Pearls of (Almost) WisdomWriters Unite

Aaaaaaand Vomit.

Last night I got on Goodreads to do some updating of books I’ve read and books I want to read.


And, out of curiosity, I looked up some of my favorite books. Books I’ve already read and reviewed. Books that, quite frankly, make me consider giving up the writing game forever because HOW COULD I EVER COMPARE?

Two of my favorite YA novels are DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth and ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis. And to me, it’s like, nothing could ever be better than those two books. They are absolutely amazing. I closed each one and could hardly breathe with the grief of losing those characters, those worlds.

They were a part of me by the end. And waiting for the sequels to come out? TORTURE. (In fact, you may have noticed my subtle fangirl tribute to A MILLION SUNS in the sidebar.)

But anyway.

I was on Goodreads and I clicked on those two books just to see some other reviews. And in scrolling through the reviews for each one, I saw a couple one- and two-star ratings.

“WHAT?!” I shouted inside my head (so as not to wake up the bambina.)

Here are some of the things people said about ACROSS THE UNIVERSE:

“I don’t get what people are so excited about! . . . The characters stay flat throughout, and there was so much that was just completely unbelievable that I just couldn’t enjoy it.”

“I think I can divide my issues with the book into four categories: Flat Characters, Obvious Plot Twists, Science Fail, and Bad Storytelling.”


But oh, wait:




Here are some of the less flattering comments about DIVERGENT:

“…DIVERGENT aimlessly stumbled about, tripped over its own feet, and then proceeded to faceplant into the ground like a drunken frat boy at a keg party. I was not amused.”

“When I finished this book I could only think of three things: Uwe Boll, Asylum Films, and the Sy-Fy Channel. Yes, to me, it was that bad.”

“I really don’t get what the hype is about this book. The prose is so terrible!”



I thought those books were works of sheer genius. I am still thinking about both of them.

(Also, before anyone says anything about this, let me clarify that I am NOT getting onto those reviewers for what they said. They felt a certain way, and they were honest. Kudos to them for that.)

But: This is concerning to me. Because what this means is that no matter how great of a book you write–no matter how much of yourself you pour into it, no matter how many nights you lie awake trying to unravel a plot twist you’ve created, no matter how many beta readers you Shangai into reading your book or how many times you revise based on crit partner’s/agent’s suggestions or how many weeks you stay on the bestseller list or how many copies of your book sell–

Someone. Will. Hate it.


This is why I refuse to read reviews of THE CLEARING. Because for every ten that are good, I know there will be one that’s bad, and I can’t handle it.

My skin isn’t that thick. It’s just not.

22 thoughts on “Aaaaaaand Vomit.

  1. I have this conversation all the time with writer friends. It seems really scary to stumble upon a bad review–and some of them really don’t hold back when they talk about how much they didn’t like something. I don’t have a problem with people putting up bad reviews–everyone is entitled to their own opinions–but if/when I do have books out, I really hope I have the self-control to not curiously scroll through Amazon or Goodreads…

    Come to think of it, I don’t even read the bad reviews for books that are my favorites. Even that’s too much for me!

    1. I know! I take it so personally, even if it’s not my book but I love it, because I know how much of the person is in that story. It just stabs me like a knife to the heart!

  2. I read and really liked AtU; haven’t read Divergent, but I’ve heard good things.

    I think there are a few ways to approach this:

    1. Haters gonna hate. The scathing, vicious GR reviews are usually from readers who hate on EVERYTHING, and/or hold up each book to ridiculously high standards, and/or compare each book to their favourite book, then get annoyed when it’s… not their favourite book.

    2. Some bad reviews are more constructive, which is like having a beta reader get back to you too late, granted, but while painful, it could be something helpful for the author to keep in mind for future books.

    3. There’s just no connection there. There’s a YA series out right now that people RAVE about, but I just didn’t connect to it. But that’s not because the book was bad; it was because it just wasn’t for me. It’s like everyone going crazy over cherry cobbler, but I’d just rather have tiramisu, thanks. Not much of a fan for cherries.

    Just my thoughts! I imagine I’d feel a bit differently if I had a book out, though, Anne. 🙂

    1. You’re totally right–it’s unavoidable, for whatever reason. I do wish people wouldn’t just RAIL on a book and the author, though–especially when a lot of other people loved it. I don’t mind constructive negative reviews, though. I think you’re right–there is value there.

  3. I’ve read bad reviews of other books, and just go, anh, I’ll decide for myself. But now that my book is going to be out there and on the receiving end of criticism, I know that will be more than a little challenging to take. But, it’s our occupational hazard, I suppose. Everyone does have a right to their own opinions, though. I know that I don’t love every book that many others seem to love. It’s all very subjective.

    1. It is COMPLETELY subjective and that is terrifying. You just really have to sort of put up a mental block if you want to keep your sanity, I think!

  4. I just went through this but in reverse- tried to get through a series that got a lot of hype and just. couldn’t. do. it. and found myself not understanding all the five star reviews. I guess that’s what they mean about this business being so subjective. I liked Across the Universe and haven’t read Divergent yet. But it’s true, no matter what you write- not everyone is going to ‘get’ it.

  5. I’ve been so lucky that I’ve only received four and five star ratings– until today. I noticed a three star rating with a review on Goodreads. The reviewer said Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes was predictable along with a few other things. But then she ended with: she liked the story, called the writing strong and definitely read something written by me again.

    So what do I take from this?

    One, no book is for everyone. I’m astounded that people hate Harry Potter. Are they even human? But it shows me that what I see as an extraordinary series some else disagrees. My son loves the History Channel but I’d rather stare at a blank wall then watch a documentary on World War II.

    Yet what I find really amazing with reviews is that readers interpret things differently. Most of the reviews for Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes say they were always guessing yet the above reviewer called it predictable? Who’s right? They all are. Because that is THEIR truth.

    I’ve been preparing for a bad review. It’s inevitable, but can I call three stars and a recommendation to read my future books bad? I think, for ME, I have to accept that not everyone will love my books. And while that might feel like someone is insulting one of my children, I think it’s also important be able to discern whether it was a legitimate issue (that can be addressed in future books) or whether it’s personal preference.

    And God grant me the serenity to accept both.

    1. Most of mine are good too, I think, although I don’t really check them. And you’re right–it’s the reader’s truth. I just wish there was a way to write the truly perfect book that no one could find flaw with. Oh well–not gonna happen, so no point worrying about it!

  6. Kathryn took the words out of my mouth. Haters gonna hate.

    It is so hard. My book isn’t out yet but after being a weekly columnist for several newspapers for several years I know what it’s like to get bad reviews. I don’t mind if you don’t agree with me or if I’m not your “cup of tea” but it’s the people who get all MEAN and anonymous that are really hurtful.

    I’ve found that the people who are hypercritical are that way about everything. I wish I could live in a bubble and not even LOOK at reviews/feedback. The good or the bad, I wish that my ego wasn’t affected by either of them!

    1. I can’t imagine writing for a paper! I would think people’s moods would be a HUGE factor–they’re reading you for five minutes of their day instead of a week or more with a book. You are my hero!

  7. We can’t please everyone. People are just too different. But that’s a good thing, embrace it! I can’t believe you haven’t read reviews of The Clearing! Wait, yes I can. I’m still biting my nails waiting for reviews to come in on The Secret of Spruce Knoll. I’m not sure I’ll be able to read those either…

    1. I’ve read a few, but I don’t go looking for them unless someone says, “Hey, I reviewed your book! It was great! Come read my review!” Then I’ll read.

  8. I feel the same way when someone posts negatively about The Hunger Games. I just don’t get it, because I thought the series was absolutely AMAZING!

    With regards to my own work, I worry when one of my IRL or online friends reads my book(s) and then says absolutely nothing about it. I try to steer clear of reading reviews, but I swear I’m a glutton for punishment. 😉

    1. HA! Sometimes I peek, but mostly I stay away unless I know it will be a positive, or at least encouraging, review. Maybe that makes me a pansy, but it’s the truth!

  9. This is exactly the reason some of my writer friends and I have a very strict rule (that we routinely break) that goes something like this: DO NOT READ GOODREADS REVIEWS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!

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