A few weeks ago, I went on an ARC frenzy and requested many eARCS through various medias and reviewed quite a few. There were some good ones and there were some pretty bad ones and I found myself in quite a conundrum: how was I supposed to review bad ARCs without deterring others to pick up the book? I thought I would share my thoughts on the question with a discussion post.
I don’t really think there’s a miracle solution to the question. The thing is that I want to be honest and not trick anyone into picking up a book that I, myself didn’t enjoy. There’s also the issue that a lot of us have different tastes and different expectations when we pick up a book. The diversity is actually wonderful and my guilty pleasure is reading bad reviews of my favourite books. It’s sometimes eye-opening. Now that’s completely fine when the book is published and no one expects anything from you. But for ARCS? Boy, that’s a problem.
I read an ARC and while there were many interesting and enjoyable elements, the writing style and the way the story carried out was just…not good. At all. I knew the author would read the review and I didn’t want to be that person who criticized their work. I know how much effort people put into writing a book and I know the struggle of getting a book published; it’s tough out there. I don’t think anyone needs someone picking thire book apart and ruining chances of persuading readers to give it a try. I say this because I am very easily influenced and swayed by reviews; I have a few reviewers who I trust with my life and I almost feel exactly the same way about a book that they do. Reviews are crucial. So what to do when there’s just a book that you didn’t like?
what I do, is that I try to balance it out. When I can feel myself strongly disliking a book, I still try to find good things about it: why did I request it? What interested me? Is there a character that makes things better? I try to find something enjoyable; It makes me feel less guilty about then saying what’s wrong. I try to phrase the sentence as to emphasize that it is my opinion and that there are issues that bothered me. When there’s something truly bad about a book I still think it’s important to mention it. I don’t mean problematic elements (that’s a talk for another day), but just elements that don’t work in terms of the story or the writing style. Criticism doesn’t have to be negative as long as it’s constructive. I try to pinpoint where it went wrong whether it be the pace, the writing style or the characters. I think we owe it to each other to be honest. The fact that I try to find good elements doesn’t mean I sugarcoat it but I still remember that there’s a human behind the author and that harsh reviews are not necessarily helpful (for ARCS I mean). Now back to the ARC I didn’t like, I sent all of my criticism to the author. I know I wasn’t harsh but I wasn’t praising them either. I was so stressed to hear back from the author but they actually told me the feedback was helpful and that they will focus on a few things I pointed out for future projects. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt to read that. I felt incredibly bad when I submitted it and I like that the author was understanding; When a book is out there, it is no longer your baby and people will love it or hate it; it’s fine, that means people care enough to feel something. So in conclusion my answer is: be kindly honest about how you feel.
What did you think? What do you do when an ARC you’re reading is bad? Or you have to review a bad book? Let me know in the comments!