Hello, friends! I've really gotten into BookTube over the past few months, and came up with this idea after watching Elliot Brooks do several videos where she goes over one star reviews of different books.
The thing is, I kind of look at this like it's a lesson: this is to reiterate that opinions are subjective and not everyone is going to like your book. This is to prepare me for the fact that if Son of the Siren gets published, there will be one star reviews of it out there, and I need to suck it up.
So, I looked up some of my favorite books I've read years ago and fairly recently that I would give four or five stars to, then went straight for the one star reviews on Goodreads.
For the safety of the reviewers, I'm not linking to their original reviews or including any identifying information. I've just screenshotted their words and whited out dates and some of the sentences that were cut off where I cropped the screenshot to make it easier to read what I've excerpted.
Let's take a closer look.
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
I read Daughter of the Forest when I was in college circa 2001/2002 and fell in love with the fairy tale retelling of The Six Swans. It was the book that made me want to switch from playwriting to writing fiction. I even emailed Juliet to tell her how much I loved the book, and she wrote me back!
So, this review is unhappy with the novel's pacing...I do think the pace is a bit slower because the author had a lot of stuff to introduce in the beginning, but nothing like what this reviewer said. Ouch!
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in graduate school and it made me excited about epic fantasy, which had turned me off for quite some time. I fell in love with the gods Nahadoth and Sieh and how they interacted with Yeine, and I really enjoyed Yeine and Nahadoth's attraction to each other.
I wouldn't personally call it Twilight with gods--there was always an element of danger to Yeine and Nahadoth's relationship, moreso than with a vampire and a human--and there was a great deal of sexual tension between the two. I wouldn't call what they had with each other "love" by a long shot. It was very much a moth attracted to a flame, in my opinion.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
I picked up A Curse So Dark and Lonely while looking for fairy tale adaptations as comps. Plus, I'm always going to be a fan of Beauty and the Beast retellings (in fact, I'd really like to write my own!). I fell in love with the Cursebreakers trilogy immediately.
It's sad that this reader didn't do the same. And I have to disagree with their assessment of the adaptation. There are two versions of Beauty and the Beast out there...the one everyone knows thanks to Disney is the Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont tale. But the original Beauty and the Beast was a novel by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve in which the prince is raised by a fairy who eventually makes advances towards him, and because he refuses her love, he is turned into a beast. There are some slight tweaks that Kemmerer makes, but this is essentially what happens in her novel--an evil fairy's advances are rebuffed and the prince is transformed into a beast as punishment. Because Kemmerer sourced the original tale, I think her adaptation is pretty accurate, while making the story completely her own (and still nodding to the Beaumont version at the same time).
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
I love Sorcery of Thorns. If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you've seen me mention the novel in a lot of book tags...plus, I'd love to write like Rogerson. She's one of my writing superheroes.
So this review really hurt! I 100% disagree with this assessment and I didn't keep reading to see the reviewer's justifications because my feelings were hurt on Rogerson's behalf, lol. The thing is, even though I disagree with this review, the review is not invalid. That's the important thing to remember about reviews...everyone has their reasons for disliking a book, and usually they've given a lot of thought as to why!
Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
I used Nettle & Bone as one of my comps for Son of the Siren, despite Nettle & Bone being adult fantasy and my book being upper YA. There's just a lot of similarities between the two in tone, style, and plot...which is surprising because as I said before, Nettle & Bone is adult fantasy. There's a playfulness to the book that might make it seem younger to readers, but I think the lead acted naïve due to her lack of experience with the world, and it made sense to me as I read it.
Out of all the one-star reviews, this one feels like it's preparing me for how Son of the Siren could be reviewed, because I really feel like my book is a younger, kindred spirit to Nettle & Bone. It's clearly not for everyone, and I should expect my book to be the same way. After all, it's something that I learned in the beta reading stage, too!
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
I read The Cruel Prince before I knew about all of its hype. I picked it up because I like stories with the fae, and I enjoyed the book, but not enough to give it five stars (I had some issues with it that I won't get into here). However, I'm surprised by how strong of a reaction this is. But I can see how the book is polarizing, especially with Cardan and Jude's toxic relationship (although that calms down later).
I was obsessed with this trilogy. I read the whole thing in like five days.
Spear by Nicola Griffith
I chose this book because it was more like a novella and was also an Arthurian story. I found the prose lyrical, and clearly that is not everyone's cup of tea (I would take "a mix between prose and poetry" as a compliment). I'm not sure about the YA style, although there's kind of a fairy tale narrative voice there, and people tend to affiliate fairy tales with young people...so maybe that's why they thought that? I'm not sure.
A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
I actually had a ton of fun with A Spindle Splintered. As for the lead character's voice, I thought it was youthful and quirky, but I don't think it's as dated as this reader finds it. But then again, I'm not one to be up to date with slang or modern ways of speaking, so I could be wrong about it.
So, these were both funny and painful to read. Sometimes the reviews were harsh! And that's something I need to prepare myself for. I should probably avoid reading reviews altogether, but I know myself and my curiosity, so I might not be able to hold myself back from reading them. But I know for a fact that I won't respond to them, because reviews are for readers, not authors.
People can dislike perfectly good books. People can hate books I found to be absolutely lovely. That's the way it works. I won't be able to please everyone, and clearly the same can be said for these works. It's a lesson I need to heed well...and something I shouldn't take personally!