More thoughts on writing book reviews

What do I do about the lurking worry my review will hurt an author’s feelings? How to be honest without sounding exaggerated, mean, fake, etc.? The best advice I was given for solving both these questions, “You can be kind without being nice.” I pair with that, who are you writing the review for? One author, numerous readers, or friends?

This is how I interpret that advice. Being kind is about telling the truth. Being nice is about saying whatever you think the person wants to hear. Being nice means you’ll still be friends and avoid awkward public situations. Being nice didn’t avoid awkward situations for me.

The earlier book reviews I wrote suffered from niceness. It’s pretty obvious to any who read the reviews as well. The reviews are bland and not a completely accurate depiction of what I felt. I tried to have an open discussion about a book I posted about with fellow humans. I felt like my credibility was thrown out the window. My written review gave a different perception than the one I tried to tell in conversation. If the book is awful, who wants to convince someone who gave it five stars of their folly?

That being said, I’m not saying don’t be compassionate to the author. No one likes a bully, and authors spend a lot of time and heartache on their work. Kindness involves word choice. For example, I can say “I didn’t like that the villain was killed without the hero standing up for themselves”. This explains why I feel the way I do. The statement also allows readers to decide if that situation is something that would bother them.

I don’t have to say “I think the hero should go jump off a cliff for being a worthless collection of letters on a page”. This doesn’t tell anyone why I think the hero is worthless and why you should think it to. Although I’ll confess I have had thoughts about worthless characters and the authors who wrote them.

A book review is not about telling the author what they need to revise or change in their story. That’s a conversation someone should have had with the author before the book was published. A book review is something you write for others to read and use in their decision about reading the novel.

To answer the question about sounding mean, fake, etc. I imagine telling my best friend (who isn’t the author) about this book I just read. What would I say to them about it and why?

The truth is everyone will love or hate different parts of a book. The girl should have picked a different guy, the dog should have lived, and the hero should have torched the villain…. The author gets to pick the ending. A book reviewer should give their honest opinion to their audience.

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