Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Do You Review with Your Head or Your Heart?

The title of this post may sort of sound like the beginning of a cheesy country song, but this is actually a push and pull I struggle with a lot when it comes to rating and reviewing and MOST ESPECIALLY recommending.

Sometimes I read a book, and intellectually, I think it's stellar. Tidy writing, banging metaphors, deep and timely themes, impressive characters, award worthy whozits and whatsits galore. But I didn't get the FEELS. My brain went "oooh, yes" and my heart went "blerghhhhhhh."

Sometimes I read a book, and, intellectually, I see the flaws. The pacing flags. The worldbuilding is thin. I guessed the plot twists. BUT OH DEAR SWEET SHIPPIDY DOO DAH, DID I GET THE FEELS.

I'm usually the type of person who (if you haven't noticed in my last 800 blog posts and 100k tweets) tends to review on the FEELSY FEELS side. I recommend with my big squishy hheart. I give five stars for my emotional investment (and my capacity for emotional investment in fiction is sky high), and not so much for the craft/quality of the book. I weight the emotional aspects of reading more heavily. In other words, I am massively subjective when it comes to reviewing.

Sidebar: Reading is an inherently subjective act, since all fiction is bound to be filtered through the reader's feelings/experiences/viewpoints/etc on and on, but even within that, I'm extra super purposefully subjective. I can forgive basically any flaws if I care enough about the characters, and I have before.

But this is where things get TRICKY. Because what if you FIVE STAR GUSH GUSH THESE ARE MY FAVORITE FICTIONAL CINNAMON ROLLS KNOW THEM AND LOVE THEM push a book on someone...who DOESN'T read that way? Someone who, when they read that book, says "oh, yeah, the characters were nice, but the plot was very predictable, and the worldbuilding had no heft to it. It's at most a three stars."

*small break to cry readerly tears* *being a chronic Recommender of Things is a tough job, my friends*

That person, it seems, is most like a person who reviews with their heads. They are good at weighing all the elements of a story equally. In some ways, their reviews can be trusted more, since they're slightly less influenced by personal taste.

(Sidebar the second: My reviews, I will be the first admit, are ENTIRELY SKEWED towards people who like the same tropes, genres, and SHIPSSSSS as me. Like, I know you wonderful people. Most of you like the things I like, which is why you keep showing up in my little corner of the interwebs.)

Or maybe they're NOT a head reviewer type person (all reviewers have heads and hearts, you know what I mean). Maybe they're also a heart type, but their heart type things don't line up with your heart type things!! Because that's the danger with being a heart-type reviewer: there is NO GUARANTEE that the things in that book that set your heart aflame, and made it easy for you to overlook the flaws, will be the same things that make a fellow reader's heart go kaboom.

It's all so fraught, you guys.

So, I want to know: do you review with your head or your heart? What do you do when those two things CLASH when it comes to a book?? Besides cry into the pages? Let me know!


  1. I only write reviews on Goodreads - they are short and 100% reviewed with my heart. But the good things is that reviews state why we think the way we do, so anyone can see whether they would feel similarly or differently about a book. Sometimes I read reviews of books people didn't hate - and after reading their reason I think ... hmmm ... those sound like things I would love - like unhappy endings (someimes I don't like things neat and tidy).

  2. Hmm... I think I'm both depending on the book. Sometimes, I would see the flaws in a book but my heart will fall in love with it anyway. Other times, the flaws will be too great to ignore them. Or my brain would know it's a good book because it has good characters and good plot but my heart will reject it.

  3. This English degree currently gathering dust in my closet proves why I tend to read books with my head... the real problem is that I place too much emphasis on not only books that read well, but that are widely read and loved by other people! When you read with your head, it's too easy to just fall into the patterns of what other people have thought, too. So, I try a little harder sometimes to just feel with my heart, rather than overthink it. And I trust my friends who recommend books they review with their heart, too!

  4. I have a post similar to this somewhere in the archives! haha. I usually go by a mix of the two, at least for my ratings. Strong feels can overpower the analytical side of me, but I try to average them out haha. My reviews are usually super flail-y or angry depending on the book. Sooo usually I'm all heart!

  5. I think I review mainly from my heart - but if I know with my head that there are good aspects of a book then I will say that in the review. A book can be exceptionally written but it still won't have a lasting effect on me and I won't be in love with it, which in my books probably means it's not my cup of tea and I would likely avoid in the future. My heart usually wins when I know things are bad too, like the writing will be terrible but I'll still be going back for more!

  6. I rate based on my heart, which is why sometimes I will write a review with a lot of elements of concern, but can still rate a book higher than 3 stars (which is sort of my last "it's a pretty good book" rating). I think I'm probably an intellectual reviewer most of the time. I tend to analyze things a lot, and I think that's probably one of my hallmarks as a blogger. That said, if you give me a book that I absolutely love and will slay people for (THE HATING GAME OMG OMG OMG), all the intellect goes out the window, and I basically just flail. And yeah, I agree with you that my reviews are probably skewed towards people who read a lot of stuff I read. I never expect that everyone will agree with me and that's what makes it fun, right? =)

    I do tend to feel really crappy when I recommend a book and it's just not other people's cup of tea. Ugh. But what can we do? That's why we don't do this for money, right? =P

  7. I feel like if I really love a book, I end up reviewing more from the heart. But if it's just mediocre, I lean towards reviewing with my head since clearly my heart felt nothing. But the ones I hate... I go back to reviewing from the heart, just the opposite. lol

  8. I thought about this for a while after I first read her post, and it's only at this moment that I've realized that I'm much more of a "heart" reviewer than a "head" reviewer. I do try to mention a few of the things that others might find problematic or not-so-great, but overall, I review it based on how I felt about it ;)

  9. I totally relate to this post and had this exact problem with the last book I read. Overall I'm like you, a FEELS/heart reviewer (as you know) but I also try to make it clear that fans of x, y, and z will like this too/might not like this. So I try to throw a little pragmatism in at the end I suppose. I'd also say if I'm stuck, I tend to round up for feels even with slight mediocrity (3.5 to a GR 4 star for example) and round down for well-written execution but less feels (3.5 to a GR 3 star). It's so hard when your heart things don't align with other people! But I also feel like you can get a feel for what you're looking for in a review and that can help.

  10. This post really caught my eye and got me thinking. I am a total feeler when I read and review. Since I am not a writer or educated in the literary arts beyond my high school english classes (I have a BS in engineering, EdM in Science Ed), I only feel qualified to judge the work on how it made me feel or how entertaining it was to me. Characters definitely rate higher than plot for me. If I cannot feel something for the MCs or connect to them, the reading experience falls flat. Yeah, total feeler here.


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