An interesting discussion regarding book reviews took place this last week in a writer’s message group I frequent. We all get one and two star reviews from time-to-time, often laced with vitriol. While we can (and should) learn from constructive criticism, we should also accept that we cannot please all of the people, all of the time, and some will despise our works no matter how strong the final product is.
To illustrate, I took a random sample of some of my favorite novels (many are classics) and shared some of the 1-star Amazon reviews people gave them. At the very least, many of these are quite funny.
“I had high expectations from this book. It did not scare me at all. I read at night, alone, while living in a frigging creepy hotel. I really wanted to be scared and this legendary book let me down big time. I didn’t even get goosebumps, and this is supposed to get my blood boiling, seriously? More Stephen King, no thanks please!”
“I am a fifteen-year-old girl whose friends adore Harry Potter. I read this book in an attempt to see whether this book would live up to all the hype surrounding it. I thought that I would perhaps enjoy this book, as I am normally a big fan of “different world” stories. Boy, was I disappointed.
I do not think that this book will induce others to practice witchcraft, etc. The reason why I don’t like Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone is because IT ISN’T A GOOD BOOK. This story moves like a television series, each storyline acting as an episode. But there is one difference: television shows do a much better job at depicting characters and storylines. J.K. Rowling’s use of description is bland and amateurish. I realize that this book was written for children, but couldn’t Rowling have at least attempted to use a higher sense of vocabulary? Roald Dahl uses very simplistic vocabulary in his stories, too, but he comes off as charming – Rowling just seems to be somebody who CAN’T use a nice vocab word every now and then.
Let’s move on to the actual story. This is where the “unoriginal” trait comes in. Can we say “Cinderella”? The story of Harry Potter is too contrived. We’ve all seen the main storyline before: kind orphan boy/girl who just so happens to be whisked away to someplace “magical” for them; is great at everything and wins the admiration of practically everybody, with the exception of a few jealous enemies here and there. This storyline has been DONE TO DEATH, and Harry Potter doesn’t make it any better.”
“This was one of the weirdest least, fulfilling stories I have ever read, not worth reading for pleasure.”
“Terrible book. I can’t believe it’s a classic.”
“I kept reading because so many people raved about the series. It never got any better for me. So it isn’t on my to recommend list. YMMV.”
“Elves and dwarves are lame. Tom Bombodil is more annoying than Jar-jar Binks. This is the most boring fantasy novel I have ever read. I hate Tolkien.”
“I read this book not too long ago for a high school summer reading project and needless to say, I absolutely hated reading this book. I mean, I cannot believe how boring this book is. William Golding’s book may have sold a lot of copies since the ’50s but it’s not high on my list of books to read again.”
“I bought this book because I needed something to read on the airplane. I had a friend who used to rave about Koontz and I had heard a lot of positive comments about this particular title so I decided to read it. UGH! What a waste of money. I was interested in the first 75 pages or so, but then it got so predictable. And give me a break, no matter how “intense” your childhood was, you would not keep following a serial killer so that justice can be served. I can’t even finish the book because Chyna is so stupid. This is my first and last read of Koontz. It is downright awful. I’m curious to know what kind of rubbish the people who gave this book 5 stars normally read so I can skip that too.”
“Yes, I’m fumbling for words. Maybe my mind is too shallow for this deeply and subtley horrifying book, but the only thing reacting on my body was my skin. It was crawling with impatience. Silly dialogue, boring descriptions and a slow-moving plot line made for a very dull read. Yawwwn. I’d rather read TV Guide.
I expected a lot more from the writer of The Lottery. Maybe too much.”
“Had to read it for Junior English. Let’s just say I despise this book…”
“This book sucks it makes no sense I had to get it for English and it was totally not worth it! Don’t buy.”
“Again, Mark Twain’s writing style is brilliant. But nothing really happened in the first 3 or 4 chapters (I need a book to get going by page 3) so I gave up. And what did happen I couldn’t understand-are a bunch of kids talking about going around murdering people as a pastime? Might try a re-read sometime.”
You know what’s really scary? These people probably vote. A few years ago, a colleague of mine referred to Led Zeppelin as hacks. I recall Roger Ebert destroying Halloween, then later calling it a classic (perhaps after a few million people told him he was wrong).
So don’t worry about those weird one-stars. I hope you laughed as hard as I did reading some of these “reviews.” Smile, everyone. It’s a beautiful day.