A Word About Writing Low-Star Reviews

Your fingers fly across the keyboard until, finally, you click that post button. A few seconds later, your review is available for all to see. In this review, you eagerly detailed your staunch dislike–or, perhaps, your deep hatred–for the book, it’s characters, plot, settings, and even, perhaps, the author. Now all you need to do is await the likes, comments of agreement, and the, “Oh! I’m never reading this book because of your review!” remarks.

Makes you feel good, doesn’t it? Your low-star review has just docked the author’s overall rating and it definitely lowered the book’s rating.

Here’s the thing. It may make you feel good, powerful, but that review? It’s poison.

An author’s heart and soul went into writing that book. They labored through dry spells, physical ailments, emotional trials, and nights of exhaustion that proved detrimental to their health. They know not everyone will like their book–it’s a given, and authors accept that.

You possess every right to dislike a book. You absolutely do not have the right to expel written vitriol. There is a code of ethics for writing reviews, and especially low-star reviews, though many have forgotten that code. You can express your displeasure in a Christlike, gentle manner. It will still sting the author, but it will not shred their heart and soul.

As Christians, we are called to be lights in this dark world. Low-star reviews like the one mentioned above? Those don’t reflect our light. They embrace the world’s standards: cruelty, hatred, and the pleasure derived from tearing someone down.

The Bible has plenty to say about words.

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Proverbs 12:18

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. – Proverbs 15:4

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! – James 3:5

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. – Matthew 15:11

We live in an age of technology where almost everything can be accomplished behind a screen. This is creating an atmosphere of emboldened ruthlessness, where we can say what we please without reaping the consequences. Gone are the days of duking it out via fistfights and recognizing words have the power to heal or destroy. Here are the days of gleeful grins and smug sneers as we post our latest demolishing review.

Those harsh reviews don’t make you look good. They make you look immature and emotionally weak. Are you so incapable of wrangling your emotions into order that you go on a rampage under the guise of a review?

Like I said, you have every right to dislike a book. What you do not have the right to do is use your words to cause harm.

And I’m seeing a lot of reviewers, professing “Christians” included, use their reviews to cause harm.

Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, this should not be.

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21 thoughts on “A Word About Writing Low-Star Reviews

  1. Issabelle Perry

    YESSS!!!! Honestly, I started thinking the SAME things when I got Goodreads over a year ago. There was SO much negativity, and from Christians just as much as unbelievers, and I was like but aren’t we supposed to use our words to build others up and not tear them down? I most certainly don’t do this perfectly, but it’s why I’m less likely to write a review for a three-star book than for a five. (And why I’ve never rated a book one star.) Thank you SO much, Madi, for sharing your thoughts!!! I 100% agree with you, girl!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Madi's Musings

      Yes! I’ll write three-stars–according to Goodreads, I have forty-three of them–but even then I’m listing what I liked and what tripped me up. No one does it perfectly. As for two-and-one stars, they do have their place. I’ll write those if I find serious issues, like profanity, lack of morals, or a gross amount of sexual content, but, again, it’s never attacking the author, just focusing on those content warnings.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ✩ Lily Yu ✩

    Great post, Madi! What would you say about writing a negative review to warn other believers about unbiblical content issues, themes, etc.? I know you were specifically addressing reviews that raged or ranted against books/authors, but I always look for a few positive reviews and a few negative ones when I’m checking a book out. I agree that reviewers should keep the author’s humanity in mind, but “negative” reviews / reviews with low ratings aren’t necessarily ungodly and can most certainly be both tastefully done and extremely helpful to other readers. I think it’s important to show balance and some moderation (not believing all negative reviews are to be shunned and not condoning untasteful negative reviews).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Madi's Musings

      Low-star reviews are not necessarily negative. I’ve written some of those content-warning reviews, and I’ve appreciated others who’ve written them. One, in fact, just turned me away from reading a currently-popular Christian story. It was tastefully done, not bashing the author, but providing insight about content issues. They have their place, and I am grateful for those who write them in a matter-of-fact respectful manner.

      I do the same–look for some positives and negatives. In fact, the negative section is where I usually go first. Yep, I totally agree. Just because something is a low-star doesn’t mean it’s vicious or cruel. It’s the method, the delivery, which I was addressing. In fact, I’ve seen some four star and three star reviews that fall into the category in my post. Cruelty in the guise of “constructive criticism” (which was neither constructive nor helpful in the least). It is quite important to read reviews with discernment. I think one thing that helps with that is how the reviewer delivered their low-star review. Ones that are tasteful are fine. The reviewer has a right to dislike a book. Ones that bash and attack the author aren’t. So, like you said, not all low-stars are to be shunned, because a low-star doesn’t necessarily mean it’s negative.

      Hope this makes sense! It does in my mind, but words rarely transfer smoothly from my mind to writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ✩ Lily Yu ✩

        Yes, that makes perfect sense! ❤ I assumed that's what you meant with this post, which is great. I also read the negatives first (would you say it's better to state the negatives or the positives first when reviewing?). Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Madi's Musings

        I usually address the positives first, then the negatives, then wrap it up with a “those who enjoy ________ (or whatever) will like this __________”. ❤ (Which, your reviews are great! I've been reading them and awaiting your review on a book that recently released).

        Liked by 1 person

      • ✩ Lily Yu ✩

        Ah, got it! I’m still slowly testing out how I’d like my reviews to be formatted, but that sounds like a wonderful way to write reviews.

        (Aw, thanks!! Which book is it for? I’ll make sure to write it asap. Sometimes I don’t feel motivated, and then, you know … Procrastination. *sighs)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Madi's Musings

        Everyone has their own format, so it’s all in what works for you as long as the pertinent information is included.

        (It was “Once I Knew” by Victoria Lynn. I already know my overall stance of whether or not to read it, but I saw you’d read it and was interested in your opinion. Haha, yep. I get that. Feel that way with writing.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • ✩ Lily Yu ✩

        Oh! Wellll…that was a review I dreaded writing, and I actually ended up deciding that maybe I didn’t want to write a review for it. If I do, I’ll basically be the only person who is truly critical of it. 😭 I’m a little baffled as to how everyone somehow seemed to unanimously love the story when I found it to be so…lacking. I know Victoria is a wonderful seamstress, and her Instagram account is fabulous, but I’m afraid of saying these things and then pointing out how much of a disappointment Once I Knew actually ended up being. No one else seems to agree, and I feel like I’ll end up sounding like an old grouch or something. 😩

        Liked by 1 person

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