Reviewing outside your zone
Kris recently did a contest to help readers get over their m/m ennui. This involved readers picking books out of their favorite genres and even venturing into those that push boundaries or comfort levels. The readers were expected to write a review – anything from one line to 1500 words – about this book and they were entered into the contest for a gift certificate.
Great idea and it went over exceptionally well (as most of Kris’ ideas do).
What caught my eye reading the reviews was the common line of some sort – “I don’t usually read this” or “I don’t usually like this genre.”
Now since the goal was to push outside common genres, that’s not too surprising that most comment on it. But it got me thinking about reviewers stepping outside to read and review things they may not like and the result.
Readers should push themselves if they want. Why not? Pick up a book you may not like and take a chance. If it goes well, it’s even more a credit to the book that can convert a reader. But what if the reader doesn’t like the book. Is it the book’s fault?
I sometimes wonder when I read a review that starts “I don’t usually like BDSM books” and the review goes on to say they didn’t like that BDSM book either. It negates the review for me and makes me wonder if it was the book’s fault with poor writing or bad sex scenes – or is it the reader’s comfort level that is outside that realm to begin with for the idea and never warmed to the book. It could legitimately be a bad book and the reader’s preferences never really came into play, but it could easily also be that the reader not liking that element negated the book’s enjoyment.
I don’t fault readers at all for their preferences. It’s absolutely anyone’s personal right to read whatever they want and love it (or not). But when reviewing outside the comfort zone, I think it’s even more essential to identify what didn’t work and realizing if it’s reader preference or the book’s fault. I think it’s perfectly ok to say a book didn’t work for you because you don’t like horror or bdsm or whatever and although you tried, you just couldn’t do it. But I think it’s just as important to be careful not to blame the book unless it deserves it.
What do you think?
Have you tried to step outside your comfort zone and been burned or delighted?
What about reviewing those books?
Do you give more or less credit to reviews that start with "I don’t normally read this genre…"