Reviews on Partially Read Books: Good or Bad?

Over the years, when looking at book reviews to help me decide whether or not to purchase a book, I’ve noticed some reviewers will give a book a bad or poor review based off a partial read. Some reviewers and many authors disagree with this form of reviewing because the reader hasn’t read the book and is basing his review off the portion he read instead of the whole book.

Hang on a second.

Where does it say a reader can only review a book if he reads the whole thing? If he’s not enjoying the book, is he really obligated to “give the book a chance” by forcing himself to read to the last page?

I understand authors and some readers are frustrated when someone reviews a book based off the first part of it. But, that reader has a right to communicate his opinion. I’m sure he didn’t buy the book with the mindset that he’d only read the first 10% of it. Why would he waste his money like that?

And that is what happened. He wasn’t satisfied enough with the book to continue reading, so he wasted his money. That’s a risk we all take when buying a book. But, the fact that he respected his time enough to stop reading when he decided he wasn’t enjoying the book doesn’t mean he shouldn’t leave a review.

When a reader chooses a book to purchase, he trusts the author will give him what he paid for: entertainment. If the reader wasn’t hooked, didn’t feel entertained, and didn’t enjoy the book, it’s most likely not the reader’s fault. The author failed him.

It’s the author’s job to make the book so damn interesting the reader can’t put it down. If that doesn’t happen, either the author missed an opportunity or it simply wasn’t a good fit. I mean, you can’t please everyone. But, if someone isn’t satisfied, he has a right to say so in a review.

Note: I’m not talking about trolls, who put up bad reviews for the sake of spreading evil. I’m talking about those who wanted to love the book but didn’t and wrote a review that reflected their feelings.

This experience isn’t something authors haven’t dealt with before. It’s simply another form of rejection. When an author queries an agent and receives a request for a partial, for example, the author knows the query blurb hooked that agent. But, if the agent doesn’t ask for the full manuscript, the author realizes there’s something about the beginning that didn’t hold the agent’s interest. That’s not the say the book sucked. That same book could go on to gain many requests for fulls, several offers of representation from agents, and even a bidding war amongst publishers. Because this industry is highly subjective. What one agent hates, another will love.

The same goes for readers. Two readers might buy a book based off the great back cover blurb, but one loved the book and finished it in a few hours. The other couldn’t get past the second chapter. Both wanted to like the book. Both tried to like it, but only one did.

As a reader, I used to force myself to read the entire book, to give it a chance, because I paid for the darn thing. Many times, I felt the book HAD to get better because a best-selling author wrote it. But, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, best-selling authors bomb. And sometimes, everyone else in the world will love the book, but I’ll want to toss it across the room. SUBJECTIVE, remember? But, I don’t force myself to finish a book anymore. If the author didn’t draw me in, or worse, turned me off, I’ll put the book down and grumble about wasting time and money on it. And yes, sometimes a book will get better, but I shouldn’t have to wait for that to happen. It should be great right from the start.

So, when I read a bad or poor review (1-3 stars out of 5), and the reviewer states he couldn’t read the entire book, I pause. I’ll take more time to read and study reviews as well as the sample pages. If I feel there’s a risk I might agree with the reviewer and I too won’t finish reading the book, I’ll move on to another book, a more sure bet.

That’s my two cents.

Lynnette Labelle
2015 Daphne du Maurier Finalist
2015 Molly Winner

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2 Responses to Reviews on Partially Read Books: Good or Bad?

  1. Graeme Ing says:

    Absolutely agree! I very often put down a book halfway through. Many authors have significant problems with middles – their story sort of falls into a slow, meandering mess. As a reader, reviews that state they gave up on the book are big red flags for me. As an author, I really really want to know if people are doing that to my books. Lynnette is right that it is up to us to entertain so completely that there’s no way the reader won’t turn the pages breathlessly. We should all strive for that experience.

  2. Lynnette Labelle says:

    Graeme: Thanks. It had to be said. 🙂

    Lynnette Labelle
    2015 Molly Winner (Romantic Suspense)
    2015 Daphne du Maurier Finalist

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