Friday, March 10, 2017

DNF Reviews: Valid or Bullsh*t?

Since I discovered the indie book community on Facebook a little over 2.5 years ago, my Facebook newsfeed has been comprised mostly of bookish posts from all the authors and bloggers that I follow and am friends with. It's no surprise that I've seen several posts complaining about DNF (did not finish) reviews. The prevailing argument against them is that if you didn't finish a book, how can you adequately review it. And this is where my opinion is going to become unpopular. Reviews are not for authors, they are subjective, and they represent the readers experience with the book. If that experience is they couldn't even freakin' finish the book, that's a valid thing to write a review about.


This picture has been floating around Facebook for at least a month now. I've seen it on several blogs, and posted by many authors on both their "personal" Facebook page (some of those personal Facebook accounts are still really business accounts to be friends with readers, let's just be real here), and Facebook business pages (the ones you have to "Like" and then still almost never see anything they ever post.) I would like to draw your attention to item #2 on this list "You DO NOT have to read the whole book to leave a review." Now it doesn't take a genius to realize that what they really mean by that is "You can leave a glowing review before you finish the book, and please do so as close to release day as possible." Why are those reviews any more valid than the DNF posted by someone else because they found themselves unable to finish a book for whatever reason? I'd much rather read reviews from people who were honest about their inability to finish a book than reviews from people who are essentially lying about having read the whole book. Remember, reviews are for readers, not for authors. Sure, I've scoffed at some of the reasons people have had for DNF'ing a book "I couldn't finish this book because I just couldn't stand the main character, she's just a whiny bitch." But that's the thing, most readers are not actually stupid. We can read DNF reviews like that and realize that it's kind of a ridiculous reason to not finish a book (unless we really hate whiny bitch main characters, in which case, we now have fair warning.) 

But what if the main character isn't really a whiny bitch? There are even loads of 4 and 5 star reviews that talk about what a wonderful person she is. Does that make the DNF review wrong? Nope, because reviews are subjective. Behavior that I think makes a character seem like a whiny bitch might make you think the character is simply a strong, empowered woman. Or maybe you really relate to the things that made me feel like she was a whiny bitch, so you commiserate rather than judge. Our own personal experiences color how we view others, including fictional characters, so no two readers will have exactly the same experience with a book. Honestly, I could re-read a book I recently finished ten years from now, and have a completely different experience then than I did now. I kind of imagine ten years from now I will really hate the teenage characters that I can currently still relate to, because both of my children will be teenagers. That is just one way my personal experiences will affect my perception of things while reading.

"But if you didn't finish the book, you can't really write a review on it," is a very common comment when the topic of DNF reviews come up. And to that I say "Bullshit." My review is my experience with a particular book, and if my experience is that the storytelling and grammar were so awful that I couldn't make it past thirty percent in the book, I'm going to tell people that. And I will use examples, because I learned my lesson with that two star review that got me called racist. Sure, you can look at my DNF review and tell me I shouldn't have written a review at all because I didn't finish the book. I won't listen to you, but you can tell me that. And ultimately, my DNF review will help the author out. It puts them one review closer to that magic number that gets Amazon to start promoting the book as an "also read" or whatever.

And honestly, if people want to say it's okay to leave a positive review for a book you haven't finished, then it should absolutely be okay to leave a negative review for a book that you have made the choice to abandon because you just can't force yourself to continue reading it.

What do you think? - Katie 


  1. I will write a DNF on my blog and goodreads. I am only reviewing books I purchased on amazon or ones for review from now on though... but I think DNF reviews are valid.

  2. I review DNF's on our blog and GR. Sometimes I feel bad when I don't get at least 50% but I do it anyway.

  3. I review DNFs on the blog and Goodreads, but not Amazon because I don't tend to give them a rating since I didn't finish it and I don't know how the rest would play out...But I don't judge people who do rate DNFs, it's just how I feel personally. But I definitely feel that reviews are helpful.