames of his followers to go do the same thing.

I’m not okay with any of that. If I rate a book a 1 star, it’s going to be because took the time to read it and loathed it myself, not because someone else told me that it was potentially problematic.

This doesn’t even begin to cover the fact that I think both of these reviews fail to consider the fact that The Black Witch is set in a fantasy world and thus within another culture than our own. There’s a whole separate discussion about the censorship of ideas that I think we could delve into – perhaps within another post because I’ve already rattled on for long enough here. I’m just saying, no one goes around and calls George R.R. Martin a murderer because he kills off a handful of characters in every new book he puts out. It is unfair to label an author racist simply because they’ve written a fantasy novel revolving around the theme of overcoming racist beliefs.

So this brings me to a little story I wanted to end on.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately. It’s kind of been ruminating at the back of my mind. As a hobby-writer myself, I would hate to put a debut novel out there into the world and have an army of people on Goodreads slay it without even having read it. I felt very badly for Laurie Forest and these other targeted authors. It’s always been my intention to read these books and make up my own mind about them.

I took a day-trip an hour out of town today to buy a new pair of glasses (because the choices in my town just don’t cut it!) and on the way home I decided to stop at a large bookstore in the city. They often have books I can’t get unless I order them, so I wanted to check out their stock.

Long story short – Laurie Forest, the author of The Black Witch, happened to be there – at a bookstore I rarely visit but decided to today – signing copies of her book.  I took it as a sign, waited, introduced myself to Laurie and bought an autographed copy.

I’ve worked it out with a friend on Goodreads who was just as eager to see what this book was all about for herself, and we will be buddy-reading it together later this month! I’m very excited to see what I make of it for myself.

Please note: If I offended you at all with this post, I am deeply sorry.  It’s not my intention to shame any of my friends who may have rated this book one star. I hope you forgive me for my strong opinions. I think these sort of tough conversations are healthy for the community as a whole. We readers are thoughtful, intelligent people and I think we can handle frank discussions like this from time to time.  



How do you feel about rating a book without having read it? Do you agree, or disagree? Lets chat about it below! I’m interested in hearing all manner of opinions. 

195 thoughts on “{Aside} Rating On Goodreads Before You’ve Read It.

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  1. Amen! Before all of this rabid witch hunting started I read a couple of books before they were called out: one was for racism, because of some terms similar to half-breed, but it turned out to be pointing out how bad judging a person by race is; and the other was historical fiction that had a certain segment of society hanging out in bars most of their time. I read the book and it was pointing out how generations of government fueled poverty had created the problem and how wrong that was. The author was called out for racism, but the author is actually part of this group, but never said so publically. She also grew up in a town like the one in her book and worked at a public radio station for that area. This is why I read books that are called out before I review and most importantly, rate them. I have an ARC of Carve the Mark that I won which I plan to read even though a couple of my blogging friends are going to be horrified, because I am going to make up my own mind. The blogger I won it from got some heat for having a giveaway for it. I also have The Black Witch coming, I won it on Goodreads. I had no idea about the controversy until I read this post, but I still intend on reading it and forming my own opinion. Thank you for creating a discussion about this topic.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Like you, I saw another book and author get shamed for including the word “savage” in their story – saying that it was shaming native americans when the story was written about a fantasy world and fantasy races, and the theme of that story was similarly about overcoming differences. Stuff like this really frustrates me, because I feel like the majority of people complaining are people who primarily read contemporary YA fiction, and are wholly unprepared when a fantasy book attempts to tackle things like differences between cultures and races, which has been a theme in fantasy for decades.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have noticed the same thing on Goodreads and it drives me crazy. I could never rate a book without reading, even if I was a huge fan of the author or was just hating what is written on the blurb. As for people changing their ratings because of the risk of losing brand image/followers….guess what, I wouldn’t believe a review out of their mouth from that point on. Why? Because how I am I supposed to know that they won’t bow to pressure and change the ratings on other reviews. It’s ridiculous and very unfair to the author, publisher and any reader who would be interested in reading those books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree about reviewers who change their review scores after the fact! It only proves that you can’t trust them. How can we take any thing they say from that point on as truly genuine? I feel like every move they make from that point on is done with their brand image in mind, and gaining more followers only. It’s sad, because I feel like the reading community has in some way allowed those huge figureheads on Booktube and in the reading community to sort of guide the narrative in a way. And if those people wield that power irresponsibly, it is actually quite harmful to entire industry in my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually unfollowed/deleted a couple of popular book bloggers/booktubers from my lists because they’d love a book initially then change their opinions after drama explodes like it did with The Black Witch. You can’t trust reviewers like that, and they don’t deserve my follow.

        I LOVE TBW; It’s one of my all-time favorites now. I found it unfailingly honest, fearless, and redemptive. We need more books like it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s exactly why I dislike the big book bloggers. They all do it! When Carve the Mark came out, there was a mass exodus of their original reviews. One of them, (Riley somethingorother) even admitted that her original review had been a sponsored review – meaning she got paid for it – and she took it down and tore up the contract she had with the publisher because she knew the community hated the book. Once you know that they’re getting paid and protecting their image, it becomes so hard to trust them.


  3. First off – AMAZING post and topic! Love this kinda posts. The book’s cover looks beautiful and I wholeheartedly agree with your argument! Potential buyers should take reviews and ratings on Goodreads with a grain of salt(or maybe a ladleful). Even without the kind of behaviour you’ve mentioned I’ve noticed many times that Goodreads ratings for a book I enjoyed would have lower ratings than one that I didn’t like. Bottom line is, I no longer find the ratings+reviews as reliable as I had once thought.

    Oh, and what kismet! It sure was a sign 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment!! See, I totally have begun to accept that I can’t trust the average ratings on Goodreads any more. Had The Black Witch been written by a more popular author, say Sarah J Maas, I am 100% positive that the same flaws that were highlighted out of context here would be lauded with praise. It’s a total double standard.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome!!

        Oh, how I hate double standards! So sad that there bullying even in the book world 😣. But from the amount of comments and likes on your post it’s comforting to know that so many out there feel the same. Thanks for bringing this malpractice to the notice of the reading community!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Amen! I personally would never review/rate a book I haven’t read (or was unable to finish); I feel like I wouldn’t be able to justify it. This goes for both positive and negative reviews/ratings.

    It’s so sad that rabid witch hunting and hivemind-like behaviour is becoming a part of this community. It’s harmful and very, very toxic. :/ It’s also such a shame people are putting books through the grinder before even reading it for themselves. A book can be problematic, and it’s valuable to discuss these aspects, but I feel that you can only do this if you’ve actually read it and formed an opinion for yourself, not from hear-say. Besides, there is also such a thing as (cultural) context and certain themes a book might be dealing with. Behaviour like this removes any sort of context, nuance and grey area.

    I can see why a review score can change over time (especially if you grow older/reread the book/think about it some more/after a ‘mature’ discussion with another person who offers a viewpoint you hadn’t previously considered), but the example you’ve mentioned is obviously different. I wouldn’t be taking any future reviews by this person seriously because they seem more concerned with likes/brand image than integrity, which is totally unfair to their followers and the authors they review.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You seriously took all the words right out of my mouth Bentley. I HATE the hive mind of the book community. Twitter has become this toxic wasteland I very rarely ever got to because of it. And Goodreads witch hunts are the lowest form of this crap. The whole Social Justice Warrior crap makes me want to chuck books at their faces to get them to shut up. They will never be happy with something, I get that but it’s not right for them to shove down others who enjoy those same things that they disagree with. That’s the same thing as them crying about having their rights and feelings violated. Grow up people. /end rant.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I found a new blog, thanks to Reads and Reels reblogging this post. I was very eager when the book came out as an ARC and I was on Twitter trying to score a copy. I was so excited to read it and found Laurie to be phenomenal. I remember what happened to Keira Drake and The Continent, so when this happened to Laurie, I was like, “Not again!” I wondered how these books were getting published!
    I didn’t read the reviews: I got the gist. But then when people were encouraging others to tank her rating, and having people rate it low bc of the material, I got pissed off. Can I say anything about that? Nope. Can I even give this book a good review if I like it? Of course not! My blog would be finished! I would be considered promoting problematic material. I’m so proud of Emily May and her rating of The Black Witch on Goodreads…and then all the people who backed her up! She liked the book and she wasn’t afraid to say so. If you like it or you hate it…at least you read it.
    Laurie had to disappear from Twitter until her book published, so I never got a chance to win it. I’ll have to buy the book or get it from the library. It’s received some great acclaim from Kirkus by getting a starred review…I just think people have every right to review how they want, but they shouldn’t review a book they didn’t read. Put your comments in if you want, but how are we as “book reviewers” doing the reading community a service when we pan a book that truthfully we haven’t read?
    It pains me to see all this happen. And what surprises me is that we cannot speak up in fear that we too will be grouped with the “bad people, the racist people, the nazis.” All because we just agree that a book should be read before reviewed. Have that book earn that two stars if it really is that bad. I’ve read really bad books and they have higher ratings. It just doesn’t seem right and it doesn’t seem fair.
    Ok. Sorry. That’s been bottled up for awhile now. Thanks for this post. I see you’ve received a lot of comments already.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Teacher! Your experience sounds pretty similar to mine. I’m okay with someone disliking a book. Not every book resonates with every reader – and that’s okay. But the way that a subset of the reading community seems to derive pleasure from derailing new authors careers and success because they’re not telling stories they care to read is really disturbing to me. It feels in a way incredibly vindictive and targeted, and I think a lot of these young bloggers and reviewers have realized that if they try and focus on the drama instead of just moving on, they suddenly find themselves gaining followers who live for that type of behavior on the internet.

      It’s really easy for these people to sit behind a keyboard and arrange brigades against debut authors, whereas if they were made to sit in a room 1-on-1 with Laurie or any other author they’ve rallied against, I daresay they would be a lot less vocal. I was proud of Emily May for her review as well. There’s another reviewer named Kjell, and another named Sarah who both wrote very well spoken and thought out reviews for the book too.

      Speaking of the Kirkus award – I’ve been watching Shauna’s blog (she’s the young woman who live-tweeted this book and wrote the first review calling it racist) and she’s now sicked her fans on Kirkus for awarding Laurie’s novel in the first place. Truth be told, I find that woman reprehensible. Her behavior worsens every day and I’m pretty sure she’s more vindictive and cruel towards Laurie and Harlequin Teen than any character in TBW was.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I saw a tweet where she complained that someone came into her bookstore and asked if the store was going to stock the book…she actually insinuated that Laurie had something to do with it. Like it’s some big conspiracy. No one is that important. Especially not important enough to “live tweet” their reactions. I mean, c’mon, really?!?
        I find this whole thing disgusting. It’s definitely also flipped to the other extreme…I know a friend who wrote a negative review of The Gauntlet and her review was flagged after the community told everyone to go flag it: they were all discussing what to do about it on Twitter. I never thought this kind of thing could happen!
        Honestly, it’s a little creepy. When I wrote that I hope Drake’s book does get published, someone asked me why. I told them “because it’s her dream to get her book published and now she might not ever see her dream come true.” Why hate on the authors and make it to where they can never be successful? Shouldn’t we want them to “fix the problems” that are found and then have the book published? Wasn’t that the point of pulling The Continent? Or was it so that her book would never see the light of day?
        I am a teacher so it frightens me to see this happen. Especially hearing that they are trying to go after Kirkus? Really? I just don’t understand it all anymore. 😶

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I hadn’t seen that tweet from Shauna, but honestly hearing about that doesn’t surprise me at all. She name-drops her bookstore any chance she can get, I’m fairly certain she incites drama as a business model to get her name out there, in the hopes that more of her followers will choose to purchase from her and support her book selling career. Her whole online personality rings untrue to me, I’m fairly certain she’s just decided she’s going to market herself to the crazy crowd who is easily riled up by stuff like this.

        I’m so happy to hear that you (and the other people who commented on this post) seem to understand that rooting for the destruction of a debut author’s career before it even has a chance to flourish is a really nasty thing to do. It doesn’t matter that you heard that their book did “this” or “that” – if you didn’t read it, you have zero right to actively participate in trying to make that book fail.

        I think the real issue here is a cultural one, developed over time by social media. Websites like Twitter and Tumblr are fantastic and fun, but they’re also echo chambers. Once you find people to follow who share your beliefs, it’s easy to start believing that you are 100% right all the time and start touting your views as absolute fact. These young people can’t disassociate themselves from those chambers enough to realize that what didn’t work for them might totally speak to someone else.


  7. I don’t think you fully understand why people were calling out The Black Witch. The issue was not that it was about a racism redemption arc. The issue was that is dealt with the character’s racism in an insensitive, ineffective way that was offensive to reviewers, and is bound to offend many readers. There is nothing inherently wrong with writing a book with a racism redemption arc, but it has to be written accurately and carefully in a way that fully addresses the racism and the wrongness of the character’s beliefs and properly deconstructs the power structures. And to many reviewers, The Black Witch did not accomplish that.

    Please read this blog post for a better explanation of this topic: http://justinaireland.com/dammit-this-is-a-blog/2017/3/19/writing-is-hard-redemption-arcs-for-racist-characters

    Secondly, saying that The Black Witch is set in a fantasy world is not an excuse.The thing is, you can write about fantasy worlds and think you’re creating an entirely new landscape, but people reading the book are still going to approach it with a real-world bias. You can’t just say that people shouldn’t be offended when races and power structures in a book are coded to resemble those of our own world. People are going to relate similar things.

    Another blog post that explains this topic: http://justinaireland.com/dammit-this-is-a-blog/2017/3/18/writing-is-hard-racism-in-a-fantasy-landscape

    In sum, the problem with The Black Witch is NOT that it’s about a character overcoming racism. The problem is that the author did not address the racism properly. You cannot write about a sensitive topic like racism in a callous fashion. Authors have a responsibility to properly address sensitive topics in their works, and if they don’t bother to put in the work to do that, why shouldn’t they be called out? It’s no different than criticizing someone who writes gross historical inaccuracies in a historical novel. I don’t like the idea of judging books before reading them, but what’s worse to me is the idea of an offensive book causing a young reader harm. That, I care about more than any author’s feelings.


    1. You claim it was “to many reviews” that The Black Witch didn’t accomplish tackling the subject of racism in a favorable way. It’s my point of my blog post, which I think you overlooked, that MANY of the people who have rated the book negatively have not even read it in the first place.

      I also take a few issues with Justina Ireland’s blog post that you’ve shared as I believe it is incredibly shortsighted and narrowminded to think that she has the only true outlook on what racism and prejudice is. It’s also incredibly unfair of her first point that because the story centers around a white character overcoming racism that other people cannot relate to similar feelings. Racism is not a whites-only disorder, but I think a lot of people overlook that, especially when they’re viewing racism through a Western/America-centric lens, where the history of racism looks quite different than it does across the world.

      I’ll respectfully also disagree with you on your point that it doesn’t matter that the story takes place in a fictional world. That is absolutely critical context in this matter. Fantasy fiction often tackles the trope of one culture meeting another and learning to associate with each other for the first time. I think a large number of the people rating this book one star have zero familiarity with fantasy as a genre and don’t understand that what Laurie has done here is not something new. In fact, she has merely borrowed from an oft-used fantasy trope and expanded on it to tell the story of one character learning to embrace another culture, rather than entire societies coming together. No one faults the huge fantasy authors when they do similar things in their books – because it is an asinine complaint that a certain subset of readers have warped and pulled out of context in order to complain on behalf of people today that they believe were victimized by a fictional book about half-dragons and wolven characters.

      Lastly, the idea that this fantasy book has created lasting harm for any young reader is a laughable stretch on your part Kitty. In fact, I’ve been seeing more and more positive reviews for this book from people who actually did take the time to read it that it portrays its thematic content well. But, is easy to ignore all those positive reviews that are rolling in now that the tides have turned and eyes are off of the book entirely.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for this post! I hate the witch hunts. Whenever a book gets dragged through the mud like this, it actually makes me want to read it more. I end up being curious about the book, and I want to give the authors/publishers my little bit of support. I feel like a majority of those people who rate 1 stars and complain about things they haven’t read being problematic (side note, I hate the term problematic. Whenever someone says it in a video or review, I cringe) are bullies who scrutinize and scrutinize until they can find something to complain about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m the same way Ashey. The controversy actually makes me want to read the book more. I probably would have overlooked this title entirely had I not seen that it was drawing so much ire in the reading communiy. Also, I think you’re right. The young woman (a white woman) who wrote the review that started this entire hate-fest for the book seems to have a habit of seeking out and attempting to destroy the reputation of books as a pasttime. It’s really unfortunate and I think a lot of it stems from jealousy that an author got her work out into the world in the first place.


  9. Well done for having the balls to speak out, I have book blogged on and off for a while now and initially I really enjoyed it, but as i become more embrolied into it, i did actually start to see the ‘blackness’ that sourrounds this community, It is hard enough writing a book let alone getting a publishing deal and then to be hounded down by bloogers who think of thier own popularity before judging a book on its actual merits rather than popular opinion.
    I have read spats that ensue between blogger and author on goodreads and its nasty and totally uncalled for,
    If you did not like a book, its ok to say that you didnt, its also ok to say that you really enjoyed a book even though you might be the only 5 stars in a sea of ones.
    Be an individual and learn to express ones own thoughts and expressions withouthte fear of retribution, stand up for your beliefs, society these days seems to be a horrible place sometimes, when people get called out for thoughts.
    I have just made myself a new blog as I love to read and talk aboutthe books i am reading, i feel a need to do so as I really missed it, but I will not bend , if i dont like a book, i will state it and stand by it.
    As with thie racism thing in that book, I have not heard of it, but I want to read it now to make up my own ideas on it, but that reviewer i think took it way too personally, perhaos they are from a minority and feel that it was too close to home, I dont know, but its a fantasy read, it is NOT THE REAL WORLD.
    Sometimes I wished i lived in a fantasy world, and be done with all this bullshit…..

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I sometimes read the reviews on Goodreads, but if i want to read a book, wether people say its shit or not, if i want to read it, nodody will tell me otherwsie.
    I have always thought that there ought to be another book community page like goodreads, run by a community of book bloggers or something, to give Goodreads a run for their money.
    I love goodreads, but i have seen lately that its not what it used to be , sadly

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a person who has aspirations of one day being a published author myself, the whole attacking authors and their books because the thematic content of a fictional story doesn’t align with what a reader cares to see really stresses me out. Fiction is wonderful because it allows for so many diverse and various stories to be told. It’s really odd how we’re starting to see an entire subset of young readers who outright refuse to accept that certain genres (like Fantasy) are often built upon various cultures coming together and overcoming differences for the first time.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m so glad that I took the time to read this post! This is such an honest and well-constructed discussion on exactly what I’ve been feeling about the part of the bookish community that has begun to follow this mob-mentality of hate against books. I actually won an arc of the Black Witch and just recieved it in the mail and because of Shauna’s review and actual fear of what others would say about me reading it, I almost decided not to read it and that fact has me ashamed. I will however, be reading it soon because after posting my own thoughts on this on my blog, I find that censoring my own opinion is not an option and because of my previous interest in The Black Witch I have no reason to not formulate my own opinion.

    I have however read Carve The Mark and I will be posting my opinions on that book down the line. (I actually wrote a paper on it for my ethics class) I honestly enjoyed Carve The Mark and I’m saddened by the backlash it has been receiving.

    Anywho, thank you for this awesome post! This is something that needs to be talked about more often.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Tiana!

      I think a lot of people really identify with that feeling of fear in the bookish community of being outcast if they dare to read the books that have become blacklisted by vocal people on Twitter and Goodreads, and that’s really unfortunate. The really ironic part about it to me is that many of those people go so overboard in their hate for the book that they end up being more cruel and nasty towards total strangers over the internet than that book was nasty towards characters.

      I hope when you read TBW that it pleasantly surprises you and exceeds your expectations. I hope that for both of us actually. I have not read Carve the Mark yet – perhaps because I allowed the turmoil around it to turn me away from it, but also because it’s not exactly my go-to genre. But hearing that you enjoyed it, I might have to give it a go sometime soon!


  12. Tbh I think there’s a difference between saying “this book was racist” and saying “you’re racist for liking it”. I think we need to discuss books more kindly rather than shouting people down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right Elise. I do think that some of the more vocal opponents of this book really do toe the line in implying that any sort of support for this book or its debut author constitutes an implicit support of racism, which I think is unfair.


      1. Yeah!! It’s like the controversy around 13 Reasons Why. I loved that book AND I have depression, and several people have told me I’m bigoted against people with mental health issues because I enjoyed it. Nope, I’m one of those people, and I loved that book.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post Bentley! I have seen that about Black Witch and Ben. I saw his hype about that book in the beginning on Twitter but later I saw a lot of bad reviews. I don’t like people rating on books when they don’t read it yet either. I do rely on those ratings when I decide to read a book too. But Zenn Diagram’s author tweeted about “one size doesn’t fit all” when she was reading positive and negative reviews of her book and how unhappy/happy she feels. But it’s good that you bring out this topic, the more people are aware, the better. Enjoy your buddy read!! I still want to read this book despite the controversy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually ended up unfollowing Ben Alderson and a number of the larger Booktube reviewers after this, and similar instances. Like when Carve the Mark came out and they all raved about how beautiful it was until the rancor towards it started and suddenly they were changing their reviews, deleting videos and then even a few admitted that their previous opinion was because of sponorship deals. It becomes hard to trust those major reviewers to deliver an unbiased opinion.

      I can only imagine how Laurie Forest must feel as a debut author. I’m sure she didn’t set out to write her book, intending to rile these overly protective readers up. I imagine it must be quite disheartening for a new author to see their book trashed so by people who haven’t even read it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely. It’s hard to read negative reviews of your own book. Unless people read it and give you advice on how to improve, but those that don’t and just flat out say they don’t like it. Those negative reviews aren’t so helpful. That’s cool that you went out to obtain her book and autograph. I haven’t read Carve the Mark either but it’s on my TBR haha.. I realize it’s hard for those big reviewers to give bad reviews when they received all these sponsorships from publishers. Even though we both read ARCs and we swear to give honest reviews, for us, maybe just the book, but for them, maybe it’s for the promise of future books and free books to giveaway and dedication to them or what.. and they must have allowed that to influence their reviews. And like you say, Ben took back his reviews to save face. His reviews is based on what his fans wants? I don’t know.. as for me.. I just read and share my personal thoughts.. hehe..

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Fantastic points, Bentley. Discussion is good, but bullying equal amounts of harm. I was an early reader of The Continent (loved it, 4.5 stars), and while I do understand why the uproar occurred (basically, the skin color distribution fell into an insensitive narrative, probably as a result of the author’s own submersion in historical fiction; in fact, although the bullying muddied the waters for me, eventually more helpful discussion emerged that clarified why the book bothered so many, and I’m totally grateful for that new understanding), it still bothered me that a case of debut-worldbuilding-problems bit this new author’s career so badly; clearly she’s not a racist. Unfortunately, there are no room for mistakes in this climate :/

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Gosh I agree with this post so much- I just don’t see how it’s ok to slate a book that you’ve not even read. It actually reminds me of a book that a load of trolls rated down recently because it was written by a Jewish person. I just don’t see this as being that far off that, because like you, I would be horrified in either instance if that was me. If an individual is offended by the content of a book, they don’t have to read it- they can vote with their wallet. Or even better- just give the book a chance and be honest about whether you like it (I have zero respect for the guy that not only changed his opinion, but went out of the way to virtue signal by throwing other people under the bus- not cool) This is such an awful trend and I really respect your decision to read this book anyway!! (And yes, I also don’t like when people put 5* ratings on books before they’ve read them- don’t they know how goodreads works?!)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh gosh, I love your post. Thank you for sharing.
    I noticed for a long time that people like to rate books before they are even published, especially low ratings. I always think “Why would you that? That book doesn’t even have a blurb, why can you rate it with 1 star?”

    I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned in your post but I really want to read the new Veronica Roth one. And just like everyone else, I have heard about the controversy regarding the book. I have seen IG stories from bookstagrams saying not to read Carve the Mark because it’s a bad book. I’m pretty sure that over half of those people haven’t even read it.
    And I totally agree with you: if someone reads a book and hates it, fine. But if someone hates it because of hearsay, not fine. You have to try something before judging it.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. So I’m a little late to this post, but wow!! So good!!
    I honestly think things like this are terrifying. In fact, I’m a writer and I’ve been preparing for a while now to never have my book published. Some people seem to look for anything *they* think is “problematic” (hate that word now) and tear it down just to make themselves look tolerant, loving, and politically correct. Besides, would I want my book to be read by some of these horrible people anyway?
    I watched Keira Drake’s book’s destruction and it broke my heart. Yes, technically it will be published in 2018 – but not the way she intended. Not in the way that is true to the story and to her. I think it is deeply troubling that lazy, malicious people on Twitter have that much power over a book, and consequently, the information we as readers have access too.
    I agree with the whole echo-chamber thing that was mentioned above – I think the only reason these people have this much power is because they are the loudest and they have loud friends. The rest of us are just not trendy enough, I guess.
    I will be reading The Black Witch soon, and I have no doubt it will be a very thoughtful, intelligent book. I’m glad it was at least published.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So well said Lenna. I really think you’re right – that people use the term “problematic” now to nitpick out things that they can raise a stink about in order to make themselves appear kind and loving to a very specific audience through social media. The problem becomes worsened when people immerse themselves in echo chambers on twitter and tumblr and other social websites and they end up only getting more vocal. I think that it’s not that the rest of us are not trendy enough – I just think that we have not yet learned how to fight back respectfully against this sort of thing. We need to remain strong and vocal ourselves regardles.

      I hope you don’t give up on your book either! I’m sure I’d love to read it when it’s out!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely. Speaking out is something I need to work on, but I guess it can be hard when it’s so likely you’ll receive backlash.
        Oh, I definitely won’t! Just thinking ahead about alternative options.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m glad you have posted this about Black Witch as a few weeks ago I read all the comments by book reviewers on this book. I don’t think it’s fair to give stars to a book that a reader has not even received . Neither is fair to review a book if you haven’t even opened one single page. I do receive sometimes proof copies that I read and may well review before publication. But I do give an honest review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. It’s not fair or being honest to the people you follow you if you’re rating books without having read them – either 1 or 5 stars. As for The Black Witch, I actually just started reading it yesterday. I’m 7 chapters in and thus far can say that every issue so far was taken so far out of context by that first reviewer (Shauna) who started this whole business against the book. My review for it will probably end up being an epic continuation of this post haha.


  19. I’ve tried writing a novel but put off by a few factors one would hate it if I got bad feedback and secondly too many rewrites and finding a publisher. Verdict I gave up writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, please don’t let potential negative nellies ever get you down! There’s always someone out there who thinks its their place to be rude. Also, maybe consider bringing one of your stories to an editor who can help you frame a re-write so it will be closest to read for publication! Don’t give up if it’s a dream!


  20. Positive or negative, I don’t agree with rating a book until you’ve read it. For me, this even leaks into DNFs. Is it fair to rate a book that you didn’t finish?

    I blogged for a few years, several years a go. This issue was starting up then, but it looks like it’s gotten way out of hand.

    Also, reviewers who change their ratings make me nervous. After a re-read is one thing. I know I’ve re-read books and had a completely different experience the second time around. But just because you realize your opinion isn’t the popular one? That’s some shady stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’ve noticed a lot of reviews by people on books I receive in advance to be posted /before/ reading it. I found it weird, because there’s a designated place for discussions wherein these kinds of things — comments instead of reviews — can be published and talked about with the community.

    I don’t personally believe in rating/reviewing a book before reading it unless it’s a DNF, because it means a person didn’t give the book an honest chance and followed a school of fish.

    I value your honesty greatly! I’ve been blogging for almost ten consecutive years, and I’m working on novels of my own, and one of the reasons I’ve kept on with many of the same readers for so long is because I don’t follow the in-crowd and provide my honest opinion of things. I’m unaware of what BookTube is currently, but to delete a review and post a new one to follow what’s popular or trending or whatever is…ugh, it’s so gross — and one of the reasons many people still distrust bloggers. 😒

    Liked by 1 person

    1. BookTube refers to book bloggers who use YouTube to post their reviews and thoughts on books. I used to watch them more often, but as my favorite bloggers got bigger it seemed like a lot of them lost their ability to hold/keep an opinion. It feels like a lot of them are sponsored reviewers now and review books how they think their followers will enjoy it the most rather than actually discussing the content of the book. It’s really unfortunate, and it definitely contributes to the distrust people feel towards bloggers.


  22. I completely agree. It’s been absolutely crazy to see this large-scale, mob mentality shunning and witch hunting. The great irony is, a lot of the people declaring authors “unclean,” as it were, are people I usually see railing against bullying, intolerance, bigotry, discrimination, closed-mindedness, etc.

    Personally, I think you should at least try a book before rating/reviewing. If you find something you don’t like, stop reading and want to write about that, fine. Authors are people too. Treat them with respect and civility. (“As you’d like to be treated” if we need to go back to kindergarten.) If you want, create a special shelf for books you don’t want to read, but don’t give it a bad rating based on secondhand information (even if you think it’s reliable).

    Calling on others to boycott a book because of X after you’ve read it is a little more of a gray area, but it feels a little too close to censorship (trying to suppress books you consider obscene/evil or politically unacceptable). I think, in general, it’s best to share your thoughts and then let thoughtful, intelligent readers make up their own minds about whether to read it. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right, Kel! I definitely think it verges on censorship. There are so many people on Goodreads right now (particularly within the YA community) that go out of their way to ensure that certain books don’t get read or supported. I had one friend on Goodreads rate The Black Witch 5 stars after he read it and enjoyed it – and his review was later targeted by Twitter users who flagged it so many times it was automatically deleted by Goodreads. It’s incredible that that sort of behavior is not only allowed to happen, but we are encouraging it as well.

      I don’t like every book I read, and I am very honest in my reviews. But I think respect for the author is critical and it’s imperative to let (and encourage) readers make up their own minds.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. I honestly *hated* this book…what I read of it, anyway, I couldn’t make myself finish it…but I at least tried it for myself, instead of just jumping on the ‘This person said it’s racist, so I have to follow their opinion instead of reading it for myself and making up my own mind!’ bandwagon, like most seem to have done. Even so, I still didn’t rate it, because I didn’t finish it, so what would be the point? It would just skew the ratings of people who actually *did* read and finish the whole thing and then rated it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See, I’m totally fine with people reading it and hating it. It’s the Twitter hive mind that brigades books like this that I take issue with. That original review was designed to ruin this author’s career before it had even begun, to net that reviewer more followers.


      1. Yup, and she’s kind of known for it, isn’t she? I hate that so many people…who I usually think are very smart…just follow her blindly whenever she starts another crusade against a book that hasn’t even been published yet, or an author who hasn’t written anything else. And have you seen people freaking out about Kat Rosenfield’s article on Vulture about the toxic call-out culture in the YA community?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah I have been following the drama around that article quite closely. I have a lot of thoughts on it and am currently working on a blog post of my own that I’m sure people will find pretty divisive, but I didn’t really want to get involved on Twitter where you can’t discuss in depth due to the character limit.


      3. I find it funny that they don’t realise that they’re proving her point. They were demanding an author’s book not be published because a select few didn’t like it, and didn’t want anyone else to read it, now they’re demanding another author be fired because she wrote an article they don’t like. Is that irony, or am I getting it wrong? (I’m bad at telling if something’s ironic or not.)

        Liked by 1 person

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