I came across this one a while ago, but it’s always just sort of stuck with me. I found the discourse around it fascinating, though I disagreed vehemently with the position that was being put forth. Now, what’s the controversy? Well, if you, as a reader decide to DNF a book and you give it a rating based on what you read and that decision in itself, is it wrong?
I’ve heard on many different occasions that it’s deeply unfair of readers to rate a book they chose not to finish and while I certainly understand an author’s perspective here as I can only imagine that it feels deeply upsetting and unfair to have someone rate their book without considering all the pieces of it, and yet I still found myself somewhat appalled at the notion.
And I get it, I really do. I’m a writer as well. I don’t respond well to criticism initially of things that I have written, especially in the instance that I feel a person has misjudged based on lack of information. But again, I disagree with this stance that readers who may have spent money and certainly spent time reading a book, shouldn’t rate said book if they have to discontinue reading it at some point for whatever reason.
My logic for this is simple. Whether or not a reader has finished the book, the reader obviously had a reason to make the decision to put it aside. And whatever that decision was will clearly influence the reader’s opinion of the book. Whether they put it down because the writing quality was bad or because the plot had some holes or simply because the topic was problematic or extremely sensitive, I feel that readers have a right to review the portion of the book that they did read.
I think most readers understand when they see the label DNF on a review for a book that there are obviously some things that the reviewer is not going to know or be able to reference in their review. Readers are not dumb and they can sleuth out for themselves what that DNF rating means. Additionally, if a reviewer chooses to DNF a book, they have put time and effort into reading something that disappointed them and as such have every reason to show that in their rating or their review.
A DNF rating is not considering the entirety of a book, no, and that is a fair criticism of the rating itself. But I do believe that readers are capable of fully understanding that a DNF rating does not reflect the book in its whole and will take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to read the book. I’m sure not everyone does this, of course, but there are likely a large number of people who do.
And finally, if a reader chooses to DNF a book, their reason for doing so is a valid one. They might point to something problematic about the book, they might point to errors that were made, they might point to plot holes or lack of realism in characters. And it’s important to recognize these things and their role in prompting the reader to put the book down rather than to grow angry with them for giving a book the critique that they did.
I imagine I will cite this often when bringing up review controversies, but I always think back to Fifty Shades of Grey when this sort of thing comes up. I rated this book one star. I marked the book as DNF at about 70% because I just couldn’t stand the disgusting abusive relationship and the absolutely terrible writing. The mistakes were all over the place, the plot holes were numerous, the characters made no sense, and the relationship was the most abusive I’ve ever seen in literature while masquerading itself as romantic when it was everything but. I was deeply uncomfortable with a great deal of things in this disgrace of a novel and I had to put it down.
And there is absolutely nothing that makes me believe, currently, that this book did not deserve that one-star review. In fact, if I could have given it negative stars, I would have. For many reasons. And so the very notion that, because I did not finish reading a book that was, by all accounts, the worst book I’d ever had the misfortune to come across, I shouldn’t have rated it to reflect those feelings is rather ridiculous to me. The book was deeply problematic, there were so many errors, and it was incredibly unrealistic. It deserved the one-star rating based on what I was able to force myself through, for the time and energy I spent on it.
I would never rate a book that I have not read, which is why I have not rated this book’s subsequent sequels, though my understanding of them is that they are just as bad as the first, if not worse. But I spent time with this first novel and therefore had every reason to give it a rating, even though I did not read the book to the end. There are legitimate and strong reasons for the rating I chose to give the book, as I’m sure there are for other readers who have rated books they marked as DNF and the idea that I should not have rated it is, frankly, quite ridiculous.
While I acknowledge that it is not a fun thing to have someone put a book you may have written aside for their own reasons and rate it poorly as a result, I think there’s something to be taken from the fact that this happened in the first place. And I hope that when I publish something, if someone makes the decision to discontinue reading and gives the book a low rating, I deeply consider their reasons for having done so and whether or not there is something I need to improve on in my writing. And I might agree or disagree with the reader’s review and opinion, but at the end of the day they spent time reading a book and were honest about how they felt. And I don’t think anyone can reasonably fault them for that.
So, with all of that, I leave you. Though this discussion was pretty in depth, I hope the fox gifs were a welcome break in between. Thanks for sticking around and feel free to leave your own opinion in the comments below about this particular topic! This post details my personal opinion on the matter and I do not expect everyone to share it with me, so feel free to disagree and let me know why if you do! I’d love to read your reasoning as I always like to expand my opinion with knowledge and understanding from others.
As always, happy reading!