Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Negative reviews, and Catching Fire
I decided not to post a review of Catching Fire today. I didn't like it very much.
I've been thinking about whether I WOULD post a review, ever since I read it back in July--before that I was sure I would, because I was sure I would like it.
And this got me thinking about the purpose of negative reviews.
It doesn't seem like most bloggers post them; I know some don't because if they don't like a book, they don't bother finishing it. There've been several ARCs in the last couple of months that I tossed aside because I wasn't enjoying them enough to finish them and they weren't "big" enough that I really wanted to read them so I could understand what everyone else was talking about.
I got started in book-blogging when I was reading all the Newberys last summer; since I also wrote short reviews of all of them, naturally some of those reviews were negative. Getting started that way may have made me feel more comfortable with posting negative (or more often, middling) reviews. But I still don't do it much, except on Goodreads, which serves a different purpose for me.
So what's the point of a negative review? Especially of Catching Fire, which you're all going to read anyway? I would, no matter how many negative reviews I read. I wanted to find out what happened. And I hoped to replicate that "Oh, I see I'm not going to be getting any sleep tonight" experience of reading The Hunger Games.
Wait, does that mean I sometimes I do write negative reviews in order to dissuade people from reading a book? That sounds awful. Okay, about ten years ago I remember writing a post to a listserv about why exactly I hated ...And Ladies of the Club and feeling very satisified when someone wrote to me and said "Thank you for ridding me of any desire I had to ever read that book." But otherwise I... don't care what you read, don't care what books you buy, am usually happy for the authors of books I dislike if other people like them (unless said book is truly offensive to me, hello ...And Ladies of the Club).
Really, I think I write negative reviews for the most part in order to have a conversation--with myself, even if no one else. It's often in the writing of a review that I'm able to really clarify my thoughts about a book. It makes me dig deeper into the book for concrete examples of what I'm trying to say. And when I read a negative review of a book I loved, it helps me see the reasons that I thought the book was so good. Either that, or it gives me a few moments of righteous indignation--if I'm of the opinion that the reviewer's dislike is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the book--and usually results in me calling my sister to complain.
I'm not sure that anyone is interested in having that conversation about Catching Fire, based on the reaction to the Entertainment Weekly review (which had some factual errors, but don't all of our reviews, from time to time? of course, we're not being published in big magazines, but you know; anyway, I thought it was pretty much spot-on otherwise), but hey, I'm around if anyone does. In exchange, you can tell me why you thought, like, A Swiftly Tilting Planet was bad.