Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's all subjective anyway!

(Continuing in the vein of Hilary's post last week!)

There's a reason why Twilight is in the top five of both the "Best YA Books" list and "Worst YA Books" list on Goodreads. (In fact, it's #1 of the "Books You Wish You Could Forget" list.) There's a reason why no book with more than four reviews has an exact five-star rating.

It's because taste is subjective.
(Of course, there's also that matter of no book being perfect.)

Look at Picasso. Some people thought his art was marvelously avant-garde, while some people thought he just couldn't paint right. You might even say this is a curse of being too well-known: with every batch of fans come a slew of haters as well.

Art? Or just an inability to colour right?

Take comfort if negative reviews are getting you down, be they for your own books or a personal favourite. As a reviewer, there will be times when personal biases or frustration with trends will get the better of one and result in a less-than-professional review. (Personally, I can't stand inauthentic interior dialogue.) As a reader, I end up covering up the computer screen and going, "Lalalala, I can't hear -- er, read you!"

Just remember -- it's all subjective. Have heart, friends.



  1. True, true, true. When a writer I knew expressed nervousness about facing possible bad reviews when her book debuted, I reminded her that it would be a good thing if enough people read her book for her to get reviews of all kinds -- good ones, bad ones, literary ones, intellectual ones, ranting ones, and ones written with such bad grammar she fell out of her seat laughing.

  2. So interesting! Oddly enough, Picasso was a brilliant, traditionally-trained artist--and most of the people who take offense at his work arrive at that conclusion because they knew his style was conscious and they just thought it was wrong. (I admit I'm in that camp.) I think, subconsciously, our reaction to books we "hate" may be similar. There's so much "potential", as we see it, for the book to be different--but maybe that's not the way the author intended it to be, and we should respect that.

  3. Edgar Allen Poe comes to mind. I don't think his stories were well-received when he was alive but he's still being read today.
    Nice post!! :-)

  4. Nice post, Yahong. Lots of food for thought.

    Personally, if I don't like a book, for whatever reason, I don't review it. (I'm talking specifically about Goodreads or on my Middle Grade Mafioso blog.) As a writer, I know how much blood-sweat-and-tears went into a novel's creation, and I just can't bring myself to publicly dish out caustic comments, especially since most of the time my reactions are just my personal taste.

  5. Art is expression of a perspective. When we look at Van Gogh, you can see his seemly random brush strokes or you can step back and see his gift to express the mundane through the beauty of texture and color. He is the only one I know that can have me in awe over the image of a chair.

    Can we take the mundane and make it something of value with our words? That would be the question. Twilight takes the stupid (my opinion) and makes it palatable to certain masses. How can I fault that? I just won't read it or watch it myself after the first attempt. It's just not for me.


  6. I agree that subjectivity is the name of the writing game. Anyone who goes through the query process truly understands this. Good post, Yahong.

  7. I'm with Michael in that I typically don't post any negative reviews - or positive ones, for that matter. I much prefer to shoot the author an e-mail and let them know what exactly I loved about the book!

    Now, whether I'll be able to be so philosophical about it when my own reviews come in, I'm not sure - haha! Thanks for the good insights, Y!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!