Should I ever write a bad review?
This question has haunted me for some time now. I usually finish every book I start, but I had one book that just didn’t grab me. I won’t name it. I don’t believe it was a “bad” book, it just “wasn’t for me.” It was a thriller, by a very famous author who has been writing for a very long time and REALLY knows how to write. In fact, this book most likely achieved a level of market success that a writer like me could only dream about. The first three chapters were a prologue, and each chapter briefly and poignantly discussed a different aspect of the Nazi reign of terror prior to World War II. These were fantastic chapters, and made me anxious to read more. Once I got past the prologue, things went downhill for me. I found the book jumpy, and the characters were not well developed at all. I couldn’t finish it. The most likely reason for this was that the book was the third part of a trilogy, and I never read the first two. I didn’t know it was a trilogy until I was well into it. Probably the characters were very well developed in the earlier novels in the trilogy.
My question is should I ever write a review of a book that I didn’t like? Would it do anyone any good. On the “yes” side of the argument, words like “journalistic integrity”, “truth”, and “honesty” cross my mind. I believe it is the job of a reviewer to point out the good and the bad. Absent that, the review becomes simply a form of “free” promotion for the author.
On the other hand, I have absolutely no desire to hurt anyone. I have no delusions that my review would do any harm whatsoever to the well-established author referred to above who was guilty of nothing more than penning a novel that this insignificant reviewer did not like. Words do hurt, however, and the last thing I would ever want to do is harm an author that was publishing a novel for the first time and is very sensitive to any feedback, good or bad. My own insecurities as a reviewer come into play here as well. My personal review may not be “accurate” or “well-informed.” I may not have even read the novel with as much attention as it deserved. I have learned that writers need to have a very thick skin, but I do not want to be the one to test anyone’s skin thickness. Not yet, anyway. If I REALLY don’t like a book, I will probably not write about it here.
In the meantime, I will probably not publish a lot of completely negative reviews. I will try to focus on where the book could be improved or itemize parts of the book that didn’t work for me.