Another inevitability of reviewing books is that the time will come when you read a book that everyone’s praising to the high hills, and by the time you’re finished reading it, you’re left with one overwhelming impression:
Maybe you found the characters flat, the dialogue atrocious, plot holes you could drop a cartoon piano through. You start to wonder if maybe you got your hands on some secret pre-edited copy and you’re actually reading something completely different from everyone around you. You can’t imagine how what you’re reading is actually being so highly praised by so many people.
Or maybe it’s the other way, and people are generally giving a book negative reviews but you actually enjoyed it. Where people are saying the plot was trite and the characters shallow, you actually found it to be fun and engaging.
So what do you do about it? You feel weird writing a review that’s so drastically different from the majority or all the other reviews. Are people going to send you hate mail over this, tell you that clearly you’re reading the book wrong if you think the way you do? Are people even going to read it if it doesn’t match popular opinion, skipping right over it when they see that it doesn’t say what everyone else is saying?
Well, maybe. It happens. But that doesn’t mean your review shouldn’t be written.
Divergent reviews can actually be really beneficial. From the standpoint of the reader, if everyone’s saying the same thing about a book, then one review is pretty much exactly like all the others. No diversity, no differing opinions, no real need to pay any more attention because you’ve already got the answer. A review that differs from the norm, though, can catch attention and bring a different perspective, one that may ultimately may sway a potential reader in one direction or another.
It’s an oft-quoted thing that when a book has nothing, absolutely nothing but good reviews, something’s a bit suspect. The same isn’t often said about universally negative reviews, but it makes sense that the same could hold true. A book can’t appeal to everyone, and chances are it can’t appeal to absolutely no one, either. Somebody out there likely has the same reading tastes as you, and if you don’t say something about your opinions on the matter, then how are they going to get a better idea of whether they’ll enjoy a book or not?
This is something that gets overlooked in reviewing a lot, I find. A lot of us get it into our heads that we’re reviewing a book for 2 groups of people: ourselves (because we read the book and have opinions on it), and the author (to boost publicity and sales). But there’s a third group that doesn’t get considered as often: readers. This group tends to overlap with the others, naturally, but there are people out there who read even this blog who don’t also review or write, and this blog being a relatively small one, I can only imagine how many read larger blogs. There are people who rely on reviewers for good recommendations.
So if we thought something about a book that was different from what most are saying, undoubtedly there’s somebody out there who can benefit from that opinion being stated. Maybe it’s someone who was curious about a book because they thought they’d like it but everyone else is saying it’s terrible. Maybe it’s someone who has a particular negative trigger that you addressed but nobody else did, and they’ll be thankful for your comments and your aid in avoiding potentially hurtful reading.
But aside from that, aside from any benefit your review may be able to offer and who you’re able to offer it to, it comes down to this: your opinion is your opinion. And unless you’re being paid to say a specific thing, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t say what you believe.
There may be backlash from it, depending on what you say and how you say it. That’s one of the great joys of stating what you think on the Internet, or anywhere, really.
Maybe you did miss something in the reading, something that makes a book click for you or not click where hundreds of others felt the opposite. But that doesn’t make your experience less valid than theirs just because it’s in a minority. The experiences you talk about in your reviews are yours. And if you review on a blog, that blog is your place to talk about them. Discussions are boring if everybody has the same opinion.
It can be intimidating. Or at least, it is for me, but I’m an anxious person by nature and am intimidated by going outside sometimes, so take that statement with a grain of salt. But standing up and saying, “I know you all love/hate this, but I feel the exact opposite,” takes courage, even if it is just words on a screen. It can be tempting to just let it lie, to let that one slide and not talk about it at all, to let the majority go on unchallenged and to not offer a dissenting opinion. Especially when you think that your review could mean the a sale does or doesn’t happen. Geez, do you really want to have that kind of influence over something so important?
But we do what we do because we love it, right?
The choice, ultimately, is yours. To post or not to post, that is the question. But from where I stand, I’d rather read a dissenting opinion than another instance of what everyone else is saying, regardless of what sides are taken. Dissenting opinions often bring things to light that don’t get addressed elsewhere. Maybe the characters were flat and formulaic; the fact that it bothers you and doesn’t bother others doesn’t mean that you’re wrong and they’re right. And maybe you found the fundamental idea behind the story to be very creative and interesting, and even if others say it wasn’t carried out very well, it still got you thinking and appealed to you.
A coin may land with one side facing up and so that’s all we see, but that doesn’t mean that the other side doesn’t exist. It’s still part of the coin.