Sunday, June 5, 2011

How That "DNF" Review "Thingy" Keeps Haunting Me...

I posted recently that I'd just heard of this "DNF" review grade/rating/internet-thingy...which, for those who still don't know, means, "Did Not Finish." As an author, I don't think it's ever happened to me, so no one can say I'm complaining about any of my own book reviews. It's just that I honestly don't get why anyone would bother taking a "DNF" review seriously.

And since I discovered "DNF" reviews, I coincidentally started reading the worst book I've read in years. What makes this particular book even more pitiful is that it was written by a New York Times bestselling author with a long list of published novels. I'm not going to mention names or titles. I won't do that because I don't want this to become a review blog. And this post isn't a review of the book I read.

But I will mention that the book revolves around three women: a college age daughter, a middle aged mother, and an ex-mother-in-law/grandmother who is in her sixties. They all embark on a cross country road trip and the "fun" ensues (I'm twirling my finger right now). And you'd think that with three generations, and a road trip, there would be at least one likable character to hold on to. But not so.

But this isn't a book review and I realize that this just wasn't the right book for me, which happens. But it is an example of my point in an earlier blog post about "DNF." I could have stopped reading. I could have deleted the entire book from my e-reader and it wouldn't have made a difference in the quality of my life one way or the other. I could have left a bitter, scathing review on goodreads or amazon and felt a brief moment of blind vindication.

But I didn't stop reading. I plowed through until the end, literally groaning out loud at some points (there was a scene at the Grand Canyon where I wanted to shove them all over.). And even though I didn't like the book, I understand (objectivity) how other's might like it...or love it for that matter. It's pure escapism, from cover to cover. But it's trying too hard to be realism instead of escapism for my taste.

After this reading experience, I still don't get this "DNF" thing at all. It's one thing to stop reading a book and move problem there. It's just that when I read comments and ratings and reviews for books that were never finished I have to wonder the about the motivation...or lack of motivation in some cases.

I suffered through this particular book and I knew I wasn't even going to review or rate it in public anywhere. Finishing everything is a personal objective with me. When I begin something I see it through until the end. And, because I had the tenacity to get through this nightmare of a book, I will admit that the ending wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was, in fact, worth my time in the end, and all the complaining I did while I was reading.

But more than that, I'd recommend the book to people who I think would enjoy it (my mother would probably love it). I do know plenty who would, in spite of the fact that I hated it so much. And what a terrible shame it would have been if I'd stopped reading mid-way and written a scathing public review before I'd had a chance to see how it ended.


Elisabeth said...

I agree, I'm not very fond of the DNF tag. Admittedly, there are books I don't finish. But if I don't, then I don't review them. I kind of don't feel that I'm qualified to review a book if I din't read it the whole-way through.

ryan field said...

I agree 100%.

I also think it's unprofessional and it lowers standards for authors and for readers.

Jon Michaelsen said...

Ryan, I agree. Frankly, I was unaware of the DNF tag until you mentioned it; there have been books I've not been able to finish dating back years - and you know what - sometimes, I pick one up that was discarded before and devour it; the reality for me is mood. Depends on the mood I'm in whether or not I can get into a novel. That's why I'm often reading two or three books at once - it's because whichever is getting my attention the most, will tend to get read more. I think this is just the state of things in today's super-techy world. But for the record - if I can't finish the novel, I do not comment accordingly; I just think it's rude to an author. It's like someone reviewing a movie or play based on a trailer or heresay. 'Nuff said...

AJ Llewellyn said...

Hi Ryan, fantastic post. I think I have a DNF review on Goodreads. In fact I have had poor reviews on Goodreads of books I haven't even written yet!
I think there is a nastiness to some of these 'reviews' designed to sideswipe authors. I used to think it was just M/M authors but I see that many genres get them.I think the DNF review is designed to hurt the author and make them feel bad. I personally have read some horrible books and would give them one star rating but have only done it with one book...because it offended me so badly. I think it'd wonderful you finished this book and that you liked the ending. Says a lot about your integrity.

Sharon M.Bidwell said...

I'm presuming the reviewer is saying there was so much wrong with the book they couldn't finish it, but unless they can say 'what' was wrong throughout the book, you're right and they haven't really completely the job of reviewing. I've also discovered a few books that seem to never gather momentum, but the end makes me realise what a good read it actually was, so in some cases you're doing yourself a disservice by giving up. It's one thing for a reader to do this, but I wouldn't expect a review site to post a DNF review.

ryan field said...

Jon...that happened to me with Son of the Circus by John Irving...I wasn't in the mood. But six months later I finished it and loved it.

AJ...Reading between the lines, I agree. But there are a lot of things I question about many reviews these days. In other words, I will be the first to thank a serious reader/book buyer who didn't like one of my books and gave me one star and a poor review. I value the opinions of serious readers/book buyers. But I can't help questioning some of the bad reviews I see...across the board...and on one particular site. It just seems like there's a hidden agenda beneath the surface. I'm also seeing a hidden agenda with some of the good reviews, too. And this is a or bad...are designed to help readers, not influence them. I've even contacted the FTC about it in one particular case. And, none of the books are mine or have anything to do with the publishers I work with.

Sharon... "I'm presuming the reviewer is saying there was so much wrong with the book they couldn't finish it..."

Frankly, in this particular case, I can't help but wonder about the motivation. I hope I'm wrong. But I have good instincts when it comes to smelling a rat, so to speak.