Do Reviewers have a responsibility towards readers?

Responsibility

Hello Guys !

It’s been SO long since I wrote a discussion post that I’m not sure I know how to navigate them anymore. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. That being said, I’ve been meaning to talk about this particular topic since before I went on a hiatus so here goes nothing.

Over the past few months (year-ish?) and the rise of diverse books (it’s really just a tiny rise to be honest, we NEED more of them, so so much more), we started getting the representation we deserve to see and with that we started seeing how flawed and problematic some books we cherished for very long, as well as books who are still coming out, are so we naturally started calling them out and as reviewers, I think that’s the right thing to do (my post about problematic content). And that’s when I realized that having a platform comes with certain responsibilities. And that I needed to move my bum and live up to that, or at least, try my damn hardest to do so.

I want to say that THIS is my own opinion and if you don’t agree with it, don’t bite my head off for it. I feel like this is what I need to do with my blog and if the way you see things is different, you do you and I do me and let’s let each other be happy with what we’re doing.

That being out of the way, here’s what I think comes with having a voice in the community. I’m not saying I’m influencial, but if a review of mine helps one person, I call that a success. I also want to add that this won’t be about writing style, plotting or characterization as it seems that no one has trouble pointing out when those are not so great. Without further rambling, here are the respoinsibilities I feel like I have:

Responsibility 1

Yes this is a no brainer but I feel like sometimes we’re biased. I’ve been guilty of it, multiple times. But we need to do better. I don’t think my favorite author is exempt from criticism, I don’t think my favorite series is, I don’t believe anyone or anything is. If they mess up, you bet I need and will say it in a review. Does that mean I need to hate it now? NO. We all have those books we’re emotionally attached to for one reason or another BUT that doesn’t mean we’re allowed to pretend the issues don’t exist. Because they do. And people can be potentially hurt by them. So I’d rather feel a bit uncomfortable because my favorite isn’t perfect than sit around and watch people who trust my opinion get hurt. That happened to me before. And I felt betrayed.

I know, we’ve all as reviewers, started this journey for ourselves. Or at least, I did. My bio (which is from over a year ago) says it, I wrote that reviewing the books I read “will primarily be to record my thoughts and be able to come back to them whenever I want to” and although this may be true, my priorities have shifted, yes I record my thoughts, and yes they are *my* thoughts so I can come back to them whenever. but as my following grows (which I’m super happy about sobs) and people add books to their TBRS and pick books up because I’ve read and loved them (this legit makes my day and I’m super humbled by it), I realized that it wasn’t just for me anymore and if people actually care about what I have to say, I should care about whether or not a book does them justice.

Responsibility 2

We’re humans, we’re not perfect, we make mistakes. We’re also not part of every group of people that exists, which means that we’re bound to miss things that to us seem “normal” but that might be offensive to the people it actually is about. So that’s when listening comes in. If a person approaches you about one of your glowing reviews telling you that the book isn’t so glowing don’t be offended, it’s not about you, it’s about them, and about the book hurting them.

So listen to what they have to say, no “but I didn’t read it like”, no “but my friend is X so I know what I’m talking about” because that just doesn’t make sense. *You* as a person who isn’t part of a marginalized group can’t know better than a person who is part of it. Real life experiences >>> Text book definitions. Also, there is no such thing as an opinion when it comes to problematic content, because it’s based on facts. You wouldn’t say “well, in my opinion the earth is flat” so you can’t say “I don’t think this is racist” when you’ve never been subject to racism

There’s also the fact that people of a certain group are not a monolith so again, if someone from said group calls out a book don’t reply with “but I know this person who’s also of the same marginalization who’s read it and didn’t think it was problematic” because we all experience things in different ways so we don’t have a right to invalidate someone’s feelings with someone else’s, they’re both valid and should both be acknowledge in your review.

What I do when I realize I messed up and missed a book’s issue is that I go back to my review, change my rating if I feel like the rating isn’t accurate anymore and add an edit at the top with the date and the issue that was brought to my attention and what’s more important is to link to an #ownvoices review written by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about because no matter how extensive my explanation is, it cannot be as accurate as that person’s.

Responsibility 3

I’m a firm believer of messing up. We are allowed to miss problematic content, we aren’t born with the necessary baggage to spot all that’s hurtful and offensive, privilege as well as not being exposed to said marginalization shields us from it. But I also believe you need to learn from it and not makes the same mistake twice, it is your responsibility to do better for the readers who trust you because otherwise it’s safe and honest to say that you could lose credibility with them. If they keep getting hurt by books *you* recommend, they have a right to protect themselves and stop listening to you. Just like you have a right to do the same if someone keeps ignoring your feelings.

I know there are people I trust a lot and other I trust less, several I had to unfollow just because I just didn’t like the way they handled problematic content. So if a person I really do trust tells me X book could hurt you, maybe it’s better for you to skip it, I do and will more often than not. I don’t want “to form my own opinion” at the expanse of mental exhaustion, it’s just not worth my time and energy.

As much as this is a hobby -and yes at the end of the day, I don’t get a cent from it so it *is* a hobby- I think, us reviewers, have a responsibility, a responsibility to protect marginalized readers, especially teen readers from unnecessary hurt. I’d like to believe that they read my reviews because they trust me and I’d like to keep it that way. You may think what I’m saying is too “over the top” or that I should “just chill” because “books are just books” but we all know they’re more than that to people who are as passionate about them as we are.

So if you review books, please read critically as much as you read for enjoyement. Yes, smile, laugh, cry with the book but don’t forget that there will probably be a person who’ll pick it up because of you so, please, make sure it’s safe for them to read.


That’s it until next time.

What do you think a reviewer’s responsibility is? Do you think we should be careful when reviewing and recommending books?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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38 thoughts on “Do Reviewers have a responsibility towards readers?

  1. I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said here. I think it’s important to remember we can still enjoy a book but acknowledge its faults, misrepresentations etc. What I’ve always loved about reading is the face that everyone has their own interpretation but within that you should never ignore or justify something that is hurtful to others. If you don’t understand the issue, ask about it and learn from it. Making mistakes is part of the process but it’s how we learn from it that matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely feel like I have a responsibility – and one I’m happy to have if it means I can help other readers. This year I’ve started putting trigger warnings on my reviews and video wrap ups. Even if I don’t spot them myself, I’ll still search just to make sure. A few minutes on my behalf feels like nothing compared to someone potentially getting hurt. And with problematic content, I always mention that in reviews too – like my ACOWAR review. I loved ACOWAR, but others were hurt by it so I made sure to describe all the problematic content too. Whether I agree or not doesn’t matter. If someone is hurt, I’m going to mention it. Some people started kicking off at me for mentioning it in my review for ACOWAR, but hey – I’m not invalidating anyone’s feelings so *shrugs* I’m keeping it in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • >> I just realised that sounded very preachy of myself, I didn’t mean it that way! Just showing how I feel like it’s a huge responsibility on my part 🙂 I love seeing other reviewers mentioning problematic content/issues and trigger warnings too, I wish more people did it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly ! Triggers warnings are so incredibly important so I started doing the same in my reviews and putting the at the very start, you never know who could need them.
      And as you said, agreeing doesn’t matter, since it’s not a matter of agreeing but understanding that people are hurt 😊 There will always be people who are unhappy with those kind of warnings and for the life of me I can’t figure out why.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely love this post! With so much discussion going on in the book community surrounding diversity in YA and problematic rep, my head is often left spinning. But your post really helps consolidate all those arguments and bring it back to the soul of the issue. I definitely agree that book reviewers & bloggers have a responsibility to their readers, if we can make them aware of a book’s weak plot or annoying romance, then we obviously can inform them of potentially hurtful elements of a book. It could really make a huge difference for someone! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So well said! Even bloggers like me, who don’t have a huge following, have a responsibility. I like what you said in the beginning, how if ONE PERSON reads a review and is spared being hurt by problematic content, then we’ve done our job as reviewers. You really treated this complicated topic with a lot of nuance. It’s easy to say that something is problematic, but it’s important to call it out in our review as well as acknowledge WHO brought up the problems and the fact that not everyone from that group will experience the same things.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. YES YES YES!!!!! Even if you can’t see the issue – and, holding my hands up here, there are some books I just can’t see the problem with, but I understand that others do – other people’s opinions, thoughts, criticisms, standpoints, and feelings are valid! (ESPECIALLY when people belong to that marginalised group.)

    And as a reviewer we have the responsibility to do what I tend to refer to as ‘cards on the table’ – give all the information, wherever and whenever you can. People seem to have no problem with saying ‘some people found this insta-love-y, I didn’t, but if you don’t like insta-love be aware of that,’ so why the hell wouldn’t we mention potentially harmful content?

    This is a great post – well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you agree !!! 😊 I love how you said “cards on table”I didn’t know that saying exists in english as well. And also yes, I don’t get how people don’t find any problem with pointing out instalove and the like but don’t likr it when we want them to do the same with problematic content.

      Thank you !

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well Said Fadwa! I think reviewing definitely comes with responsibility and I definitely would like a book that could be potentially triggering to me be reviewed in a way that tells me that. If it features rape, suicide, self harm etc I think reviewers have a responsibility to call that out and say ‘hey this book has this’ and of course if there is diversity issues. I also love how you say how we all have our favourite series but they can still be problematic, if i’ve ever loved a book that others find problematic then I love when people discuss it with me and tell me ‘you know this bit can be problematic’ especially perhaps if a book is ambiguous and I haven’t noticed it.
    I love Harry Potter and it makes me feel comfortable but I sure know that it can be problematic and has a real loss of diversity. It’s about being able to acknowledge that too and whilst I love this community SO much. I know some people in it really don’t like to see their favourite series bashed and fandoms can argue or target those which shout it out that ‘hey you know this actually also does this.’

    I think also there is a way to call it out, I like when people like I say do it in a discussing manner and not out right bashing an author or book. I like to know why its problematic, show me where it is. I’m not a fan of when I see people just out right coming for a book like this is trash, this is garbage, the author is garbage. If you get me?

    Loved this discussion. Really got me thinking about my opinion!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you agree 😊 and yeah some people in fandoms can get really intense when their favorites are called out.

      I get what you mean and I agree to some extent but I can look at it from the other side too and I think that you can’t blame people who have been facing oppression their whole life for getting angry as a defense mechanism, being nice gets tiring and sometimes gets us nowhere. And yeah saying it’s trash is definitely not the way to go but most times that happens after people try all other ways to handle things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes I agree completely, from people who have faced oppression their whole life or any oppresion I can imagine they want to scream about it. I meant in a sense from those who simply did not like a book or didn’t like a book because of a romance pairing and scream oh this is trash and never properly explain why. I love to go onto a post or twitter and read people’s views and when they explain where bits of a book aren’t right or they need to be called up upon. I like learning from it too. I hope this makes sense, my brain right now is like ‘your not making any sense at all. Stop typing Hannah’ 🙂

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  7. Agree with all the points here Fadwa. We do have a responsibility because others pick up a read depending on our reccomendation. And we all have our blind spots, so yes, it’s absolutely necessary for other bloggers to comment and weigh in. I would appreciate it if someone pointed out something I missed, because I don’t have all the experience. One recent example that comes to mind is of how Flame in the Mist was getting rave reviews from everyone, but one person pointed out how it was problematic. Unfortunately, I don’t remember now who the blogger was, but I remember it came up when Naz posted on Twitter asking if the book was good.
    So yeah, absolutely, we’re responsible, and it’s a shared responsibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Incredible post, Fadwa!

    I’m definitely trying to be more self-aware of the media I’m consuming and to make sure I talk about any harmful representation and to include trigger warnings. I also think people need to realise their favourites can/do/will mess up. One of my favourite series is The Raven Cycle and I fully admit that it’s not got the best rep. I’m definitely still learning to spot certain things, but it’s why reviews calling things out are so important because it really helps educate people. If you can mention something has a love triangle you can mention that something may be harmful!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree with everything you said. I think bloggers / reviewers have a responsibility towards their readers, especially when it comes to (potentially) harmful content. Having said that, I feel like I still have a lot to learn and I don’t always spot harmful representation. But that’s why it’s so important we all keep an eye out and help educate each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes yes yes! We do have a responsibility to readers. After all, most of them are reading our blogs to find out whether we liked it a book, and they might read books based on our opinions. Hence, it’s crucial that we mention content that is disrespectful, harmful or problematic. We always want more followers, but we should realise they’re not just a number, but a person with feelings. And our reviews should reflect that.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very good points and no one that disagrees should ever give you any grief! We do our best to review the books we read and represent them from our perspective: we are not flawless as we are human, but that is what makes us as reviewers great…we have a unique outlook.
    Great discussion. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 😊 yeah we have a unique outlook because no 2 people read a book the same way but I think that problematic content is the same no matter who reads it, it’s just a matter of learning to recognize it.

      Like

  12. You may have not written a discussion in a while, but I guess it’s like ridding a bike because you killed it as per usual 🙂 Such an important topic! I definitely agree with you that reviews do have a responsibility to point out problematic issues they come across, AND if they miss those problematic issues to acknowledge & accept what others point out.

    “We’re also not part of every group of people that exists, which means that we’re bound to miss things that to us seem “normal” but that might be offensive to the people it actually is about. ”

    One of my blogger friends called me out (and by called out, I mean privately messaged me) recently about something I said that I hadn’t realized was offensive to some. I was so appreciative that she did! I am very guilty of being very naïve to things that have been normalized, but are offensive to others. The last thing I want to do if offend someone, so I was so happy she took the time to tell me WHY what I said was problematic instead of just ignoring it.

    “What I do when I realize I messed up and missed a book’s issue is that I go back to my review, change my rating if I feel like the rating isn’t accurate anymore and add an edit at the top with the date and the issue that was brought to my attention and what’s more important is to link to an #ownvoices review written by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about because no matter how extensive my explanation is, it cannot be as accurate as that person’s.”

    Such a good idea! I need to do this with one of my reviews… for The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry. When I wrote my review, I was not aware there was some major issues.

    Like

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