{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.  

xoxo

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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. 

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

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  1. Oh, what an amazing post. I think I want to re-blog it if you’re OK with that… given the topic, I would ask first so you don’t feel put in a bad position.

    That said, no one should be offended by what you wrote. It is absolutely open, reflective, honest, fair, non-judgmental and thought-provoking. You ask great questions, point out obvious issues and highlight people’s rash thoughts being released in a fury of mis- or non-understanding.

    I’ve not read this book, and I’m not very knowledgeable in the genre to be a fair critic, but… a few things are for sure:

    1. I find it unacceptable to rate a book when you have not read it.
    2. If you have heard it is racist or has some inclination to be that way, read it yourself and then determine before you go on a rant.
    3. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, and I believe in promoting your thoughts even when others don’t latch on to them… if you are trying to course-correct something or show the reality of a situation that people can’t see on their own. However, it is that same person’s responsibility to handle it in a professional manner.

    I apologize for jumping on the bandwagon with you, as your post clearly says exactly what I am thinking about the situation. Kudos to you for being brave and forward enough to put these thoughts out there. And I’m confident most others will feel the same way.

    And this is regardless of that specific book, since I didn’t read it. You’re such a genuine person and everyone should be respecting this post, B3!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James, you can absolutely reblog this. You have my permission. Thank you for the comment as well. I’m glad to hear you weren’t offended. I’m glad to hear you don’t agree with people rating books before they read them too. I totally agree that people should read the book themselves first. Also, context is so important. Is the book actually racist, or are characters in the book racist – for a reason that is important to the story? It sounds a lot like censorship to rate a book poorly without having read it just because you don’t want to see a white author tackling the topic of racism.

      Don’t apologize for jumping in! I’m so glad to hear your opinions!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually have a lot of respect and appreciation for this post. I have seen this “trend” a few times since I began blogging. Maybe I did not pay enough attention prior to that, as I am sure it is not new. There does seem to be a sort of drama or vendetta that gets stirred up every so often around certain titles. Carve the Mark is the most recent I have notice (shamefully, I admit to not being familiar with the others you listed). The trouble is that we see this happening, with no evidence to support. It occurs pretty much as you explained. So long story short.. I agree with this post wholeheartedly and think this is an important issue in the book community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the reply! I definitely remember the Carve the Mark controversy too. I stayed out of that one, hoping it was just a fluke – but having seen it occur at least 3 times since then I figured I would bring the issue up to the community at large. I think it’s definitely important that we work against it. It’s not fair to the authors and the hobby of reading that we’re trying to support as book bloggers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post!
    There are few things that annoy me more than people who rate books without having even began to read them. I’ll admit to rating books on occasion that I DNF, but at least I’ve given those books a chance, and tried to read them before posting a rating. I recently encountered this when I received an ARC copy of Ramona Blue, and was amazed at how many negative reviews were out there for a book that was a month away from release, and even more so when I saw how many were going off the synopsis alone. And the book didn’t even have the issue that everyone was complaining about.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hilary, I’ve also rated some books I DNF’ed – but in those circumstances I read a fair chunk of the book before I made the decision to stop reading it, and I explain why in my reviews. That is so awful to hear that about Ramona Blue. I’d never heard of it before your comment, but I’m going to go look into it tonight and add it to my TBR list just because I like making up my own mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! And when you’ve at least given a book a chance, you aren’t basing it on a summary, which I think is fine. But just looking at a summary and rating it poorly is unfair to the author and to those who read your reviews. Ramona Blue is definitely worth checking out. Not my favourite, but definitely worth a read.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I completely agree with you. Even if I leave a review for a book I don’t plan on reading, I never rate it. It’s just rude to do that if I don’t like it for whatever reason. I plan on reading The Black Witch mainly because of the controversy surrounding it. I think the story that is being told is important for people who grow up embroiled in racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, etc. They may have believed them, but not anymore. And their story is valid.

    – Caidyn (since this blog is run by two people, I ought to separate my thoughts out from Chantel’s possible ones on this topic)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Caidyn!! I totally agree with you about The Black Witch. From what I’ve heard about it – it is not a story about the greatness of Racism like some people are painting it to be. It is a story about overcoming being raised within a racist environment, which is an important theme to tell!

      Like

      1. Or, as I interpret it as well, if the MC fails to recognize it, it’s a great example of the issues of racism. How it persists and why. It’s a big topic since, in America, there’s a lot of racism. It’s a timely topic, even if it’s done in the “wrong” way. I’m sure that if it was a non-white character overcoming their own prejudice against white people, it would be lauded.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have varying thoughts on the different controversial books, and I haven’t even read most of them, so no comment there. But I will comment on the issue of rating a book that you personally haven’t read–and I’m generally against it. I am aware people have different reasons for doing this. Some of them ARE trying to either promote or tank a book they have not personally read (and will directly this is their goal), but I do understand that some readers use Goodreads as a more personal tool and the ratings are for them, to remind themselves of their own interest or lack of interest in eventually reading a certain book. In principle, that should be fine, and I don’t want to say people can’t use Goodreads in the way most helpful to them, but the issue gets more complicated when there are large amounts of ratings from people who haven’t read the book that is significantly influencing the overall rating of the book.

    Personally, I’ve learned not to pay much attention to average rating when a book hasn’t even been released yet, and I will value an individual’s review of the book over their rating. If they haven’t read it, their 5 stars or 1 star means very little to me. If they want to leave a note that says something to the effect of “I’m looking forward to this for x reasons” or “I’m passing on this for y reasons” or link to the reviews that convinced them not to read the book, that’s fine and helpful, but I think rating the book without reading it can be misleading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment Briana! I think you make a fair point about people using goodreads as a personal rating system to track their interests. I think that’s important to remember here. I agree that the problem becomes worsened when everyone who has no interest in reading something suddenly thinks that entitles them to rating it 1 star and leaving a negative review for future people who happen upon that page to see.

      Like

  6. HALLELUJAH SOMEONE FINALLY SAID IT!!!!!!! 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 This is my greatest pet peeve on Goodreads. Either way, whether it’s a 5 star rating or 1 star it pisses me off. If you haven’t read the book, just don’t put those stars on. How hard is that?! Thanks for a fab post dear; so grateful for your honesty! 💜

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I shared this post on my blog. This is fantastic! I’m personally getting sick of this trend. I have lost any respect I’ve had for most of Booktube because, like you said, they’re afraid of getting attacked and such, so they change their opinion. They’re getting very hypocritical. I think what we need to do is just ignore these people and read the books for ourselves once it’s released, or if we can get an ARC. That’s so cool that you got to met Laurie Forest too. What was she like?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing!! I’m glad I’m not alone in being tired of this trend. I agree that I lost a lot of respect for the major booktubers too. Many of them did the same thing to Carve the Mark. Enjoyed it first, then removed their reviews and acted offended by the book once they realized the community was organizing against it.

      Laurie was very pleasant, and very friendly. She told me she liked my name and she might have to borrow it for a future character. xD

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I detest blind reads. If you don’t like the given topic, don’t support it financially. But, going on a site to rate it one is a waste of time and energy. You know how many movie and book releases I’ve ignored? More than I can remember. Do I go on sites and blind rate? No. I move on to work I approve.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Bentley, I actually found out the other day that Laurie Forest is giving a talk at Bear Pond in Montpelier in a couple of weeks and was going to mention it to you! I don’t think I’ll go because this isn’t my genre, but I know you’ve been advocating that people keep an open mind about this book, so I thought of you. I’m glad you got to talk to her and had a positive experience 🙂

    I kind of have conflicting opinions about this whole thing. I agree with you 100% that people should not rate books that they haven’t read. It was particularly awful with Carve the Mark where (from what I understand) bits of that book were misquoted and taken out of context, and no one was bothering to fact-check what exactly it was that they were boycotting. (All that said, I find it less objectionable that Goodreads members have flocked to give Anil John’s book a 1-star rating after that debacle, because that author’s behavior was completely unacceptable and his ratings deserve to suffer for it. But I see that as a very different sort of situation, and possibly the only exception I can think of to ‘don’t rate what you haven’t read’.)

    However, I think it’s very important that we as readers engage critically with our fiction, and I don’t take offense to people boycotting very overtly racist books like The Continent (The Black Witch less so, because there’s clearly more nuance to be had in Forest’s depiction of race relations). But I do think there are questions that people are raising about The Black Witch that shouldn’t be ignored, namely: is it really the place of Laurie Forest – a white woman – to write a book about racism, a prejudice that she has never experienced first hand?

    Because even though it’s fiction and even though it’s fantasy, she is depicting a very real social injustice, clearly drawing on real world social dynamics to frame her fictional universe. It’s not that she doesn’t have the right to an opinion, of course she does, but in creating this narrative, is she maybe speaking over the numerous voices of POC authors, who are much more qualified to tell a similar story? And is it appropriate to devote so much of the narrative to purely depicting these injustices, before the characters learn from them? These are definitely things that I’ve been considering.

    Sorry, this is long. I don’t mean any of that to come off as combative – I agree with you completely about Goodreads hive mind mentalities, and that we need to all think for ourselves rather than parrot the opinions of popular bloggers. That said, I also understand why POC readers are offended by The Black Witch, and as a white woman who has never been personally affected by racism, I try to defer to their opinions about the harm that can be done by books like this. ‘Problematic’ has become such a buzzword that people use to almost bolster their own image – ‘this book is Problematic, look at how socially conscious I am!’ – that there’s a sort of stigma that’s become attached to approaching a book like this critically, but I still think it’s important to do so, because when it comes to racism, sexism, ableism, etc., fiction can be a powerful and influential tool.

    Anyway, great post. 🙂 I respect you for sharing your opinion in such a diplomatic way – there are so few well-reasoned discussions on the internet!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Rachel, thanks for letting me know about Laurie’s talk. I’ll have to see if I can figure out the date and try and make time to get there. Would be interesting to hear her perspectives too! I completely agree with you on the Anil John thing. I think when an author goes out and is a jerk to the reading community themselves, then it’s perfectly okay for book bloggers to call them out on it.

      I take issue when people try and prescribe thematic content within a fictional story to an author as though it makes them a racist because they incorporated a theme about racism into their story. It’s unfair. You make a great point though about the topic of racism in terms of experience not belonging to a white woman. I can agree that that is potentially problematic. I was not offended at all by your comment and am happy you shared your thoughts!! Also agree with you about Problematic becoming a sort of annoying buzzword people fall back on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. http://www.bearpondbooks.com/event/laurie-forest-book-launch-reading-black-witch (Jennifer McMahon is also doing a reading there on May 9!)

        That’s absolutely true about readers prescribing thematic content to the authors themselves – that line of thinking is incredibly reductive, and unfortunately something you see a lot of on the internet and Goodreads in particular. I mean, by that logic isn’t The Handmaid’s Tale sexist?! That’s absurd. I think the problem here is that for everyone who perfectly reasonably says ‘we need to think critically about this book’ there are ten more people shouting ‘this author is racist scum’ and then it becomes an echo chamber for that sentiment and all logic gets drowned out by people being Very Opinionated about something they probably haven’t even read. The internet is so full of extremes and people rarely want to expend the effort of examining nuance.

        Anyway, I’m enjoying reading the comments here and will be very curious to read your thoughts on this book when you’ve read it!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Man, I wish I lived closer! It’s like an hour and a half ride for me, so finding the time becomes an issue. You are so right that there really are two types of reviewers, and it is the latter that are truly causing the issue here. I am totally okay with the other people who take issue with something they took the time to read, and explain their points in a civil discussion. I feel like you hit the nail on the head with the echo chamber comment. That’s what I feel like Goodreads is sometimes, and it’s kind of distressing, especially when that echo decides to try and cut down a debut author before she’s even had a chance to find a real audience.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s crazy how unexpectedly big Vermont becomes when you’re trying to go somewhere in a different part of the state. Like what the hell, it usually feels like this place is 10 square feet!! That’s a bummer you don’t live closer! Bear Pond is my favorite bookstore, and they’re pretty active with hosting author events like this.

        Agreed completely. I also started noticing this more and more as more people started adding me on Goodreads – I used to see random statuses about the ‘drama’ on that site and think ‘what are they talking about??’ but it’s been creeping onto my dash a lot more lately and it’s so frustrating. The echo chamber thing is absolutely unfair and can have such disastrous consequences – I mean, look at something like Carve the Mark, that’s obviously still been a massive bestseller because V Roth could publish literally anything and it’ll become a bestseller, but if she had been a debut author, that would have been the end of her career. We definitely owe authors the courtesy of at least giving them the benefit of the doubt – or maybe we don’t ‘owe’ it to them, but it’s still the kind thing to do.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Haha that’s so true! I’ve never even heard of Bear Pond Bookstore before your earlier comment. 😦 I’ll have to make a point of checking them out if I’m ever in the area. And yeah, the drama on goodreads becomes so much more apparent the more your friends group expands. Suddenly, it’s everwhere. I so agree with your last point. We should at least give them the benefit of the doubt. I would hope we’re mature enough to do that.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh, I’m so glad you wrote this. I totally agree with you!

    I remembered the drama surrounding Zenith (Part 1) when it came out as an ebook last year.
    Some readers gave it a low rating, and that’s fine because they’ve read it and they explained why they didn’t like it in their review. But there are some who rated the ebook without reading because it was a book written by a booktuber (or because they are influenced by others’ opinions).

    That really really annoys me because I most of the time depends on those ratings when I want to buy a book. Since I have a limited budget, I usually have to choose carefully from my list of to-buy-books and the ratings help me prioritize.

    Anyways, great post! I’m reblogging this 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Erucchii, and go ahead and reblog!! I rememeber reading the reviews for Zenith last year too. I’m totally fine with the low ratings for the book on the basis of it perhaps not being written very well – but I agree that I took issue with the people giving it a low rating just because Sasha Alsberg was the author. She was a creative writer major in college at the time – so she probably knows her stuff! I also prioritize my readings based on ratings, so I get similarly annoyed!

      Like

  11. AH I LOVED THIS! ❤

    I just don’t like this whole witch hunt trend. At all. I LOVE diversity, and I think it’s wonderful to have more of it in books, but this whole “calling out problematic books” is getting on my nerves.

    I was never interested in Carve the Mark and The Black Witch in the first place, but All the Crooked Saints and its treatment annoyed me. People were already saying the book was racist…from a synopsis. Like, come on. And then those people were like, “Well, we all judge books by their synopsis! You wouldn’t read a book if it had a love triangle in it if you don’t like them!” Except claiming racism isn’t equal to not liking love triangles…

    I just don’t like it when people rate books if they haven’t read them. Ever. No matter positive or negative. I wish Goodreads just closed ratings until publication date or something.

    And I agree about people taking down their ratings after it gets heat! SO ANNOYING. How can I trust you if I know you’re wishy-washy?

    But, anyway, great post! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Mikaela! I hate this trend too. It’s been eating at me for awhile so I really felt like I had to say something. Another comment in this post points out the word “problematic” is sort of becoming an annoying buzzword that people use to witchhunt certain things. That’s when I have a problem with it. I agree that when I saw people slamming All The Crooked Saints, I took issue as well. It was so overboard that people claimed it was racist imo. I mean, are authors not allowed to write about any characters that aren’t entirely within their own race, gender and sexual orientation anymore? It feels a lot like censorship to me. Like we’re walking a really fine line here by trying to slam people who are telling these stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I agree; I’ve gotten so tired of the word “problematic.” It’s gotten to the point where I just roll my eyes whenever it’s used at this point because it’s just SO OVERUSED. And nine times out of ten, not even applied correctly. 😂

        But, yes, I take issue with that as well! The whole “stay in your lane” ideology really is dividing more than bringing anyone together. Just like I don’t agree that someone can’t comment on another issue because of who they are. If that were true, then I should be even more annoyed than I already am as a black girl when I see white people making all these Twitter rants about race when they’re white…and then all their white friends agree. 😬

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi, I’m a “relatively” new blogger and reviewer (although an avid reader my whole life) and holy shit! I must be living under a rock or something because I was totally unaware of this problem! Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I wasn’t even aware you could leave ratings before a book was released. I’ll definitely look out for this and look forward to your review of THE BLACK WITCH, thanks. Trisy

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I like this post and will also reblog. I’ve learned to avoid mass hysteria like this one. I try to read books for myself before making judgments. I read reviews by people whose opinion I value and trust as opposed to random ramblings by an angry mob.
    Thanks for addressing this issue as this topic needs to be discussed more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your comment! I’m still training myself to recognize when people are engaging in these sort of brigades against authors and particular books so I can read them for myself and make up my own mind. It really is a mob mentality and I’m heartened to see so many people commenting tonight who get that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Honestly, I’ve fallen prey to that myself as a minority. I’ve had GR friends message me about a particularly offensive book and calls for boycotting the author. After reading it for myself, I found that book not really offensive and the author’s words taken out of context. So I’ve learned not to jump on the bandwagon.

        I have also unfollowed many blogs as I have noticed an unusual amount of effusive praise to certain popular authors especially when the bloggers received ARCs. So I’m picky about whom I follow and whose opinion I take to heart.

        People are wielding their powers on Goodreads like Conan wields his sword. 😳

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I am becoming more and more picky about who I follow too. I ended up unfollowing a LOT of the major booktubers out there because I felt like they were being really disingenuous with their reviews. I’m fairly certain that a lot of them are sponsored reviewers and don’t disclose it to their audiences, and then they turn around and try and jump off of books that they originally praised when they realize that their audiences don’t like them. It’s pretty annoying because it’s not being truthful.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. Where is the time when people just used to *enjoy* books and *not* murder it on GoodReads or anywhere! We’ve seen this problem too – this resorted to us reading books that are 3 stars and we don’t want it to go lower (especially if you yourself have not read it)! For example Twilight, we heard bad stuff about that (who hasn’t??), we watched the films but did not read the book – so we can say the movies are bad but not officially the book! We may not read it (very unlikely really – we have other books to read) but we did NOT rate it!! Even though we kinda know what happens, seen extracts and discussions etc – we have not, cannot and will not rate it as we have NOT read the book with an open mind. Books are for imagination people!! – if you’re reading fiction, expect it to have real concepts but should also remember it’s all made up! It’s scary how people can follow so blindly and change their mind to save themselves – the people who write the harsh reviews should also be a bit kinder! Don’t say what you won’t say to someone’s face! And if you would (even though it may be harsh – eg. Completely dissing a whole company and a writer) then the reason you don’t like a book, for example racism (?) can’t be worse than what your doing which is being a bad human being by assuming things (unless you’ve met said author and they’re truly bad etc)! If you have a bad review (means you’ve read the thing) do it professionally – like NOT RUIN MULTIPLE LIVES! If you haven’t read book, could write opinion BUT not mark it as a review and shouldn’t rate it! Sorry for such a long comment – to be honest we could’ve said/explained more! But you probs have a lot of comments to read….sorry 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hear, hear! What a great example with Twilight. We may have a fairly great idea of how terrible the idea is, but I’ve never gone out of my way to rate the book poorly – because I’ve never read it either! It’s not fair to brigade things without actually putting the time and effort in to read them and establish your own opinion! I wish more people understood that.

      I totally think that people need to give thematic content in fiction a break. It’s called fiction for a reason. It’s censorship to try and tell an author that they can’t write about certain themes because a person might not want to hear about it. I also am with you about bad reviews that are written to hurt the author’s feelings really upset me. There’s no calling for it.

      Thank you for your comment!! It was much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally!!Fictional books, authors and companies need a break! Reading is supposed to be fun to all – it shouldn’t be supressed with rules that us readers made! We’re gonna stop now or we will go on forever…😅

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I really enjoyed your post. I got it as an email from James J. Cudney IV’s blog, this-is-my-truth-now. What is the point in reviewing anything that you haven’t read. That has to be the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. I know that some reviewers go after a particular author, just to wreck them; without actually reading the book. In my opinion, this is a Hate Crime, that should be treated accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I m still fairly new to blogging world and I don’t stay in the loop as much as others. I always seem to hear about the book drama after most of it has happened. If someone doesn’t want to support an author that is their business. But I don’t think people should be rating books they have not even picked up, I personally don’t even rate books I DNF.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. One of the most real and best posts I’ve seen in a while. Honestly, I didn’t even know people rated when they haven’t read a book…since that makes NO sense. I’m really going to have to be more careful now when I look at the ratings of books…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s sad because sometimes if I am deciding between two or three books at a store, I sometimes check the Goodread stats…I honestly never considered people rate things they don’t read; heck, I haven’t rated some books because I read them as a child and need to reread them first! I’m definitely going to be more careful. On a more optimistic note, that’s absolutely amazing about meeting the author and having her sign the book!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It was definitely a small-world sort of moment. I’ve been thinking about how unfairly her debut book has been treated for the last couple of weeks, so happening upon a book signing she was holding was pretty funny. I took it as a sign I had to read it for myself.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. It’s great that you brought this up Bentley! I noticed this going on with another book (I don’t even remember which one…) and was astonished to read what the original reviewer wrote. I agree everyone should be allowed their opinions but there is an implicit responsibility when you have a large following not to ruin the blood, sweat and tears of someone’s efforts. It would be like someone coming into your work and having not liked your efforts and plastering it all over the web what a horrible worker you are and then using their logic to support it. It could potentially ruin a life and reminds me strongly of cyber bullying that is seen in schools and causes suicide attempts, etc all the time. Yes, have your opinion and share it but there is a limit to the amount of personal attacking that should go on. For example, someone is not racist just because they talk about race. Otherwise Oprah and other influential people would need to be labeled as such as well.

    Such a great discussion to bring up… And what a sign that you met Laurie Forest! Looking forward to your review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dani! I absolutely agree with you that reviewers who have thousands upon thousands of followers have a responsibility to their readers to make sure they understand – their views are only an opinion. I never let one review sway me anyway. There have been loads of books I’ve loved that the biggest reviews have hated, and vice versa. I agree with you too that in a lot of ways it feels like cyberbullying – except that this time we’re allowing it to happen to authors who write the books we love to read! It blows my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I completely agree with everything you have said in this! It really is well written. I think we all just need to take a step back. If someone doesn’t want to read the book, totally fine, but don’t preemptively rate it. It’s just so harmful, like you said. Sometimes the reading community just gets so in a tizzy that it just drives me nuts.
    I am personally one of those people that reads the book because of the controversy. I like to see what gets people all bothered. I feel like I can’t fully judge a book until I have read it. And I have found some books that I know a lot of people have problems with that I love, like Carve the Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. You’ve read my mind! Thank you for this post. 🙂 I first caught wind of this trend after seeing some bloggers posting screenshots of positive reviews for The Black Witch along with some unkind names on twitter. I was surprised at first, and over the last week gotten progressively more annoyed as more books started showing up on my feed with reviews linking to live tweet reviews that seemed to take several books out of context trying to stir up more controversy. It blows my mind.

    The more I read, the more it makes me want to read the book; Not only to see what the fuss is about but also to support the author. After reading a few interviews by her and seeing her reach out to other authors getting attacked she seems like a genuinely nice person, and I feel awful that she’s being targeted.

    The one highlight is that any other source I’ve seen that has read and written full reviews of the book, whether it be from bloggers or more professional publications, have all generally been positive.

    I look forward to your review and seeing where all of this goes. I hope that the reading community can really take a good hard look at itself after some more time has passed and folks can cool off. It’s sad to see books and reviewers get attacked for straying from the herd.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jamie! That is crazy to me that the people writing positive reviews of TBW were being shamed on Twitter. I missed out on that, and I’m really glad that I did, or this post might have ended up being even more passionate.

      I think you’re totally right that many of these reviews completely take certain aspects of books out of context – and I think in a lot of ways they are purposefully trying to drum up drama in order to boost views to their feed. That’s really distressing in my opinion. It’s disingenous to the people who follow them, and it has begun to create this atmosphere where people go out hunting for books that they think people would and should hate, so it’s becoming more frequent.

      And I also felt compelled to pick up this book to support the author. Laurie Forest is a debut author, and she deserves a chance at finding an audience. I’d imagine many people have been turned off from her book after seeing the low average review score on Goodreads.

      Like

  21. Reblogged this on splashesintobooks and commented:
    I hadn’t come across this until this post alerted me to it. Personally think it is so wrong. If friends highlight aspects of a book which I don’t like, I’m likely to comment on their review but would never dream of rating the book without reading it to see if I agreed with them. To me, that’s fairer than rating something you haven’t read. Maybe Goodreads should be more proactive in these scenarios and ignore/delete such ratings but allow the comments? Controversial and thought provoking. See what you think!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve reblogged on Splashes Into Books this with my comment:

    I hadn’t come across this until this post alerted me to it. Personally think it is so wrong. If friends highlight aspects of a book which I don’t like, I’m likely to comment on their review but would never dream of rating the book without reading it to see if I agreed with them. To me, that’s fairer than rating something you haven’t read. Maybe Goodreads should be more proactive in these scenarios and ignore/delete such ratings but allow the comments? Controversial and thought provoking. See what you think!

    Should you have any objections I’ll happily delete it.

    Like

  23. I do have respect and appreciation for this post. While I agree with people that publishing needs to do better at times and that books can be harmful, and that should be talked about, i’ve seen people go too far as well. Sometimes people legitimately see things in a book differently and that’s ok. Sometimes people miss things or misinterpret things.

    I am all for reading critically and talking about things in books, but just because someone else read something and hated it doesn’t always mean it’s a bad book where it and the author should be trashed. And then the hive-mind of rating things that you haven’t actually read. I’ve only done this once but it was rating a book 5 stars because people literally tanked a book that isn’t even out yet (will be in 2 days) seemingly just because they are biphobic. I plan on reading the book asap and giving it a proper review or I wouldn’t have done to try and off-set all the biphobic hatred. I would never rate a book badly that I haven’t read and if I rate a book I haven’t read it’s going to be over something like that, where it seems people just hate people different then them and I plan on giving it a proper review as soon as I can. Not that that’s perfect either, it’s just in this case i’m bisexual and it really really irks me that people can be so full of hate and having someone else’s life story/experience told.

    There are times where I hear specific things about a book that will make me go “nope, not reading that” and I put it on a special shelf on my goodreads so I can remember later I opted not to read that book even if I forget why, but I won’t rate it.

    I guess i’m somewhere in the middle. I sometimes feel like neither side is listening to the other and both sides can have their points but also go too far with things. People get hurt over and over again so they lash out, and then look bad to others who don’t bother listening to why they are doing that, to why they are so hurt and simply don’t seem to care. If people could just have real conversations about things I think it would be better, but people often don’t seem to want to do that and say “if you don’t think exactly like me and follow me, you’re wrong and a bad person!” and it’s just UGH to say the least.

    Not sure how much sense I made there…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you wickedjr89! I’m with you, I’d never rate a book badly just because of something I heard through the grapevine. Like you said, people interpret things different. Plus, a lot of people miss or overlook specific things that give moments context. In particular, they appear to have missed out on the fact that TBW is about overcoming racist beliefs, not perpetuating racism on other people. What book were you talking about with the bisexual character that has been rated poorly?

      Like

      1. Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. It had dipped to 2.something from a ton of people 1 starring it without reading it because the synopsis wasn’t worded that great. The author has since had the synopsis changed (and I don’t believe authors even write the synopsis’s from what i’ve heard) and now it’s 3.14 with over 600 ratings and it isn’t even out yet (there are others that 5 starred it too after seeing all the 1 stars over it. I wouldn’t have even done that though if I wasn’t planning on reading it.). I’ve heard from a couple people who did get ARCs of it though that loved it and said it wasn’t what people thought it was from the original synopsis.

        I’ve cringed over synopsis’s before too, but then read a book with a cringe-worthy synopsis that wasn’t at all what the synopsis made it out to be. So judging a book based on a synopsis just doesn’t seem fair.

        Liked by 1 person

  24. Great post, Bentley! I’m actually so pleased you wrote this 🙂

    A Goodreads friend recently added The Black Witch to their wish list. I loved the cover, so clicked on it to see what it was about. I then spent ages reading and feeling shocked by the low reviews the book had received.

    It felt like the author was being bullied and I couldn’t understand the people who hadn’t even read it adding low ratings and links to other people’s reviews. This behaviour makes no sense to me. It’s nasty and cruel 😦

    I use Goodreads to keep track of what I’ve read and wish to read. I also add lots of books through other friends on there having loved a book they’ve just read. With The Black Witch it seems people are actually excited about reading a book their Goodreads friends have hated, just so they can rate it 1 star too. To me this is crazy behaviour I will never understand and is not the way I choose to live my life.

    Goodreads should be about spreading the love of books, not hate. It’s such a shame this kind of thing happens on there. It really saddens me 😦

    I enjoy reading books that challenge my beliefs. Controversial and thought provoking books make you think and consider your own life and the world we all live in. I think it would be very sad if authors felt too afraid to express controversial views in their novels. I feel it would make the reading world a boring place.

    I cannot comment on The Black Witch, as I’ve not read it. I love the cover and the title, ano have an interest in witchcraft (historical), so this book may be a bit too fantasy and YA for me. However, based on this blog post your review of this book is one I will trust and I thoroughly look forward to finding out what you think of it when you do read it 🙂 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jules! I had a similar experience with TBW. I was drawn in by the cover, and then totally shocked to realize that there was so much drama surrounding it in the Goodreads community. I definitely feel like the author was being bullied. And the editor, when I checked out the reviews for Zenith and saw many of the same people rating that low because it has the same editor as TBW. You’re right – it is cruel.

      I fell in love with Goodreads because it promoted an atmosphere that made people want to read, and to talk about reading. I feel like it sort of has been subverted by a strange new attitude, particularly within the YA community on Goodreads, to target authors and particular stories and attack them. I think it stems from the fact that no one has made it clear to the YA community that it’s okay that authors tell these stories and include thematic content about overcoming racism. We can’t censor these themes or ideas because once that happens we’re on a dangerous path to the censorship of a whole lot more. You’re totally right that we’re in for a world of bland characters and stories lacking diversity if we keep this behavior up.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Okay I actually never noticed this because I have an intimate little circle on Goodreads, but now that you’ve brought it to my attention I agree with your discussion. It seems unfair to rate a book before you read it based on what other people think. Not everybody has the same thoughts or opinions so a book that someone might hate could be a book you love. Also, it screws over potential readers who see the low score and skip over it without bothering to read the ratings and learn that most of them are from people who haven’t read the book yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I never noticed it either until recent months when my blog started growing and I ended up expanding my friends list quite a bit on Goodreads. Now the drama is mostly unavoidable and frequent. I also worry about the readers who choose their next read based on the average review score. So many of them will be turned off from books like TBW because of those many unfair ratings.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi!

    This is totally a pet peeve for me – rating books you haven’t read. I totally agree with your post. When readers are ‘picking’ on an author in this way, whether they’ve read the book or not, it’s tantamount to bullying. Terrible and childish way to behave. If you wouldn’t do it offline, (maybe they would) why do it online? Manners don’t cost a thing.

    Now I want to read Black Witch mainly because of the controversy surrounding it, in order to make up my own mind. So, these negative readers, may have just done the author a favour, and made her book more popular. After all, negative press often sells a book. Look at all the haters 50 Shades had – and how well that sold…

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your opinion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment!! ❤ I agree with you – it's cyberbullying for sure. And you're totally right, they would never dream of confronting an author like Laurie Forest in person and claiming that she's a racist to her face. These people hide behind their keyboards and feel empowered to treat a debut author like crap, which is so unfair. I hope you're right – that the negative press the book has gotten in the reading community might actually drive more people to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. What a great, thought provoking post! My initial response was the same as pretty much everyone else i.e. a review is meant to be based on your personal thoughts and feelings to a book/film/whatever and how can you have a credible opinion if you haven’t engaged with the actual content? But then I started thinking about what I would do if I heard about a book that was promoting something I found abhorrent – how would I voice my opinion? I don’t want to promote the book (for example) by buying it and I want to let people know that there may be issues with the book – would I be justified in leaving a 1 star review? I know that a site such as good reads is big enough for publishers to take notice of, so maybe that’s the most effective way of getting the message across? I would never do it myself but maybe that’s why people do leave this type of feedback? Also, I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong to change your mind about a book. It’s easy not to spot racism/sexism/homophobia etc. if you’re coming from a position of privilege and if someone points it out to you then I would hope that would at least make you reconsider your original reaction. Yes, I agree that the reviewer who did this most likely didn’t want their name to get dragged into the debate so changed their mind to protect their own reputation but if handled in the right way I don’t necessarily have a problem with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Lucinda! I think you’re right, that a lot of people engaging in the one-star rating do so in an attmept to send a message directly to the publishing company – but I think that there’s probably healthier and more cohesive ways of doing that than trying to implode a debut author’s career. I also take real offense at the fact that many of those 1star reviews attribute their issues with what they’ve *heard* about that book to the author being racist, which is a totally unfair correlation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, especially as the author has no comeback. I guess the only positive is that most people will disregard “reviews” from people who haven’t actually read the book!

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Wonderful post that I completely agree with! I actually won a signed copy of Blackwitch and plan to read it over the summer! (I can’t commit to a 500 page book with school right now 😬)
    About rating books before reading them, I completely agree with you. It’s terrible that people whose dreams have come true by getting their hard work published are torn down by people unwilling to try it, it’s a shame in artistic community. Personally, I won’t always rate books I DNF since I sometimes feel I didn’t get the entirety of the book and am not able to give a just rating.
    Love this review!

    Like

  29. Thank you for this very insightful article, Bentley! I was also suspicious when I saw Ben’s sudden change of opinion. :3 From experience, books that are infamous sometimes don’t deserve the hate they’re receiving. I read “Carve the Mark” and “The Traitor’s Kiss,” and I actually enjoyed them. I loved the way you presented and explained your thoughts/arguments. Keep up the great work! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Josh! 🙂 ❤

      To be quite honest, if you really pay attention a LOT of the major Booktubers do this sort of thing that Ben did a lot. When Carve the Mark came out, Jessie the Reader and Riley whatever-her-name-is both ended up retracting their original (sponsored) reviews and posting negative reviews once they realized that the community found the book problematic. I take real issue with those reviewers for rescinding their original opinion just to go with the flow of the community.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha you had me LOL at “whatever-her-name-is”! xD You were right when you said they were only afraid of tarnishing their reputation. It’s weird that they didn’t find the book problematic the first time they read it. Looking at the bright side, controversy ironically makes books more popular. :p

        Liked by 1 person

  30. Love this post! Especially what you said about the hive-mentality. I think people these days are just waiting to get offended and they jump on the train without really investigating the real issue. As a reviewer, I feel my responsibility is to the readers so I will never rate a book without reading it first (it makes me just as angry to see people rate a book 5 stars without reading it). I don’t even like to rate books I DNF because I know there’s a possibility that it does actually get better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Stephanie ❤

      I definitely agree with you, the people engaging in this sort of brigading are generally the sort that are waiting for the next big thing they're going to be offended by. I'm with you, I would never rate a book positively or negatively if I hadn't read it.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Fantastic post! I really don’t understand how anyone can rate a book before they’re read it, especially trashing it like this. I’ve seen very amusing ratings and reviews for readers who’ve been waiting years for a sequel to a book but it was all very light hearted. Goodreads really does need to sort this out but I’ve know idea how!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Hi Bentley, I totally agree with you! I wrote some weeks ago a post about the power of reviews (title” Long vs Short, thick vs thin… what’s your preference or does size matter in reviews LOL) and what you should and should not write in a review.

    My reaction about your post and reviews in general:

    First here: don’t voice an opinion if you have not read the book yet. It’s lying;

    Second about your post: be honest. You’re entitled to your opinion. It’s your own. Everyone has his/her own personal taste and that’s OK;

    Third: never lie but be respectful. The authors have put long hours in their work and deserve your respect;

    Fourth: get a life! This is only books, not the end of the world, not a war nor… Truly don’t these people have better things to do than bash others?

    Now I say bash but writing extremely good reviews when you barely loved the book is also a no go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for contributing to the discussion. 🙂 I’ll have to go check out your blog post later tonight! I love your list though and think it’s a very important one for the community at large to keep in mind. My personal favorite is to be respectful. Even if you don’t like a book, an author put hours of work into that thing, and oftentimes editors and publishing companies did as well.

      Like

  33. Thank you – it had to be said!

    I tired LONG ago of vendetta and/or non-read reviews. There is nothing positive about them. They only serve to negatively impact a book – which is probably the goal – and possibly rob someone of a good reading experience.

    With a nod to “everyone having the right to blah, blah, blah…” I would remind those with large followings those rights come with a responsibility and accountability. For whatever reason, their opinions have enough “value” with their followers to influence opinions and guide actions. Such “power” should be used with wisdom and (hopefully) not malice.

    As for someone changing a review after reading someone else’s? Just cements the fact thinking for one’s self is not in fashion.

    Reviews – positive or negative – CAN be helpful. But no matter how many sites or readers we follow, reading is still a personal EXPERIENCE and should be treated as such.

    Enjoyed the post! 😉👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for joining in the conversation Felicia! You hit the nail on the head. The 1-star, non-read reviews serve no other purpose than to maliciously skew the average ratings for new books, which is so unfair. It also sets a really disturbing precedence. Honestly, I see this happen the most within the YA community, and as these teens and young adults grow up and start reading fiction lit and books written for adults, are they going to do the same thing to those books as well??

      I think you’re so right that those people with huge followings definitely have a responsibility to their followers to remain repsectful, and to discourage brigading/witchhunting against authors. I feel like too many people on goodreads accept their favorite reviewer’s opinion at total face value. I still read other people’s reviews, but I would never rely on their review to make up my mind for me. I will always check it out for myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. I’m not a YA follower, Bentley, but I can tell you I’ve personally left reading groups and street teams because of the “mob mentality” created by AUTHORS. One author went as far to say in-group they expected followers to “back them up” and act accordingly. I’d had enough.

    If teens and young adults are getting it wrong, could it be they’re following the lead of adults?

    The problem with trolls is no matter who/what their target is, they’re still faceless, ageless, raceless, and sexless… and that’s part of the motivation. However, at some point down the road… karma is a real thing! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I’ve been blogging six years and I hate to say it, but I think that this recent trend of calling out people and sending Twitter mobs after them for reading, rating, or liking certain books has silenced the book blog community in the past year. There’s no way for me to substantiate my feeling, but my feed seems so unusually empty over the past months and I see a large number of bloggers apologizing for having read books, for having written about books, or for daring to think that they might have wanted to read a book before a random Twitter user helpfully informed them that to do so would result in them being harassed off the Internet.

    I am saddened, too, that our conversations about diversity or potential problematic parts of books often don’t seem to be leading somewhere productive. I think that everyone is always in a process of learning. I know that sometimes people accidentally write something that sounds insensitive when in fact that was not what they meant to say at all. I know some people have not been exposed to the types of conversations about diversity and privilege that others have, so they may not initially be aware that a show or a book they enjoy has been found problematic by others. These are opportunities for everyone to have a discussion, to learn from each other, and to try to do better next time.

    The conversation around certain books is starting to sound a lot like censorship. It’s encouraging people not to do their own research and to see what a text says in context, but rather to take the word of someone without credentials on the Internet. It’s also making people afraid to read in case they accidentally like the “wrong” types of books. These are things that book bloggers should be fighting against, not promoting. And yet, ironically, every time the book blogging community calls for everyone to ban a certain book, it’s almost always a book I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. It’s just getting more exposure than it ever would have in the first place.

    Great post. I must say, I think it’s brave of you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Krysta, thanks for contributing your perspective as someone who has been blogging for a lot longer than I have. That’s really distressing that you’ve noticed a drop off in people in the community in general, because they don’t feel comfortable sharing honest opinions anymore. I apologized at the end of my post, and probably shouldn’t have. Honestly, I’m not really sorry for the opinion I hold, but I do still feel bad if I upset any friends I’ve made in the time I’ve been blogging.

      I completely agree with you that the conversation seems to be turning towards censorship. A lot of the complaints in general are from people who seem to be outraged that an author dared create a fantasy world or story that tackles tough themes. It’s ridiculous. Would we have called JK Rowling a racist on Twitter had Harry Potter been published last year instead of decades ago? You’re right too that the attitude right now actively seems to be discouraging people from finding things out for themselves. I think the problem stems from people treating the biggest reviewers on Goodreads as though they are the end-all decision making figures in the book community. We should still use their reviews as a starting point to prepare ourselves, but do the reading and decide for ourselves.

      Like

      1. I read your apology at the end as a good-faith effort to let your readers know that the fact that you hold an opinion doesn’t mean you are trying to hurt them. It’s sad that we need to let people know that wanting to read books and make informed decisions isn’t meant to be a hurtful action, but perhaps necessary in the environment we’re in. I think this is different from what I frequently see–bloggers (often female teenage bloggers) either furiously backpedaling when they realize they might be about to become the target of a Twitter mob or simply afraid in general that they will become the target of a Twitter mob because they missed the latest memo that they weren’t supposed to like a certain book.

        And it is easy to miss these memos. Not everyone follows book Twitter avidly and that’s where these conversations tend to take place. I’ve seen people confused that Carve the Mark wasn’t pulled when people on Twitter complained. Roth is a best-selling author and her latest book was translated into something like 33 languages before publication. The publishers weren’t going to have her redo the whole thing and have 33 translations redone because a small group of Twitter users heard from someone else that the book is problematic. Compared to the millions of people who will read the book because they love Roth, book Twitter is arguably not a motivating force in the publishing world. I think it only worked for The Continent because that was by a debut author. Which is perhaps pertinent to your original post–it’s the people trying to break into the industry who are most vulnerable to Goodreads ratings and Twitter conversations hurting their sales and ruining their careers.

        I think that if Rowling had published today, she would have faced a lot of criticism. Her books were considered diverse and open-minded for the 90s but today they’d be considered problematic because the main characters are all presumably white and because of other issues such as suggesting that Lupin’s condition is comparable to AIDS victims. There is a long literary tradition of comparing the Other to literal monsters to make a point about how we perceive and treat people who are different, but I don’t think that readers support this kind of representation anymore. It’s also perhaps worth noting that Rowling received much criticism for appropriating Native American culture in her descriptions of magic in the U.S. on Pottermore. But in the end I think she’s simply too big for online criticism to topple. Most of her fans probably never saw these criticisms circulated.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree wholeheartedly with everything that you’ve said. I’ve seen those behaviors from bloggers in the book community far too often, and I’m still relatively new! It seems like every month or so there’s someone presenting what appears to be a disingenous or watered down opinion, or one with the caveat apology before or afterwards to cool the tempers of the masses that they think they’re going to insult. It’s pretty sad that we have to resort to that in order to avoid being the object of the latest twitter brigade.

        I love your point about Veronica Roth’s latest book. It’s easy in the echo chamber of Twitter and Goodreads to believe that those brigads/witchhunts against her book are actually accomplishing something, but in her case she has a huge fan following outside those platforms that will read and enjoy the book regardless. It’s definitely the debut authors I worry about. Laurie Foster is brand new, and trying to destroy her book before it’s even out of the gate is a new low for those people looking to incite drama, in my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

  36. Fantastic post!

    TBW doesn’t interest me because it’s just not a genre I read and so I didn’t pay it much mind, but I saw a lot about the book a few weeks ago on Twitter and bloggers on Tumblr who were literally organizing people to boycott the publisher, leave negative comments, etc., and it shocked me. We live in a world of differences. Political, social, religious, personal and so forth. Some of those differences people don’t understand. Some of those differences are just that. Differences. Differences of opinion, thought or belief.

    I think the inability of people to understand that everything is not about them and their perceived injustices is the hardest to deal with. So a reader disagrees with a book. Great, that’s your opinion and right, so let’s have a discussion, rather than try and censor or destroy that with which you don’t agree. It doesn’t work that way. And, in the same line of thinking, so an author gets a negative review. It happens. Not every one will love and adore your book the way that you do. So take it as constructive criticism and move on. Don’t try and take down a reviewer or send your friends to comment on her blog and tell her why her review was wrong.

    FWIW, honest well written negative reviews can carry more weight than shallow 5 star reviews. Rather than trash a book with unread 1 star ratings, I wish people would read it for themselves and then if they still hate it, write a thoughtful review explaining why. More people would pay attention and we’d see actual discussion rather than witch hunts.

    The internet is a great thing, but it gives us a level of anonymity that hasn’t made us a kinder people on social media.

    Great thoughts and great comments.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bravo! I loved your comment, especially the bit about how perceived injustices are not always what they seem, and they’re definitely not enough to warrant trying to censor a book/author or publishing company because you felt personally harmed by the content of a book. That’s not fair to all the people involved who worked hard to put that book out into the world. I think you’re totally right that social media has its benefits, but the people who use it as a tool to hide behind nasty behaviors often ruin it for the lot of us.

      Like

  37. I don’t understand this either! Read the dang book!! If you don’t like what an author has to say or don’t want to read a particular topic then for God’s sake don’t! No one is forcing an opinion (or book) upon you. The best bet here is just to say nothing if you can’t share an educated opinion on a particular book. Shaming an author / editor / publisher is dumb – you’re asking for censorship and we all know that is’t what this society needs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said Lisa! The thing I don’t get is that the same people are the ones who clamor for more diversity in story telling. But the second that the story doesn’t match exactly how they perceive the world or want to see it, they feign moral outrage and call for the cessation of any future attempts. It’s definitely walking that fine line towards censorship and the thing these people don’t get is that when they tell an author to stick to writing for one particular race/gender/sexual orientation, they are in for extremely dry stories in the future, completely lacking in diversity at all.

      Like

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