Monday, November 7, 2016

One-Star Reviews! by Joy McCullough

A few weeks ago, a friend was smarting from some editor responses to her MG novel on submission. One said it was heavy-handed. Another said the pacing was slow. I’ve read this book. It’s absolutely beautiful.

To cheer her up, I went looking for 1-star reviews of books I know she loves. Here’s what I found. (I've only edited for profanity.)

Newbery Medal Winner BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE:
It is too jumbled premiss. If someone recommends this book SAY NO!!!

What a poorly written piece of crap.

Worst book ever written, I wish I could give it 0 stars!!

Newbery Medal Winner THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN:
Clearly the most ill-deserved of newberies.

It's the stupidest thing ever.

I am not sure how this twaddle gained so many 5 star ratings! The choppy writing was tedious to read & frankly uninspiring.

Newbery Medal Winner WALK TWO MOONS:
I shan't dignify this flaming turd with a review.

would rate it zero stars if i could. STUPID BOOK

SO contrived that I couldn't bear to keep reading.

But there’s a difference between a random Goodreads reviewers and a big-time editor or agent, you say? Not really. I mean, sure in the influence they wield. But editors and agents are just people, and their views are just as subjective as any reader who picks up a book and loathes it with the fire of a thousand suns. Or LOVES it with the same fire.

I know my friend will find the editor who LOVES her book. But in the meantime, I looked up some more widely acclaimed books, to see what some readers had to say.

National Book Award Winner THE PENDERWICKS:
To put it simply, this book was awful and twee.

The result was something that any high schooler, or even middle schooler, with a reasonable amount of talent for writing could have written.

Newbery Medal Winner WHEN YOU REACH ME:
This book stinks !! It's so confusing !

If only Rebecca Stead had stopped 50 pgs earlier - I would just have called this book terrible, bizarre, and a waist of my time

It was just a poor book with a poor subject, poor writing, poor characters, and poor everything.

Newbery Medal Winner CHARLOTTE’S WEB (16,000-1 stars)

Yeah, he's 'some pig!' Well that 'some pig' is going to get old. This is a farm. They don't waste things. Sorry. They just can't. He's still on the chopping blocking. He will still be made into sausages. They are not going to let him die and bury him in the pet graveyard.


Dear Lord, this book is bad.

Dull, dull, dull!

I found it pretentious and dull. Also, Mrs. Frankweiler is a grump.

This might be the most boring and confusing and boring and boring book ever written. Find a different book. Did I mention it was boring?

i litterally hated this book SO MUCH that i UGHGHGHDHFGHDSFAIH anyway...... i read it each night because i had to for book club... but after like 2 NIGHTS i got SO FED UP WITH it that I STARTED SCREAMING i RIPPED IT UP IN LITTERAL RAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND I MADE IT INTO A SOUP AND FED IT TO MY STUFFED ANIMALS

Newbery Medal Winner: HOLES

I guess it was okay…for an elementary school reader.

I hate this piece of [expletive]. I hate Louis Sachar. Anarchist [expletive]. This book has no soul.

AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!! The most over-read book in history!

Hugo Award Winner CORALINE

The writing reflects laziness on both the editor and author's part. The story sounds too much like something that came from a 6th grade classroom, and the writing isn't much better.

THIS monstrosity failed the able-to-read test on every one of my levels.

Newbery Medal Winner PRINCESS ACADEMY
I couldn't get around the unseemly and awkward phrasing, so bad I couldn't enjoy the story. My impression is that the author is not well-read; her word-usage is just slightly off.

Ugh Just Ugh. It was so dumb. I don't like it at all, and I'm dreading the next one.

Newbery Medal Winner A WRINKLE IN TIME (with an impressive16,000 1-star reviews):

The story takes about 100 pages of tedious, banal dialogue, to get to the point where you are told that this is a battle against Evil, and all you need is love. But everything is so oversimplified, so sketchy

the book appears to have been written by someone that has never actually met a real human being before.

Why it remains in print is beyond me.

This book was utterly crap…Pretty cringe-worthy IMO.

In my opinion, this is all a little much for a children's story.

And that final quote about A WRINKLE IN TIME is kind of perfect, really. Because Madeleine L’Engle herself said, “If the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

So that reader who felt it was “a little too much for a children’s story” wasn’t young enough to get it. It wasn’t their fault. They weren’t the right reader for the story.

If you’re struggling with rejections at any stage, I recommend looking up the 1-star reviews of books you love. (It only works with books you love; if you despise A WRINKLE IN TIME too, you’ll only feel self-righteous agreement when reading the 1-star reviews.)

To find them, look up a book in Goodreads. Scroll down to where it says Community Reviews. Hover over Filter and you should see the following:

Then select where it says 1-star!


  1. Thanks for the great advice! The best books get their share of terrible reviews. It's part of life. That's why writers can't let negative feedback stop us from doing what we love.

  2. Though there are sometimes some valid issues brought up in reviews, for the most part it's just a case of everybody having different tastes and preferences in their reading. It's just the way it goes... You'll never please everyone, and there's no point in trying.

    I hope your friend finds a publisher who appreciates her book enough to give it a chance. Alternatively, she could always self-publish.

  3. I think there's a video somewhere of famous authors reading their own bad reviews as well~ love their sense of humor in reading them~ it's funny stuff :)

  4. Haha these are hilarious. Thanks, Joy!

  5. Thanks Joy. I really loved this.

  6. Negative reviews can help a writer grow when they are done for good reason. Especially critical ones that point out room for improvement.

  7. Oh my, those are some doozies. Guess different tastes, or interests.

  8. Really inspiring post, Joy! My editor once said that you really haven't made it until someone takes the time to give you a one-star review! It's a rite of passage.

  9. oh gosh, this did make me laugh! I adored HOLES and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. And the one about CHARLOTTE's WEB was a hoot! Sorry, you are going through this push back (I know how hard it is!) but hopefully this will keep your spirits up. :) It does mine!

  10. Brilliant! Great post, Joy. Thank you


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!