Chatterbox: How negative and positive reviews affect your reading

April 25, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | Books, Chatterbox, Features


Have you ever let a review affect your thoughts of a book that you haven’t read yet?

Of course you have, because that’s why you read reviews. Most of us read reviews to find out what to read next, and whether they are positive or negative will affect their priority in our TBR- or whether we move them to the bottom of the pile. Books that are raved about consistently by my trusted bloggers almost always end up at the top of my TBR pile, whereas books that consistently receive negative ratings end up at the bottom.

When I feel like a challenge, sometimes negative reviews pique my interest because I want to see whether I agree with the review, and whether I can justify or understand why the book was written this way. For instance, I picked up White Space by Ilsa J. Bick and Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy because of the negative reviews I read, and I was curious. White Space for it’s confusing prose, and Side Effects May Vary for its unlikable characters.

When I think about it, negative reviews actually made me enjoy the books more, because I was aware of the problems with the book already and was able to adjust my expectations.


Let’s not forget the negative effect of too many positive reviews as well. Before I discovered Goodreads, I had read so many positive reviews on Hush, Hush being recommended to people who liked Twilight that when I actually picked it up, I was so appalled by the love interest I wanted to throw the book across the room. Positive reviews and hype have the effect of raising the bar too high so that when we read it, we may judge it even more harshly if it didn’t meet expectations.

I guess it comes down to personal judgement when reading reviews to discover whether you will enjoy a book or not. When reading a review, it’s important to see whether the reviewer enjoyed the same books that you did, whether the points they mentioned were things that you like or dislike, and whether the book is something you think you will enjoy (eg. genre, writing style, length). When it comes down to it, the best judge of your reading style is you, and reviews will help you make an informed decision on whether you’d like the book or not.

How have negative or positive reviews affected your reading?

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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76 responses to “Chatterbox: How negative and positive reviews affect your reading

  1. Oscar Romero

    Nice post Jeann,
    About how is that book reviews affect us…Even though I am not at all a Psychology expert–I can definitely say that–based on your own life experience–from which–age, gender, grade school attained, work experience, culture and genes–I think I covered them all–a book "touches" you only where there is something in that book that "connects" with you. I think that connection is what we "identify" and causes us to enjoy the content–because we connected. If–for any reason there is no connection–in other words: no way that you identify with what the book is saying–regardless of the book being a fiction work or not–then we most likely don't "like" that book or its contents. We just seem to be forced to "label" that reason as to why we didn't like it–and call it "whatever"….and we will stick by it–because that is the way we justify it in our minds.

  2. Yeah, I kind of love when I go into a book with low expectations and then they get exceeded. But yes, going blind into a book is a great thing. I never used to read book blurbs but after getting some unpleasant surprises I at least do that now lol

  3. That's a great idea so you can see how their opinion compares! I totally know what you mean about the same book, I mean I have read so many of The Winner's Curse and Prisoner of Night & Fog. YES Hype negatively affects the book sometimes, probably what happened with you and throne of Glass. Sometimes Negative reviews make me put it at the back of my TBR pile, other times I would take it off if the reviewer has the same triggers. Good on you Chiara, I completely agree with the blogging world being full of diverse and wonderful opinions!

  4. I'm not easily swayed by opinions from other people. If everyone loves a book, I might get too high expectations and end up not loving it as much as all the others. If a lot of people hate a book, I might get low expectations and I end up liking it more. But most of the times, I just go blind into a book and see for myself 😀 Or I try to keep an open mind without thinking about the reviews.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Early Review 256. Jennifer Donnelly – Deep blue.My Profile

  5. To be honest, the only reviews I consistently read are of those for books I have ALREADY read, so that I can see how the blogger's opinions compare against mine, books I've never heard of, or books I am interested in. When there are a bajillion reviews for the same book in my feed, I'm likely to skip them all (or only read them from my favourite and trusted bloggers).

    But I don't let them affect me too much. When there's hype, you cannot avoid it. I mean when everyone is screaming at you about how amazing a book is, you're gonna go in expecting it to be amazing.

    But negative reviews won't make me go off a book if I'm interested in it. If the blogger mentions a theme or character or plot device they didn't like, I might be interested in reading it (like the MC in Side Effects May Vary) because I want to see if *I* think the same thing.

    But I've never let a review(s) dictate what I read! Even some bloggers that have almost the exact same taste as me have not liked some of my favourite books. Because we all have different taste and that's what makes reading amazing ;D
    Chiara @ Books for a recently posted…April: A Month’s Worth of FavouritesMy Profile

  6. I tend to stay away from reviews of books until I read them. Weird, I know, but I don't want anybody's opinions to color my interpretation of the book. About using reviews to choose the next book, I usually glance at the ratings to get an idea if the book is worth my time but reading the whole review – that I do mostly after I have read the book myself.
    Ruthsic recently posted…Chantresss Alchemy Blog TourMy Profile

  7. I like reading positive AND negative reviews. They're both good because they expose the good and bad parts of each book. I have got to admit that I liked Hush Hush *hides* I was young and naive so I guess if I read it again I may hate it (hopefully, lol).

    Anyways, I've got to read Side Effects may Vary just to see what all the commotion is about, lol.
    Marianne @ Boricuan recently posted…{Release Day} Review: The Treatment by Suzanne YoungMy Profile

    • Lol hilarious Marianne, well I liked Twilight when it was out but by New Moon I thought it was pretty frustrating lol. I have to see what you think of Side Effects May Vary!

  8. I like to read both positive and negative reviews before deciding whether to read a book. But yea, if I read a lot of negative reviews that specify what about the book turned people off, I'll skip that book if that aspect would turn me off as well. Same goes for too many positive reviews. Like you said, that raises the expectations too high at times. Too much hype can ruin a good book.
    Julie S. recently posted…Interview with Marie Landry, author of the Angel Island seriesMy Profile

    • A shame about the hype having a negative effect after a while isn't it? It sometimes takes me a long time to read hyped up books to let the expectations settle first. Thanks for visiting Julie!

  9. i agree Jeann, sometimes negative hype intrigues me. I take all reviews and analyze them..some peeps are really hard, or have a triggers for books that make them hate it….which don't impact my enjoyment. I also find particularly with YA books that since I am forty*cough* I feel differently.
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Sunday Post #105 Caffeinated’s New DigsMy Profile

  10. I have to admit yes I realized that a few of my close blogger buddies that when they think bad about a book it can totally set me up for a pre-bias. Just how someone loving a book can get you to read a book, someone you know hating on it can make you dread it then go in with an already negative mindset. But I try not to read their reviews until I am donethen we can dish together.

  11. Wow! You actually raise a lot of good points here, Jeann. In a way, you're right; reading negative reviews make us expect the flaws and thus we lower our expectations. In doing so, there is more chance for the book to make a big impression on us because if you're down, the only way to go is up, right? And when I read books that had so many high ratings, many of them also turned out to be disappointments! Like what happened with The 5th Wave, Hate List, and The Winner's Curse, among others. This is really something. I guess if you don't want to be influenced at all, it's better to go into a book neutrally, and read the reviews, positive and negative, after you've made your own.
    Faye @ The Social Po recently posted…Recaps, Rants, Raves: The 100, Episode 6 – “I Am Semi-Impressed”My Profile

  12. Negative/positives reviews don't affect my decisions about reading particular books by themselves. I'm not claiming to be immune to them–like you said, it's why we read reviews, but I need specific reasons for why someone liked or disliked a book before I'll let it influence my choices. If I'm interested in a book, but I read a bad review based on things that would be a problem for me (cheating, child abuse, etc.), then yes, that will make me 86 a book in a heartbeat. But if the issues (or positives) don't line up . . .

    Great post 😉
    Jessica @ Rabid Read recently posted…Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel HawkinsMy Profile

  13. It's a delicate balance for me. I look at the number of reviews and compare it with the average star rating. If it has so few 4/5 stars with only a handful of reviews, I tend to think it's either written by close family, friends or the author's super loyal readers. When I'm thinking of reading a possible book I tend to look for the 3-1 star reviews. I want to know the not so great parts and see if those are tolerable or not for me. So yeah, I'm in agreement with you, trust thy own judgment.
    Braine Talk Supe recently posted…Loved It: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth MaxwellMy Profile

    • That's a great way to look at things, I know what you mean when people who are author loyalists tend to love the book. It's a pet peeve of mine that people rate goodreads books without even reading them or before the book comes out.

  14. I totally agree that there are pros and cons of both positive reviews and negative ones. I try to avoid reading reviews of books that I really want to read but sometimes the sole rating affects my attitude towards the book. I lover my expectations and it turns out to be a good thing 🙂 Great post, Jeann 🙂
    Tanja recently posted…ARC Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer DonnellyMy Profile

  15. I've noticed this more and more as I've got into book blogging. Bloggers tend to post reviews of similar books when they first come out, and because of that I read a TON of reviews – and I love it! It gives me a great idea of whether I'd like to pick it up or not. As you say, I might pick up a book because it's had a lot of negative reviews and I want to see for myself – that happened with Jaclyn Moriarty's books (even though I haven't actually read them yet!). And too much positive hype can also have an awful effect. Great post 🙂
    Emily @ The Loony Te recently posted…What Happened This Week: Stacking the Shelves, Divergent movie and queryingMy Profile

  16. I agree with everything you said, Jeann! And especially a lot of hype and positive reviews almost always end up with a disappointing read for me. Whereas negative reviews that point out exactly what it was the reader didn't enjoy may end up being favorite reads for me.

    The same problem sometimes come up when a favorite author releases a new book – I am so happy there's a new book I build it up to perfection in my head, and then it's… not!

    There are some bloggers whose tastes are so similar to my own, though, that I almost always agree with everything they say in a review, and so I am 99% sure I'll love a book if they did. Great theme for a discussion! Now I'm going to read all the comments above mine 🙂
    Lexxie @ (un)Convent recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #29 – A Very Good WeekMy Profile

  17. Oh! I avoid reading reviews whenever I can unless I've read the book… it's to avoid any influences though… and possibly spoilers. I think it's just me. Of course… if I'm honestly not sure, then yeah, I'll read a few reviews, skim through them and then make a judgement from there.
    Sophia @ Bookwyrming recently posted…Let’s Talk Peeves: Wizard101My Profile

  18. Both feedbacks have inspire and deter me from reading a book. The popularity of a book is a sure way to get me reading. I like to know that even though I'm following a trend, I'm able to disprove the hype. Negative reviews serve their purpose, sure. But I've been known to like something that everybody hates. I'm very unpredictable, I guess. 🙂
    Joy (Joyousreads) recently posted…Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen CookMy Profile

  19. I agree…sometimes negative reviews influence you not to read a book, and, who knows? Maybe it just didn't click with a lot of reviewers, and maybe it might end up becoming a favorite book for you? Same with positive reviews…sometimes you just end up overhyping things for yourself, and that's always horrible when you get disappointed or become the "black sheep".

    My personal motto is "Don't say you don't like a book until you've read it" – even if a ton of other reviewers didn't like it. It's your opinion after all!

    Thanks for sharing Jeann and, as always, BRILLIANT discussion topic! This was really interesting!
    Zoe @ The Infinite T recently posted…Love Letters to the DeadMy Profile

  20. I tend to pick up books with horrid reviews because I'm way too curious to see what everyone is freaking out over. I do like reading negative reviews because it brings things into perspective when other people are raving over it and sort of forget to mention the downsides. Like you it helps me adjust my expectations. Of course there is also the hype that happens, where a new book is coming out and all of the positive early reviews come out…and then I start reading the book and I end up not liking it. I hate hype, and when I can I avoid books for a few months if they have a huge hype monster following the around.

    Great discussion Jeann!
    Michelle @ In Libris recently posted…Summer Solstice Event Coming in June!My Profile

  21. Oh absolutely and definitely!! My only "try" is to not read TOO many reviews of a specific book. Like, by the time I'd read over 20 reviews of The Winner's Curse…gah, I felt like I didn't need to bother reading the book! And as was, I think my expectations were too high and I didn't really like it. (Although mostly everyone said in their reviews it was slow….and yup, I found it way too slow.) >_< I think negative reviews are good and interesting, especially when they point OUT what the problems were, not just rants. If someone says the writing isn't good but the characters are wonderful, I'm still likely to want to read it, because I personally hone in on characters. x) Awesome discussion topic, Jeann!!!
    Cait @ Notebook Sist recently posted…Riot by Sarah Mussi (also riot in skull)My Profile

    • Yeah, I do enjoy reviews for that reason because everyone usually picks up something different about the book. But yeah, I've read heaps of reviews about Winner's Curse as well so I know what you mean!

  22. If it's a review book and it's receiving negative reviews I still read it in a decent amount of time, but I might not be as excited for it. Sometimes it can surprise and you might enjoy it. Overly hype books, like TFiOS, I've had since it released, but I've yet to read it. It's not my preferred genre and I feel as though I might not like it as much as everyone else. Great post! Depending on how many bad reviews there are on a book, I still may read it. And also it may depend on the author in some cases. I will try some authors without hesitation. Great post!
    Janina @ Synchronize recently posted…Glass Frost by Liz DeJesusMy Profile

    • Thanks for commenting Janina! I love reading books that are hyped up but not in my genre, it helps me discover some new reads. Wasn't a fan of the dragon tattoo books though.

  23. Positive and negative reviews affect me a lot. Negative reviews can make me lower expectations, but they also put me off a book entirely, which is why whenever I write a negative review, I always tell people to check out other reviews too to get a good overall opinion, one persons review shouldn't make you go from yay to neigh in 5 seconds. Positive reviews with hype can make enjoying a book hard, because when you find faults, it makes you feel bad, but they can be fantastic when you love the book too, because fandoms and other fans and fangirling and ahh! Reviews always make me feel torn up, but it's important that we do them I think 🙂
    Amanda @ Book Badger recently posted…Five Friday Favourites #12 – Books You Received as a GiftMy Profile

    • That's so true how negative reviews can affect like that, but it sounds like you approach it in a smart way. It's so true, we don't want to be the black sheep when it comes to hype!

  24. Reviews definitely influence my TBR pile! If something has been getting bad reviews, I'm less likely to read it. I do think it's important to read a book for yourself before you can say anything about it, but I also know that I tend to agree with certain reviewers. As for negative reviews, it swings both ways. They do make me lower my expectations, meaning I'll usually end up enjoying the book more. However, they also point out certain things I might not have noticed myself hadn't I read the review. Now, though, I DO notice, and it will undoubtedly annoy me. So there're really two sides to it!

    Great discussion, Jeann <33
    Celine recently posted…Discussing Through Midnight (30): One Star RatingsMy Profile

    • Absolutely, I think it's important to judge a book for yourself but we all have trusted reviewers which is great. Totally agree with the negative reviews, sometimes when I'm aware of what is coming, I can enjoy the book more!

  25. It depends for me, if the book is split down the middle I would read it just to see what I think because let's face it we all have different opinions and sometimes our own mood can reflect our review. Like reading a book on a bad day or something – it happens. Unfortunately I myself had those issues, including reading a book with a lot of positive reviews and not at all liking it.
    Lily B recently posted…YA Bound Book Tours: The Accidental Socialite by Stephanie WahlstromMy Profile

  26. There are only a few people whose reviews I check when I see a new (to me) book. If they don't have a review up yet, then I'm most likely going to check it out if it sounds really good to me. I try not to take reviews into account when I'm deciding whether or not to read a book. My friends may hate the book but there's still a chance I love it so. I never read reviews from people I don't know. Like I said, I have a few friends whose opinions are very similar to mine when it comes to books and I read their reviews but that's it.
    Bieke @ Istyria book recently posted…Bookish Babble: Bee’s LGBT+ Top 5!My Profile

  27. Negative reviews never deter me from reading a book that I'm interested in. There will always be positive and negative opinions on any book. The way reviews do affect me is that sometimes I'll decide not to read a book based on the description and then I'll read reviews and think either "yeah, glad I skipped that one," or "wow, I need to read that after all."

    Jen @ YA Romantics
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  28. Reviews typically don't have an impact what I read​ or influence my thoughts before reading a book​, unless a trusted reader or blogger that knows my tastes says it's AWFUL. With that being said, I read a god awful review on Too Good. To say the reviews were completely polarized is an understatement, anyway it was the reviews that were negative that made me read the story. Needless to say the book was indeed awful! LOL…but honestly, I try to keep an open mind and sometimes I read reviews after the fact! Fantastic post Jeann!

  29. I find that reviews don’t really affect my TBR pile. I only ever really think about what book I’m reading currently and what I will pick up next, other than that its a toss up. I only think about reviews in terms of if I want to add something to my TBR pile or how soon I absolutely need to buy it.

    I am always a little unsure of really low rated and really high rated books, if a review can’t give me solid reasons why the book is great or the opposite, I tend to take them with a grain of salt and generally still read the book with maybe a few expectations but nothing crazy.

    This is such a great post, thanks for doing it!
    Katie McCue recently posted…Making a TBR JarMy Profile

  30. It does the opposite for me, Jeann. When I read a bad review, I become more aware of the specific negative things stated in the review, so when I read about them in the book, they piss me off even more since I notice them more and sometimes I even look for them! So, negative reviews may make me READ a book, but they'll probably lessen my enjoyment, sadly. 🙁

    The hype! My expectations go over the roof, and if they're met, I'll rave about a book all day and every day, lol. But if not, I'll sulk in a corner for a while until I get over my disappointment, haha!

    But I definitely think negative reviews are highly important–I always need help picking the books I need to read next! Awesome discussion! <3
    Aimee @ Deadly Darli recently posted…Review: Alienated by Melissa LandersMy Profile

    • That's so weird about negative reviews isn't it? It makes you more aware and I see whether there was a reason for it or not, and if there isn't a good one, I'd be annoyed. Thanks Aimee!

  31. Like you, negative reviews have definitely affected me in a good way! If I've seen a bunch of negative reviews, I'll probably read it anyway because I'm just curious. I either agree or I really like a book! What negative reviews do though is that sometimes I wouldn't of noticed particular things if I'd not read a review. Or if I've read the book, loved it and then read a negative review, I just think "okay, maybe I should re-think how much I liked this book." I've learnt to ignore them though, especially when I have to write my own review. When it comes to lots of hyped up positive reviews, I usually love the book as much as most people do! 😀
    Laura Plus Books recently posted…Guest Post: The Bromance as a Bridge to LGBT Lit by Ellen MulhollandMy Profile

    • It's so weird how we view negative reviews as a challenge isn't it? I love how you bring up the point about flaws that other people noticed about a book that you enjoyed, that definitely makes you want to reread it to see if you agreed.

  32. Ditto! I always check the ratings on GR and of my friends before reading and I must admit that if it is less than 3 stars I would probably never pick that book up.

    There were some books with highest rating that make me wonder have I read the same book, because I didn't like it at all, but as you said, in the end, everything comes to personal judgement.

  33. I agree wholeheartedly. You have to kind of look at the review objectively as well–for instance, coming across as stranger's review doesn't have the same effect on my thoughts than some of my friends. Let's take Nick–I have very similar taste with her and we often think alike of the same books. While there have been occasions where we have disagreed, but mostly we have the same taste so I trust her reviews. Same goes with some of my other friends. Though, I must say that a stranger can pick my interest. Negative reviews intrigue the same as you and yep! Positive ones sometimes lead to disappointment like it happened with Eleanor and Park for me. Great discussion, Jeann!
    Siiri recently posted…On Villain POV’sMy Profile

  34. You're so right! I always think about this and I try to not let a review effect my opinion but I can't help it. I think too many positive reviews is my biggest problem because it always creates high expectations and then it doesn't fulfill them. I found this with TFIOS, as much as I loved it, I probably would have enjoyed it more if I knew nothing about it.

    If it's just a one off negative review I usually don't take it into account because everyone has different tastes but if it's lots of negative feedback in mass….then that book usually plummets to the bottom of my list. After all we don't have time to waste on books that you're not going to enjoy in the end.
    Francoise recently posted…Waiting on WednesdayMy Profile

    • Yes, I totally know what you mean about high expectations. Sometimes I come in thinking it's going to be awesome and then go….was that it? It's a shame because if it was relatively undiscovered as you said, we would feel differently about it. Glad you view one off negative reviews that way too!

  35. Negative reviews do make me stay away from a book, while positive reviews raise my expectations, which affect my enjoyment of a book. This is one of the reasons why I stay away from reading reviews of books I already have. At the same time, too hyped books make me wary and not read them at all because I find that my tastes don't always coincide with what's popular. This applies to THG, GoT and most NA books right now.

    The comments I've been getting on my blog, though, have made me realize how much a review can also affect other people's enjoyment of a book!
    Goldie recently posted…Review: The Mephisto Club [Rizzoli & Isles, book 6]My Profile

  36. I do take negative and positive reviews into account. Let's say a book has been receiving only negative feedback, then of course I'm going to not read it and take it off my TBR. Other people's thoughts on a book matter to me and will help determine if I even bother with the book in the first place and help me determine whether to expect much or not.

    Lovely post, Jeann! <33
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