You know the problem I have with book review criticism? No—not that it exists, because I don’t think I’m perfect. Not that it comes so often—because we can always learn from it. The problem I have with criticism (given to myself and others) in book reviews is that it can be . . . vague.
Book reviews gone bad“This isn’t good writing.” “The plot sucked!”
“This is the worst book ever!”
Any of these sound familiar? Book reviewers, ‘splain, please. Vague comments do more than lower writers’ self-esteem; they leave us nowhere to go. There’s nothing to learn from. In my opinion, saying something isn’t “good”–and no more than that–is worse than saying nothing at all.
Didn’t like the plot? Was it too fast or too slow? Not enough twists? You didn’t care for the characters . . . were they too perfect? Too flawed? Give us something here, people! And it’s true that all criticism is in some way, subjective. But at least by being specific, we know exactly what the book reviewer didn’t like—any maybe how to fix it.
Who gives “bad” book reviews?
I don’t think professional book reviewers are generally guilty of this vagueness. They’re pretty open and detailed about what they like/don’t like in books. But I do see veteran writers doing it to newbies, which is really a shame. Talk about folks who should know better!
I see this a lot in amazon book reviews as well. And although the reviewers aren’t obligated to provide quality feedback, it would be wonderful if they did so. Not only would it be beneficial to writers, but it could assist other readers in determining if they want to explore the book or not.
I once turned in a grad school paper (on which I worked very hard) to a professor who deemed it “garbage.” Not only was this comment very hurtful, it was completely useless. It didn’t help me adjust to her expectations. Why was it garbage? What did I do wrong? What could have made it better?
So, the more detail book reviewers can give, the better writers—and readers—we will all become.
What about you guys? Do you come across this problem with book reviews as well?
(Top image by eVo photo)