Recently the blogging world got itself into a minor uproar. (Not entirely news, right?) As far as I understand the situation, one blogger wrote a post outlining a few of the things she personally finds annoying in reviews. Somehow, in response, people starting tweeting en-masse about their own reviewing peeves. And suddenly reviewers were in a debate about whether there is “right” way to review and whether anyone is allowed to say there is.
Realistically, we all have things we like and dislike about reviews. Because of that, I do not personally have anything against the original blog post, even though I disagree with some of her points. There are things I dislike seeing in reviews; I just don’t normally talk about them. However, I think the subsequent Twitter debate became a problem because it crossed a line between people presenting their personal opinions on the reviewing process and people telling other people they were “wrong” for some reviewing choices they’ve made. I did not follow the hashtag extensively; I have no burning interest in the subject. However, I do think one important point was never presented: there are different types of reviews.
Some bloggers try to be as objective as possible when reviewing; they try to take note of things like the pacing, whether there was character growth, whether the prose is good. Of course, many of these things are subjective, ultimately, but most people agree that they are valid topics to tackle in a review.
On the other hand, some bloggers write more personal reviews. They comment on whether they laughed, whether they thought the book was enjoyable, whether they connected with the characters, or whether they thought the characters were irritating. They chronicle their own response to the book.
Both reviewing styles are okay. I’m pretty sure Krysta and I employ both on our blog. And I trust our readers to have enough common sense to be able to tell the difference between the two. If I want to say, “This character is really stupid and it drove me crazy to read about her,” I’m allowed to say it. I’m certainly allowed to think the character is dumb and I’m definitely allowed to be frustrated by it. If I can be annoyed by real-life people, why not also fictional characters? Maybe that’s just a sign the author created a very realistic protagonist. However, I trust any blog readers to realize that the fact that I was frustrated by the character does not mean that they have to be frustrated, as well, and that I am in no way trying to imply they need to react the same way I did.
So, in the end, I think the whole “how to review properly” debate is silly. Everyone is allowed to have a personal reaction to a book. And everyone is allowed to share that reaction in whatever reviewing style they choose. Does that mean everyone is allowed to have a personal reaction to a blogger’s review, as well? Certainly. You can dislike reading gushy reviews with gifs in the way you dislike reading science fiction. However, I think there’s less of a reason to comment on how a blogger is reviewing badly. I critique books because they’re products being sold to me. I don’t go around critiquing other bloggers’ reviewing styles because most of us are hobbyists trying to enjoy a book-loving community, and I’m not really sure what I would gain by doing it. If I don’t like reviews with gifs, I just close the browser window when I run across one and find another review to read.
How do you think the book-blogging community can discuss what they like seeing in reviews in a productive way?