There are some wonderful books out that most of the reading world will love. It deserves all the stars and their only flaw being too beautiful. Most people read these books and most people give it four or five stars. It didn’t offend them. It was easy-to-read. It led to 80% of the audience to tears. These are great reads and if you read reviews, you’ll know you’re getting a good read.
However, there are other books in this world that will always polarize the audience. People will absolutely adore it and others will absolutely hate it or not finish it. Each of these books is like a fork in the road. One road will take you on to the sunsets and heavens of great reading. The other road will leave you confused by the roadside.
Recently, I picked up Uprooted, a book that’s a little bit polarizing on Goodreads. Some people absolutely loved it and credit the book to being a fantasy series they can actually endure:
And others hated it to the point where they felt exhausted by the words:
I started this book pretty hopeful that a wonderful fantasy story will push me to finish this book in a few days. Then, a week went by and I didn’t make it halfway. Then two weeks went by and I still didn’t feel the motivation to continue reading. Oh no, was I siding with the people who hated the book?
Seriously, I’ve tried so many things to avoid putting down this book. I borrowed the ebook from the library in hopes that reading it on my Kindle will change my mind. I also borrowed the audiobook because maybe someone reading the book to me will be a better experience. I think I really like the audiobook version, so I might change my mind about DNF-ing this book.
I’ll admit that I was upset when I put this book down. I really wanted to love it especially when so many people reached out to me and told me that they loved it. And at first I thought the story was intriguing and different despite some important details that were left out (oh, he’s training you to be a wizard? How come your opinion in this matter isn’t discussed?), but then the story kept going on and on and I couldn’t get into it.
At this point, I’m stuck. I wanted to love the book and write a wonderful review and make all the people who loved this book feel validated because yes, I loved it too. But now I’m a naysayer and I’m about to tell the world that I didn’t like the book. Will people love my honesty? Will people hate that I didn’t like one of their favorite novels?
It’s a point of contention for a lot of reviewers. You want to be honest with your reviews, but a small fraction of your body wants to be nice and like a book people recommended. Honesty may cause you to offend that one person who loved it. Honesty can also offend those who hated it.
But the moment I shared on bookstagram that I didn’t finish this book, all of a sudden a few people popped up sharing that they didn’t finish it either. People came up and shared how the book felt problematic and boring. That Agnieszka was manipulated by the Dragon and held against her will. Some people mentioned that the middle is the slowest part. I felt the same, but the middle is also 300 pages and that’s a lot of slow parts for me.
It’s kind of interesting how people sort of “hold their tongue” when it comes to certain books. We’re all waiting with baited breath if our favorite book reader liked that book we hated. And when they admit to hating the book too, it’s like a sigh of relief.
I guess that many book readers already understand that a book will either be loved or hated by other people. While as reviewers we try to be unbiased and explain that hating a book doesn’t mean you’ll hate it too, there’s still that little button inside of our brains that tells us we need validation. We need to be heard and understood and if that doesn’t happen, we feel that tension. We feel vulnerable and maybe a little upset that someone you so admire did or didn’t like a book.
But the truth must be known. If you loved a book, then share the love. If you hated a book, then that should be shared as well. A negative review doesn’t have to be overwrought with jabs at the book, but it needs to be clear so that others can understand. And I think that’s where we all ending up finding ourselves; at this crossroad between loving and hating a book.