One Star Reviews – A Discussion

The other week I got a comment on an old one star review of mine on Goodreads from someone who had rated this particular book five stars and their opinion was that I had been unfairly harsh on the book. I obviously had to respectfully disagree with their take on the book and defended the stance that I had taken in my review…

But it got me wondering about one star reviews in general.

So today I want to ask what criteria does everyone have for rating a book one star? Or perhaps you do not even rate books that lowly? I know many people out there have a different opinion on one star reviews and their validity and that some people feel uncomfortable about rating someone else’s work so lowly.

But I have always been of the mindset that if I am to truly be an honest book reviewer then I have to be as comfortable giving out a low one star rating as I am at giving out a high five star one. Perhaps this stems from my nature to not DNF all that frequently and therefore I will continue to read a book I am not enjoying to its completion as I am always curious to see if a story will improve. And on the rare occasions that I do DNF I have a personal code that I will not give a rating unless I have read a minimum of a third of the book and would therefore have a true feel for the style of narrative, the types of characters and the various themes contained therein.

I know that for me book reviewing is a pleasant hobby whereas writing a book for an author is a job that pays their bills so I fully understand the implications that negative book reviews can have on authors’ lives. This is why I hopefully try to be as fair as I can in all of my reviews. And sometimes the reasons I will rate a book lowly (typically a 2/2.5 star review) will be due to personal taste and I do endeavour to make that clear in my reviews.

But if I find a book to be poorly written with both insipid characters and a flimsy or cliche-laden plot, or more importantly if I find it to be problematic in some way, then I feel it is my duty to be honest and to give my fair opinion. Because while it is important that authors can make their living from writing, it is also important that readers not spend their hard earned money on a book that will not be to their taste or on a book that reinforces a negative stereotype or a problematic theme/belief.

As I am someone who is a voracious reader and has written a review for virtually every book I have read since late 2015 I have amassed a number of one star reviews. And I do not feel uncomfortable with that fact. I think because each review that all of us book bloggers and reviewers write is subjective then ultimately the decision to read a book is always with the prospective reader. I know that there are many negative book reviews that I have read that still did not sway my choice to read a book. If I like the sound of the blurb and I like the first page or two that I will flick through in the bookshop (or the sample on a site like Amazon) then I will always go with my own gut instinct rather than that of another reviewer/blogger.

So I’m throwing the question out to all of you: how do you feel about one star reviews?

Are they necessary to show balanced opinion?

Or are they too disparaging of an author’s hard work?

Let’s chat in the comments below!

65 thoughts on “One Star Reviews – A Discussion

  1. *settles in* I LOVE THIS TOPIC.
    I understand what you mean completely. if a book is just overall bad I do not feel awful for giving it a terrible review. this has to be a book where the plot is horrendous, characters terrible, etc. I recently had to one star this splatterpunk book because it was sooo bad. it just got off on gore and sex.
    lmao and this wasn’t a one star but a book I gave two stars to and the author actually reached out to me somewhat pissy. I felt bad but also, this is my opinion. we all have one and I won’t feel sorry about it. writing is a difficult art form and i’m sure it stings seeing the criticism but that’s also what you signed up for. I think it is necessary because it also shows the author constructive criticism and that’s not a bad thing at all.

    😭 this is probably long winded and makes no sense but I am just FULL OF OPINIONS AND FIRE

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Amanda you’re the best!! And omg can’t believe an author felt the need to come back at you when you gave an honest opinion. Because at the end of the day, that’s all our reviews are…simply honest opinion. And if we want to have civil discourse in any aspect of life be it from a book review or to politics etc (I know, quite the leap lol!) then we should always speak our truth honestly and openly as long as it’s not in some hurtful manner. Reviews aren’t a personal attack on an author, they are merely about the produced work and don’t represent our feelings on the author’s personality. So I FEEL YOU AMANDA!!!! :))))

      Liked by 1 person

      1. omg that’s exactly it!!! I admit I did laugh when they did it because I was SO taken aback lmfaooo. I felt bad for just a moment but also no?? this is my opinion and it made me never want to read anything by her.

        yup, exactly and the book probably isn’t for us and that’s fine.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I can’t believe that some authors do that. It’s just so unethical!! It’s a line that should never be crossed by an author. I think if I was an author the simplest thing would to not read reviews by bloggers, not a good review nor a bad review.

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  2. If I rate a book 1 star, it’s because of the reasons you stated above but also if I see issues with the writing, such as exceptionally bad grammar, major plot holes, etc. I also make it a point in my low reviews to state if I didn’t enjoy it for personal reasons and try to think of types if readers that would enjoy it instead.

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    1. Yup! I totally get that. What I always say to people who comment on my one star reviews (or indeed any review rating) is that all I’m saying in my review is opinion based, and I don’t actively dissuade someone from reading a book (unless it’s particularly problematic, or triggering in some way to them). And I actually like to read one star reviews myself and then read the book to see what I think of it! Thanks for commenting Elysa :)))

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  3. So guilty confession here, I love reading 1-star reviews. On Goodreads and such, some gif-heavy ones are hilarious to the point where I remember them weeks or months later and go back and read lol. Some of these reviews have had the opposite effect, and have honestly draw me closer to books. There are some I’ve ended up reading after developing such curiosity from those reviews. (November 9 by Colleen Hoover comes to mind, ended up liking it despite the problems.) As a review writer, I’m trying to go for more constructive language and point out good areas of a book just as well as the bad. Wish every book could be a 5-star but 1-star reviews are always going to happen once in a while and are almost always worth posting imo. Especially when they point out offensive elements in a book that could hurt some people who read it, I remember a few weeks ago thanking a GR reviewer for quoting a horrifying passage in a book that no other review had mentioned. D: But anyway, great post and I agree with all your points this is an interesting subject to talk about!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Omg Kitty I am with you so much!!! I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to one star reviews. I can’t help but read them lol! But i love the example you gave re CoHo. Because I’m very much like you in that regard. Frequently a one star review will actually make me want to read a book more!!! Because at the end of the day our reviews are just opinion based and no one is either 100% right or 100% wrong. Thanks so much for commenting Kitty! It’s so interesting to hear everyone’s opinions on this :))))

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  4. I honestly don’t remember the last time I gave a one-star to a book that I actually finished reading, but I think that’s mainly because I’m good at guessing which books I will and will not like.

    But I’m honestly a fan of one-star reviews. I think they’re often helpful in determining whether I want to read a book or not

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have 186 one star ratings on GR lol!! But about a 1000 rated books so proportionally it’s not that bad. But I totally get you when you say you know the types of books you like to read and therefore don’t have that many one star ratings. I think because I read quite broadly across a lot of genres that I have a tendency to read more books that I may not love. And definitely when I don’t choose the book I’m reading (eg as in my book group) then the chances of me not liking the book are higher.
      But as you said I definitely think there’s a place for one star ratings because as long as everyone realises it’s just subjective opinion then I think everyone should be entitled to rate a book as they see fit. Thanks so much for commenting Ally :)))

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It is very rare that I read a one star book these days and I think I have book blogging to thank for that! I have a good handle on my reading tastes so I am pretty good at guessing which books I will enjoy, but of course sometimes I am wrong. I do not see a problem with one-star reviews- I have actually picked up books because of a negative review. Sometimes what I love in a book is what another person hates!

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    1. Yes!! I have definitely picked up books that other people have rated one star just to see what I would think of them. Because at the end of the day our ratings are subjective and opinion based. So no one is ever going to think the exact same way about a book as their friend did. I know because I read quite broadly across multiple genres (I get bored easily lol!) and I read books set by my book group that I have a greater likelihood of not liking a book as someone like you. Thanks so much for your comment Kristin. This is so interesting to hear everyone’s takes and opinions :)))

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  6. I pay attention to one star reviews a lot when it’s on a book that I’ve only heard good things about. It makes me want to know why this person rated it as such, and maybe those that rated it so high missed something problematic or big that warranted a lower review. I personally don’t see an issue with rating something one star if that’s truly what you feel. I know I rated something one star once, and the worst book before that, I rated a two star because I ended up finishing it. I think it should have been a one star read for me honestly, and I make it a point not to rate anything I don’t finish.

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    1. Oh my, only one one star rating! I have 186 on Goodreads lol! But bear in mind that’s in proportion to over a 1000 books that I’ve listed as read there. But I definitely do love those one star ratings that call out problematic themes and harmful tropes in books too. I know I’ve written a few myself; most recently with The Friend Zone which is my most popular review on GR as it calls out a harmful angle the book takes. And another popular one star review of mine us of Carve the Mark as I found it to be quite problematic with its language around chronic pain. As for one star reviews based on reader taste, prose, plot etc, I think as long as everyone realises that opinion is subjective and the reviews do not personally attack the author then I definitely think that there are a place for one star reviews. Thanks so much for your comment Leelyn!! :))))))

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  7. Great post – it’s also given me more conviction to write my upcoming 1 star review (although it’s for a book that has completely divided people – I’m very much in the one star camp!!) Sometimes I think it’s the disappointment you get when a book doesn’t live up to your expectations, but also some stories are presented so poorly that there’s no other way of rating them!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh definitely write that one star review!! I will firmly back you up as someone who’s written a lot of one star reviews in her time! Because at the end of the day our reviews and ratings are just based on our opinions and we should always be allowed to speak freely in an honest and open manner as long as our reviews do not personally attack the author etc. Thanks so much for your comment Hannah! And I’m looking forward to reading that review :))))

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  8. Great discussion! I think it’s very reasonable to rate a book one star. As you mentioned reading and reviewing is subjective so what one person thinks of a book can be completely different than another person.
    I don’t rate books one star very often, but if it’s a book that I probably should have DNFed I will rate it one star because I just simply didn’t enjoy it. I like to be as honest as I can with my reviews and ratings!

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    1. Totally agree with you Meghan. It’s all about the right to be able to speak our truth and to be allowed to freely give our opinions. Because as you said, these reviews are purely opinion based and that doesn’t mean that we are ever truly right or truly wrong in what we say. But I firmly believe we should be allowed to say it as long as the review is respectful to the author ie doesn’t personally attack their character or similar. Thanks for the comment Meghan! :))))

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      1. Agree 100%. If you stick to why you didn’t like something and stated your reasons, it’s your opinion. When you start to bring the author and start attacking that’s when you’ve gone too far.
        I think if you simply say you didn’t like it because it’s not what you like, no one can hold that against you!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Usually when I rate a book one star, it’s usually a combination of some of these factors (in no particular order)

    a) More than one character that I absolutely could not get on board with/loved to hate

    b) The plot/dialogue seemed believable in the blurb, but was executed poorly (or just flat-out boring)

    c) If the writing style is condescending, childish, overtly irreverent, and/or rife with incorrect grammar

    d) These three (+ some others, in some cases) led to a DNF

    Most of the time, I feel really bad leaving one star reviews, but on the other hand, sometime’s it’s necessary to vent about these things. If I do publish a one-star review on Goodreads, I usually try to apologize to the author in advance, because hey, they’re putting their stuff out there, and I respect them for that. But if they’re coherent, somewhat rational, and intellgent, I think that one star reviews can sometimes be really helpful when I read reviews of a book (pointing out major flaws, etc.). 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love this so much!!! And I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. Because as long as we respect the author’s work and don’t assassinate their character in any way then definitely there is a place for one star ratings. I think it’s about the ability to speak our own truth and to be free to share our opinions and that’s something I will always defend.
      And those reviews that point out problematic themes or harmful tropes are even more valuable in my opinion. Because they help both us as readers and authors to learn more about how to be respectful in our day to day lives. I’m such a believer in thinking that we can learn so much about ourselves from the books we read. Thanks for the comment Madeline! :)))

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  10. I personally only rate books one star if I can’t get through them so two stars are my lowest “finished” rating, but I do think low ratings are important. I always try and state of it was a preference issue or an issue with the book itself (plot, grammar, etc)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I like that. It’s what you’re comfortable with. And I think that’s my whole point in this discussion post. Is that we should always be allowed to feel free to give our opinions and be comfortable in giving them. Just as long as we are respectful of other viewpoints and also don’t descend into character assassinations on the author. Thanks so much for commenting Andrea! :))))

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    1. That’s 100% my attitude too. I have no guilt about them and I definitely think that everyone is entitled to write them and should never have their opinion questioned in a demeaning or derogatory manner. Like yes, be able to defend your viewpoint if someone asks you to further explain but I totally believe that reviews and ratings are subjective to each person and each person should be allowed to speak their truth :))

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      1. I hate when people get all fussy about their favorite books. Opinions aren’t wrong, and if people took a second to understand *why* someone gave a bad review, it might help deepen their understanding of the book they love so much. You can love something that has flaws

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      2. Oh preach this!!!! 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 Couldn’t agree more. There’s room for everyone’s viewpoint and someone getting me annoyed that you view a favoured book of theirs differently is one of the things that bothers me quite a bit when I write low rated reviews

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  11. Very interesting thoughts. Personally I don’t DNF either, but I have really only rated books as low as 2 stars. If I finish the book I always find something that I wind up liking about it. I’m sure someday I might read a book that I absolutely hate, but it hasn’t really happened yet. I did something like this for 5 star reads. I went through all of my 5 star reviews and looked at what they had in common and then wrote a blog post about it all. I realized a lot of stuff about my own reading preferences. For example before then I always avoided books over 400 pages, but then realized that almost all my fantasies that I had given 5 stars to were over 400 pages, so since then I’ve been giving more long fantasies a chance. It was super helpful and now I take my preferences into account when requesting books.

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    1. That’s really interesting. I think where you and I differ is maybe that I tend to read outside of my comfort zone more? I easily get quite bored of reading similar genres etc and like to read from almost every genre to keep things more interesting for myself. I like the unexpected nature of reading books from many genres. And I read books assigned by my book group rather than to my personal taste. And that could be why I have more one star ratings? I think the worst is when you do read a book from a preferred genre or author and it disappoints. Those one star ratings always make me feel sad. Thanks for your thoughts and great comment :)))

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      1. That’s true. I read mainly within my comfort zone for sure. I used to switch genres more frequently, but I’ve been on a fantasy kick for months. Every now and then I will throw in a mystery or thriller too, but lately I’ve been all fantasy. I hate when I read something that I thought I would love and I wind up hating it. That makes me super sad.

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  12. I’ve started getting really picky with how I rate my books and I think I blame that partially on how much I see people on book Twitter get up in arms about tiny aspects of plots. I tend to only rate books 1 stars if I absolutely can’t bring myself to recommend it to anyone. If I think that someone else will like it (or if myself liked portions of the book) then it gets 2 stars. I choose not to rate books that I DNF just because I feel like it’s not fair if I didn’t get all the way through it. I think that ratings of all kinds are incredibly helpful when looking at books. Especially when it comes to books that I’ve been tempted to buy, I don’t want to spend my money on something that could turn out really bad! I think that if the book just isn’t to your taste then there’s no reason to feel bad about rating a book low. If you actually review it, then people can see why you felt the way that you felt. And if you rate it low because of actual issues within the book that are problematic or just overall bad, well, then the author might want to reevaluate how they’re writing or they could end up not having a career in writing.

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    1. I very much agree with you that all sorts of ratings are helpful and that it helps to give a more balanced view of the book when people can openly and honestly share their thoughts and feelings about it. And I love that you have your own standards when it comes to DNFs. I thoroughly respect that. I myself will only rate a book I have DNFd if I have read a large proportion of it and feel that I can give an honest appraisal of the book as a whole and where I believe the plot is going. If I have only read a small amount then I will leave it unrated. Thanks so much for commenting. I really loved reading your thoughts :)))))

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  13. I agree with you 100%! I’m almost done with a book that I’ll definitely be giving either a one or two star review to, and I think that kind of review is important because, as you’ve said, readers shouldn’t spend their hard-earned money on books that are either not to their tastes or in bad taste in general. The book I’m currently reading has some not at all subtle themes of racism, homophobia, and sexism, and frankly, it disgusts me and should not be taken lightly at all. If we give authors who write those kinds of books higher ratings simply because it’s how they make a living, then we’re supporting their choices to continue writing those kinds of books. And they’ll never learn about what a terrible perspective they’re putting out in the world!

    And, at the end of the day, reading is something we do simply for enjoyment, so why not make it clear when we’ve not enjoyed something?

    Great post, thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much Mary! You have perfectly explained why it is I believe that there should be no guilt about giving an honest appraisal of a book be it a high or low rating. And 100% I agree with you that we need one star reviews that call out harmful tropes, problematic attitudes and hate speech. Thank you so much for commenting with your thoughts. I really appreciate it :)))

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  14. I had to go back to my Goodreads to check if I’ve ever given a book 1 star and it turns out there are only two books I’ve ever rated 1 star. There were three but I cleared the rating for one of them because it was a DNF and I, as a rule, don’t usually rate my DNFs even if I really hated them. Nowadays my lowest rating is 2 stars because there will be a couple of things I like about a book that I want to honour and ultimately influence me to carry on reading and finish it.

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    1. I also have a rule about not rating my DNFs unless I’ve read a large proportion of the book and feel that I can give an accurate opinion of the book. But what I love about this discussion is that everyone has different ways of thinking about low ratings and they’re all really respectful of the authors :))) Thanks so much for your comment Emma :)))

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  15. I guess I don’t have strong feelings that people I will never meet deserve a minimum “rating” If something is cliche, with poor writing, problematic characters, or just down right bad I think a 1 star review is fine. 1 review in the algorithm on a good reads page doesn’t carry that much weight and other reviews should be able to see reviews for what they are and not attacks on their taste or the author.

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  16. I rarely give one star reviews because I usually DNF them, but the few I have rated one star I have felt contributed nothing to me, I learned nothing, were badly written and produced and had problematic elements. I definitely think they have a place and although it must be unpleasant to receive one, honesty and discussion is always valuable.

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  17. Great discussion! I am of the mindset the negative reviews have their place. They’re useful for helping readers determine if they’ll like the style, content etc. of a book. I think so long as the review is respectful and has valid points of issue with the book (not just “I didn’t like it”) it’s fine.
    That being said I’ve seen several authors request to not be tagged in these reviews which I agree with. After so much hard work it’s a relief to publish. They do expect to come across bad reviews but probably don’t need it shoved in their face by tagging them. I’m of the opinion the review is primarily for the reader, not the author anyway.
    All that being said, I don’t generally use stars on my blog when I review. I prefer to discuss the book and end with who and if I would/wouldn’t recommend it to. I find Stars a bit arbitrary and unreliable at times (some books don’t compare that well. What a 3 star for me might be a 5 for someone else)

    Great post! Really interesting reading everyones comments too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I agree with you about not tagging authors in negative reviews. If an author wants to seek out reviews of their work then okay but I can’t imagine being tagged in a negative review can be nice for anyone. Thanks so much for your comment Steph :)))

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  18. I’m not sure if I’ve given one star to something. Usually it’s 2 because I can find one positive about a book, even if I dnf it (which is rare). I try not to rate a dnf unless I’ve read 30% or more (usually 40%+). This is a great post! I know a lot of people are free with 1 and 2 stars and that is totally cool. I’m just not as picky and tend to rate pretty high overall.

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  19. I totally agree with this! One star reviews are needed and of course there are people out there who will abuse the system, but honest feedback is important. I recently gave a two star review to a book whose author had requested I review it and they proceeded to rate all of my own books two stars despite never having read them. It’s unfortunate, but it won’t stop me from reviewing honestly. I really admire your stance on this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh that was entirely petty of them!!! Very disrespectful. It calls to mind people who rate books before they’ve even come out, I don’t understand how anyone can think it’s acceptable to rate a book they have not yet read. Strange…
      I will always give my ratings as I see fit. I know a lot of people think I have a lot of one star ratings but in proportion to the number of books I’ve read in my lifetime it’s not really that many. I think it’s all about integrity as a person and as a reviewer. If I’m not honest about the books I dislike then that to me somehow mars ratings on the books that I love. Thanks so much for commenting Rosie :)))

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a weird culture! But like you say, if it affects the livelihood of a person, it has to be a honest, not malicious or even indifferent motivation.

        I totally agree, to curb our reviews for any reason is to compromise our integrity. Great post! I’ll be sure to keep up to date on your posts!

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  20. I think everyone should be honest in their oponion when giving a review of any kind.
    I have only recently started writing reviews on books that I have read as since publishing my first novel I realise how important reviews are. All constructive critisism is important feedback to the author and can help an author improve.

    Liked by 1 person

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