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Should we review sub-genres we don’t like? April 6, 2011

Posted by karinshah in Uncategorized.
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I don't remember adding those last two items.

I would argue that reviewers should not.

Why not? Here’s my reasoning.

I could review literary fiction. I’m qualified. I have a bachelors in English as a writing art. I understand the conventions of literary fiction. I’m versed in its themes and structure.

However, since I don’t *like* those conventions, I would bemoan the lack of plot, the passive actions of the characters and the use of language which draws attention to the words and not the story.  I would, in short, criticize the very aspects of the work that readers of literary fiction enjoy, while ignoring the qualities potential readers need to know to make the decision to buy.

Recently, I read a review of a book in which the reviewer stated from the first paragraph that she was uncomfortable with the sub-genre of the book. That for whatever reason, she was too distracted by the conventions of the sub-genre  to “get in” to the book.

At the end, the review was fairly positive, but this overlying factor, the reviewer’s personal bias, made it very difficult for a reader of the review to get a good sense of whether it was worthwhile to read the book or not, and that after all is the whole point of a review.

I’m not trying to say reviewers aren’t at liberty to give a bad review. If we, as readers are to trust reviewers, they must be honest in their opinions,  but reviewing in a genre we don’t like does a disservice to both us and the reader. The reviewer loses the time spent reading the book and writing the review and the reader is exactly where she started before she read the review.

What do you think? Should we review sub-genres were don’t like?

Karin

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Comments»

1. Julia Rachel Barrett - April 6, 2011

Great question. My opinion? No, never. It’s very difficult to give a genre a fair shake if you don’t like it. That’s just honest. I love reviewing literary fiction, it’s my bread and butter. I write romance in various sub-genres but I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot reviewing pole. My feelings about romance are simply too polarizing. I have very strong likes and dislikes.

karinshah - April 6, 2011

Thanks, Becky! Julia, Thanks for your take on this topic! 🙂

2. Becky Barker - April 6, 2011

LOL, Karin. I have to agree!

Becky

3. Tanja - April 6, 2011

Hi Karin: I think it’s ok to review subjects we might not like. Movie reviewers do it all the time and from their comments you learn quickly what you can expect from them. Mainly I count on them to be consistent with their reviews. There are those reviewers who when they pan something, I know to definitely go see it and it’s the same with books.

As a reviewer if it’s important for you to see a well-organized plot, then I think it’s alright for you to say you felt it was lacking,

Reviews should not be about criticizing, but critiquing, however reviews are about someone’s opinion. Personally, I like when a non-romance reader gives me their feedback, it grounds me and can provide interesting insights that might make the story better. And that’s what I want: a great story, no matter what the sub-genre.

karinshah - April 6, 2011

Thanks for your comment, Tanja!

4. James Hartley - April 6, 2011

A while back I was following “Every Day Fiction,” a site which published flash pieces and allowed reader votes and comments. I got a lot of flack because I would read a “literary” piece and then comment something like “not a story, nothing happens!” Don’t like that stuff, to me if it doesn’t have a plot and action, it is NOT a story. I guess you are right, I am a genre reader and writer, and I should NOT be reviewing “literary” works.

karinshah - April 6, 2011

LOl, James! Thanks for your thoughts on the topic. 🙂

5. Margaret L. Carter - April 6, 2011

C. S. Lewis addressed this topic, and I agree with his position: If you don’t like a type of fiction in general, you shouldn’t try to review a particular example of it. To someone who can’t stand Romance, for instance, all romances look alike. That reviewer wouldn’t be able to tell good from bad and therefore wouldn’t be of any help to the book’s intended audience. Lewis also thought a reviewer should recuse himself if he discovers a particular book contains some plot or characterization element that evokes an automatic knee-jerk negative reaction from him — if he (or she) is aware of a personal prejudice of that type, he or she should be aware that evaluating that book fairly would be nearly impossible. Lewis’s personal example was that he couldn’t stand stories in which two children had anything resembling a romantic relationship, although he acknowledged such “child loves” do sometimes occur in real life.

Lewis was a meticulously honest reviewer; he once turned down an invitation from a magazine editor to review a book by an author who had previously written a derogatory piece on a book of his own (Lewis’s) in an earlier issue of the same magazine.

karinshah - April 6, 2011

Thanks, Margaret! I love the Narnia series and it’s so cool to hear what C.S. Lewis felt on this topic!

Karin

6. Saralee Etter - April 12, 2011

If you can’t be fair, don’t go there. That’s what I think. Okay, some people may not like a certain genre, but that doesn’t mean they can’t review it, as long as they understand the conventions of the genre and can evaluate how well the story in question met those standards. I believe that’s how good movie reviewers work.

Somebody who says, “Oh, I don’t like this genre so I didn’t like this story,” isn’t a very good reviewer, IMHO. If you’re going to take on the job, you should at least appreciate what readers who DO like that genre expect in that kind of a story, and then decide if the story met those expectations or not.

Great blog topic, Karin!

karinshah - April 12, 2011

Thanks, Saralee! You’re right a good reviewer should know the conventions and not use them as a stalking horse. I haven’t read Barbara Hambly. I’ll look her up!

Karin

7. J.D. - October 13, 2011

I’m…on the fence? On the one hand, I think there’s something out there for everyone. I also believe one should try reading everything they can. You never know, something you claim not to like might end up being a favorite. On the *other* hand, if I read it and can’t find a darned thing to recommend about, I feel much better not saying a word. I don’t know…. It’s better for the author not to have too many ewww reviews out there, isn’t it?

karinshah - October 13, 2011

Too true about the ewww reviews. As a reader I want to know whether I’m wasting my money buying the book, but if you like literary fiction the exact things you like bout Lit fic will predispose you not to like most genre fiction. I actually have some reviewers in movies who if they give it an A, I absolutely DON’T want to see the movie. If they give it a C, I’m there!:-)

Thanks for joining the discussion!

Karin


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