Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The problem with book reviews.

I think Elanor Lawrence did a similar post on this, and I was inspired to write another one.
Read reviews for any book on goodreads or amazon, and you'll be really struck by how different different people's responses are. I've been reading reviews(for fun, heh heh) my whole life and it still shocks me. I think "Is this really the same book that they're talking about?" Some people praise and love the same aspects that other people despise. One reviewer will LOVE a character, while that same character is the bane of another reviewer's existence. A book will be devoured quickly by some readers, while others have to force themselves through the book.

The bottom line is, it all depends on where the reviewer is coming from and what the reviewer was expecting when he or she picked up the book. It also depends on a reviewer's interpretation and what he or she considers "good."  I, personally, take humor, fast paced plots, dialogue, and witty narration over character development, world building, and rich description. 

Some people have little things that turned them off books. I don't usually let things like that get in the way(Like in The Search for Wondla "futuristic" terminology. "Sneakboots"? "Jackvest"? I wanted to puke.)

Let's use Artemis Fowl and Inkheart as examples

Artemis Fowl- There are a bunch of vitriolic reviews of the book on goodreads that made me cry :((3.something rating, which is still pretty good).Also, the book's style and format were(and still are) very different from the middle grade-younger teen books on  the market today.

A lot of people were expecting the next Harry Potter when they picked  up Artemis Fowl, and honestly, most of them were disappointed. (Mostly because the two stories and protagonists were eherm, NOTHING alike. 12 year old male main character, in a story involving magic, does not Harry Potter make, people.)

Several people also felt that the main character was too negative in a story aimed at younger teens. Artemis lies, cheats, blows stuff up, etc. to get his way, and I think that's part of the complexity of the story. He does show signs of regret and at the story's climax does show that he's grown during the story.

Honestly, I think one problem is that Artemis Fowl  was pretty complex and unique for the age group it was targeted for, and people's expectations were skewed to begin with.Instead of traveling to mysterious lands, Artemis spends most of the novel seated in front of his computer in his study(my kind of protagonist).

So why did I, personally, like it? I'm used to wacky, bizarre stories with a touch of humor(I just finished two years worth of exclusively reading Star Wars books). I was never really one for the "Let's go on this fancy mysterious adventure" stories most books in that audience feature.

A lot of people enjoyed this book. I, personally, didn't. Why?

It all goes back to what I was expecting when I picked up the book. Inkheart had this really awesome premise and synopsis, but I was used to flash-bang-blow-up adventure stories, where protagonists are on the offensive.

What I was expecting(basically):
"Yay! This girl's father can make books come to life by reading out loud! But he's kidnapped by this goat bad guy! So the girl and her random friends go to rescue him. They rescue him, and he gets a stack of books and reads some explosives, weapons, an army, and a bunch of other stuff out of the book. They attack the goat guy and he dies! The End."

I'm not used to stories where there's no action until the very very end. The protagonists spend a whole lot of time creeping around, running away, being imprisoned and randomly visiting random people. Everything was very nicely fleshed out and explained. But the reason I personally didn't like it was: Remember? I will always take a fast paced plot over a fleshed-out one. I'm willing to let some questions go unanswered if it lets the plot move along better. Some people would rather have authors leave nothing out even if it makes the plot crawl like turtles through  peanut butter.

So what are your preferences for books? What about books you liked that other people hated(and vice versa)?



  1. Okay...."Goat bad guy" xDDDDDDDDDD That is EXACTLY what I thought when I read Capricorn's name for the first time.

    Great post!

  2. I agree with how some people HATE some things, while others love them. I was once reading a review for Attack of the Clones (The movie. And I had already watched it, like years ago, and just wanted to see what others thought of it) and this one person says that it was Lucas' worst film ever, Anakin and Padme don't act real, yadayadayada. O_O REALLY? WoW.

  3. I think that a lot of people have preferences for a good writing style to a good plot. They like developed characters better than a developed romance. Or the book isn't strong enough. My personal expectations aren't normally so high. I just like a good story and a sweet romance makes it even better :) This makes it so a lot of book reviews are the exact opposite of what I thought.

    I think it's a pretty awesome thing, actually. It shows that people are so different. If everyone thought the same thing about a book it'd be boring.


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