There’s been drama on Booktube and Twitter, mainly around Ariel Bissett and Better Than Food. They’re both really great Booktubers, who are (finally) actually challenging the Youtube status quo. They’re two of my favourite Booktubers, as they’re both challenging, intelligent and funny and never resort screaming or madly gushing. Though watching Better Than Food do a screaming Booktube video would be hilarious…
I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that some Booktubers, particularly the “big” ones, display a huge lack of honesty. I’ve noticed that several of them read books which sent to them and sponsored by the publishers. They give a blatantly negative review, deserving of a really low star rating, yet rate it highly. I’m talking a 1-2 star review being followed by a 3-4 star rating.
Obviously, there is a major conflict of interest here. This is a problem.
Watching a video or channel consisting of 5 star review after 5 star review begins to feel sketchy. I honestly don’t believe I could read ten books in a row and expect to absolutely love each and every single one of them… I feel like that’s not how reading (or life!) works.
I think Booktubers need to be challenged to think critically and give honest reviews. I understand that there’s pressure from publishers and from viewers to give a positive review, particularly when a book is very popular.
If a Booktuber consistently gives 4-5 star reviews for every single book, I will begin to distrust them. Why is a happy medium rating seen as a bad thing? If a book is truly terrible, made you angry, or just didn’t resonate with you, why not give it a middling to bad review?
Being critical isn’t necessarily being negative. For example, I can read a book, say that I found things I didn’t like about it but still rate it well, because I otherwise enjoyed it. That is being critical, not negative. BazPierce is highly critical about what he reads, but unfortunately he does tend to err on the negative side- I still like him and enjoy watching his reviews, but I don’t have to agree with everything he says. I respect his reviews because he reads books that I enjoy, he reads widely and reads books that I want to read, but if I disagree with him on something, that’s okay.
I don’t know if it’s a 21st century thing or a teenage thing, but if a book is extremely popular, any critical review is thoroughly shouted down. Remembering the Twilight phenomenon, it bordered on scary. It’s happening now with John Green, Cassandra Clare and Rainbow Rowell. I’m pretty sure that I’m yet to see a negative review of any of their books on Youtube. Is this because they actually all love the books, because they’re being paid to love these books or because they’re afraid of losing popularity? Why then go on and pressure others to change their opinion of a book or author or otherwise bash them because they disagree, just because you’re a “bigger” Booktuber?
I don’t think that all 5 star ratings are equal, which perhaps is a bit odd, but that’s how I roll. If I know a book is trash, but I really, really enjoyed it anyway, for whatever reason, I’ll still give it 4-5 stars. I think Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the weak point in the Harry Potter series, but because it’s still Harry and has a special place in my heart, I still rate it 5 stars. I think Jane Eyre is an actual masterpiece of literature, so I give it 5 stars. They’re all 5 stars, but for different reasons. My reviews (hopefully) should reflect why I chose that rating.
I believe that criticism is fine. Criticism is good! Criticism is something that helps ourselves and our society to move on and grow! We should be reading critically and thinking critically about what we experience. As bloggers and Booktubers, we should be giving honest, critical reviews of books, because that’s what we’re here for. If a book is absolutely rubbish, why shouldn’t I review it as such? Not negatively, not personally against the author, but critically. Yes, I tend to be brutally honest and blunt, but that is me. I don’t mean anything personal against the author. Writing my review of Northanger Abbey was fun, even if I hated it and picked apart everything I disliked. That doesn’t mean I think Jane Austen is a terrible person and a terrible writer- I just didn’t like that particular book.
Book reviewing doesn’t need to be a popularity contest. I take my reading seriously and I enjoy doing it. I blog to get my opinions down and out there. I get really invested in the books I read, so review honestly. If I would tell my friend that a book is awful, why would I publicly endorse it?
There is no value in a dishonest review. None.
Booktube is crashing into a popularity contest, which is disappointing. I respect those who are going against the grain and giving honest, critical reviews. I agree with Better Than Food and Ariel, if you’re being paid to review a book, you owe it to yourself and to those who view your reviews to take it seriously and review critically and honestly. If you don’t, you’re a bookseller, nothing more.
The fact that this is even “drama” is disappointing.