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Discussion: The Trouble With Reviewing Unfinished Books (And Some Tips)

Should you write a review if you DNFed a book? 

I am back with another discussion, because I feel like it, and I loved discussing the previous topic with all of you. Anyways, this is sort of connected to reader fatigue and it’s something I’ve been thinking about recently. And that is whether or not you should (and how) review books that you haven’t finished.

I have been blogging for a year now, and I’ve been approved for a fair share of ARCs. When I first started blogging, I felt so privileged that I was getting an ARC that I felt like I had to read it, no matter what. I pushed through so many books I did not enjoy, solely so I could provide a review. I felt like I would never get approved for anything again if I did not give a review for the ARCs I got.

Moreover, I felt like I could not say anything valuable or give any sort of feedback on the book if I haven’t finished it. How could I say that the book isn’t good or that it wasn’t for me, when I hadn’t gotten past a certain point in it? And what point would warrant me saying I’ve read enough, I can say this isn’t for me? I felt like I had to give a shot to every book (especially ARCs) in order to have an opinion on it.

But is that really the case? 

I have since found that I really don’t have any obligations to read something I am not enjoying. ARCs are meant for publicity, but they are also meant for feedback. And that feedback might just as well be that you couldn’t get through this book. You could not find the strength, time or nerves to push through it. And that’s an opinion you’re entitled to and an opinion that can help both the publishers position the book and other readers be aware that you as a certain kind of reviewer could not finish it.

But when is it okay to stop? 

It seriously doesn’t matter. Truly. Whether a book doesn’t work for you at 10 percent or if it doesn’t work at 90 – ditch it. Dedicate your time to other books and don’t push yourself to finish something you’re not enjoying. I find that when I push myself to read a book I am not really into, I end up hating it waaay more than if I just dropped it. Because I will catch every slight annoyance and hold on to it. I am not doing a favor to myself and definitely not doing a favor to the book.

So how SHOULD you write a review for a DNF? 

Proceed in two easy steps: 

1. Tell it like it is

Be sure to say that you didn’t finish the book. Transparency is key. Make sure to say that maybe the book picks up. Maybe it gets good. But based on the stuff you did read – you two don’t match. And based on the stuff you did read, you have some opinions.

2. What made you put it down?

This is easier to pin down if you had a specific reason for putting it down. Problematic content or the author doing something harmful is a big deal, and if that made you put down the book, a review is a must. You’ve gotta let the people know so they can be prepared for that.

If however, you didn’t like the writing style, the characters, or the book was just plain boring – try to put it in a category like that. Try to pick out exactly what is it about the book that wasn’t working for you. Reflect on the reading experience and then try and verbalize where it all went wrong (that’s too dramatic, but I have been know to be a drama queen).

And to play the devil’s advocate…

Sometimes, pushing through with a book can be really rewarding. I can tell you of numerous books I almost abandoned but ended up loving (future post maybe?). I am always for giving books a chance if you can, but either way, DNFing books doesn’t mean you can’t review them.

I’d love to know your thoughts as always. Do you review DNFs? Do you trust DNF reviews? What’s the point where you think it’s okay to put down a book and review it? Let me know!


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18 thoughts on “Discussion: The Trouble With Reviewing Unfinished Books (And Some Tips)

  1. great post! i love this idea for a discussion. i agree – i think DNF reviews are fine, as long as you follow the two rules you stated. again, love this post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t really leave reviews for books I DNF. Most of the time I can only make it through the first chapter before I leave. I don’t really have a reason as to why I don’t review them, if I did I’d probably say “It’s not for me.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a good discussion topic! One thing I don’t like is when someone DNFs at 5 or 10 percent, gives a low star rating on goodreads and writes a scathing review basically saying the book is awful. I feel like that’s such an unfair misrepresentation of the book – fair, if they’d got to like 50 or 60 percent, but a low review from reading the first few chapters can completely skew the star ratings.

    Like you said, if you’re going to DNF at a lower percentage (which I think, as a reader, you are entitled to do!), you have to make sure your review is fair. Personally, if I DNF at lower than 50ish percent, I don’t even put a star rating.

    Great discussion post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I totally forgot to include star ratings, but I think you’re completely right. I never give star ratings to DNFs no matter how far along I got into the book. It doesn’t seem fair, since the only logical thing to give it is a one star, but that is really unfair.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fortunately I rarely DNF books. Maybe I choose them wisely or maybe I’m lucky. But when it happened once I told it. I also pointed the reason why but I also tried to tell which reader could love it. Honesty, transparency and respect are keys.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post!

    As for me – eh, it depends. I’ll review a DNF if:
    -It’s an ARC from a publisher. Your 2-step process is pretty much identical to mine.
    -I DNFed at the 50% mark or later (33% mark for Russia nonfiction)
    -The book raises interesting questions or makes interesting points in the part I read
    -And vice versa – if the book is a prime example of how NOT to do something (characterization, organization, tone) – it’s an opportunity to learn from the author’s mistakes
    -The DNF happens to be a hyped/popular/critically acclaimed book, and my dissent might help potential readers.

    But if a DNF is bland or forgettable or gives me nothing to discuss, I don’t bother with a review. In any case, I don’t assign a star rating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah those are all interesting points you brought up, and I think it’s like that for most of people. And I think it’s especially interesting that we review dnfs if they’re hyped or popular. I always do it because I somehow feel robbed when I don’t like a popular book which is silly 😂 Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post and you spoke my mind exactly! I’ve learned this past year to DNF ARCs and review them that way – my DNF is as much an opinion and it tells as much about the book (or my experience with it) as a one star or a five stars to the “fully read” book. I try not to feel too bad and to not DNF too many ARCs, but ultimately if it’s not for me I won’t try to push through it.

    Liked by 1 person

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