Ed’s Casual Friday: Everyone is a (one) Star.

Bad ReviewAs I’m sure many of my fellow writers have noticed at the various and sundry virtual watering holes around which we are wont to gather, one of the more common posts (right after “Buy my book!”) goes something like “I just got an awful review!” usually expressed with varying degrees of “How could this have possibly happened?”

How could it not have happened? My advice on such occasions is always to pick one of your favorite books of all time, something you think of as an absolute, perfect gem. Then go to any review site and page through the one-star reviews, of which there will likely be hundreds.

What follows is a selection of excerpts from one-star reviews found on a popular site. I am not making any of these up, and I intentionally tried to find ones that are not “gags.”  These are real readers offering their real opinions of books they positively loathed. I’m not saying I totally disagree with all of them, but if you read through the list or look for a favorite (alphabetical by author), you’ll probably find at least one that will rock your sense of literary reality.

If these don’t cheer you up after you’ve had a “bad” review, and if you think nobody could possibly dislike your book while all these others are clearly garbage…you might not enjoy your career as a writer.

(not edited for grammar) 😉


“the story is terrible, the characters are completely uninteresting, and this idea has been overused.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

“It was about a bunch of rabbits which I just could not have cared less about.” Watership Down, Richard Adams

“I would rather read Twilight twelve more times than read this again.” Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

“The first major error in this book is its plot. It is just so tedious.” Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“Overwrought, Vindictive, Dysfunctional and Insane.” Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

“This bratty girl’s practically non-existent parents die. Then she feels bad for herself all the time.” The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

“Just people acting stupidly for no apparent reason except to be disagreeable.” Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll

“midevil night tales. not humorous. “ Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

“I had to stop reading such bad writing. The detective immediately started to overlook obvious clues.” Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

“The main character wasn’t likeable at all.” A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

“It more made me angry because of how it has been elevated, even more so now that it’s an Oprah book.” Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

“I knew exactly how the book was going to end, so I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.” Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“I’m kind of a sucker for true crime. But UGH. BORING.” An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser

“absurd swashbuckling adventure” The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

“This book is pointless. Nothing happens in the entire book.” The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I think simply dropping a group of kids on a desert island does not in fact prove anything.” Lord of the Flies, William Golding

“The theme became repetitive and i got bored and had to put it down.” Catch-22, Joseph Heller

“Decent world building. All the rest range from sub-par to terrible.”  Dune, Frank Herbert

“I know there’s a good story in there somewhere but it gets lost in unending, ridiculous, irrelevant dialogue.”  The Iliad, Homer

“The existential plight of a man turning into a bug was utterly dull for me. “ The Metamorphisis, Franz Kafka

“The book is verbatim the movie. I wasn’t impressed.” One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

“This is the first book that I’ve read by Stephen King that isn’t about the Red Sox and I think King and I should stick to baseball.” The Stand, Stephen King

“I couldn’t get on with it. too Slow and doesn’t work as a whodunnit because we now have DNA evidence.” To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

“First, C.S. Lewis… is not a good writer, plain and simple.” Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

“It was really bad and like everyone dies.” The Call of the Wild, Jack London

“No inner heart, no longing, no sense of people, of desire, of inner worlds and struggles.” One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

“I really didn’t like how Eve was portrayed throughout the book or Satan for that matter.” Paradise Lost, John Milton

“Scarlet is a raging evil snarky miserable bitch and I hate her.” Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

“blah blah I hate America blah blah I’m smart blah blah I’m from Europe blah blah.” Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

“Did not like this book at all, if i could give it a less than 1 I would. This book is way to confusing and uses really big words.” 1984, George Orwell

“So the whole damn story can be boiled down to “popular kid gets away with doing what he wants”. How original.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

“It was filled with language and a lifestyle that was offensive to me.” The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

“Lord, could Romeo be anymore of a girl? Obviously Juliet wore the pants in the relationship.” Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

“Victor comes across as an extremely sad and hapless figure.” Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

“A book about miserable poor people.” A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

“The dialogue was horrific. The story was bad. The ending was creepy, weird, and made me wonder what the heck it meant.” The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

“it is incredibly flowery, particularly strange given the “thriller” genre that it tries being a part of.” Dracula, Bram Stoker

“This is not a book, this is propaganda on a stick.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

“He never tries to look at things from someone else’s point of view.” Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau

“What is seriously lacking in Tolkien’s world is any original idea or just imagination in general.” The Lord of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

“This book is bloated old piece of crap. How this even got published in the first place is beyond me.” War & Peace, Leo Tolstoy

“A horrid book which was like every other book that takes part in this time period about a little boy who has an overactive imagination which just gets boring after a while and it amazes me that people can find pleasure in this incredibly horrible book.” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

“a storyline that never seemed to have a point.” Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne

“Slaughterhouse-Five represents a total failure of imagination.” Slaughterhouse Five: A Novel, Kurt Vonnegut

“Arachnophobia is real, and being forced to read this in 4th grade gave me nightmares for months.” Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

“There is almost no action, and way too much talk.” The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

And finally:

“I remember finding the rhyming annoying.” Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss

Author: M. Edward McNally

Epic fantasy author M. Edward McNally is a North Carolinian of Irish/Mexican extraction. He has a Masters in English Lit from ISU and Russian/East European History from ASU. He grew up mostly in the Midwest along I-35 northbound (KS, IA, MN), and now resides in the scrub brush surrounding Phoenix AZ, where the scorpions and javelinas play. Learn more about Ed at his blog, and his Amazon author page.

89 thoughts on “Ed’s Casual Friday: Everyone is a (one) Star.”

  1. I love the point you make about negative reviews. You're spot on. I also love the reviews that you dug up. Some of them just make you want to hit the reviewer with the wtf stick. 😀

  2. Is it okay if I think most of these reviewers were morons? I mean, seriously…

    Scrooge was unlikable? Really? Huh. That must be why all those ghosts were trying to change his point of view.

    And One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest copied the movie? How dare Kesey steal his plot from the screenwriter!

    This does put reviews in perspective, though. It is now clear to me that the star system is not in actuality a reflection of the quality of the book, but a reflection of the reader's ability to understand and relate to it.

    Thanks for cheering me up, Ed! 🙂

  3. This one HAS to be my favorite? lol

    “blah blah I hate America blah blah I’m smart blah blah I’m from Europe blah blah.” Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

    I also see my idol, Dame Agatha herself, is in there. Now I don't feel so bad.

    Though I totally have to agree with this:

    “Arachnophobia is real, and being forced to read this in 4th grade gave me nightmares for months.” Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

    I felt exactly the same! lol Thanks for sharing! Gave me a giggle.

  4. I have to add this as well. All those haters of Twilight as she sells millions of copies! Give me horrible reviews like that with those kind of numbers. And btw I love the Twilight Series! I've read it over a 100 times, and no, I'm not kidding!

  5. Thing is, as all reviews are really just opinions, you can't say any of the reviewers were "wrong," … exactly.

    Which is good to keep in mind with any reviews we get, as well. 😉

  6. I firmly believe that you can't write something that everyone will like. You're a good writer if you can get negative reviews that are shadowed by real, glowing, positive reviews. Don't try to please everyone but focus on pleasing your target audience like the above authors and you're doing it right.

  7. This is great and I do feel better,but it sure makes you wonder what these people are like who wrote these comments. Some of them don't have a clue while others are such concrete thinkers there is no imagination.

  8. I assume these are the reviews of readers merely indicating whether they liked the book or not. If they were real literary critics, their reviews would have gone more like this:

    I am Ed,

    Ed, I said

    Here's a book

    that I have read

    Would you like

    To read it too?

    I bet you'd like it,

    Yes, I do!

  9. I love this post! I remember the guy I took to see Hamlet for the first time. "So overrated," he said. "It was just a bunch of famous quotes strung together."

    I love to browse the one-stars of great books. Always good for a laugh and a remarkable window into the mind of not-smart people who read. Thanks for gathering some of the most hilarious. This is definitive proof you can't please all of the people all of the time. Because some of the people are morons.

  10. “Slaughterhouse-Five represents a total failure of imagination.” Slaughterhouse Five: A Novel, Kurt Vonnegut

    I mean…most of them are just ignorant, but this one…wow.

  11. Great post and thanks for the wonderful collection. My favourite one, from the above, is about my favourite book of all time: “It more made me angry because of how it has been elevated, even more so now that it’s an Oprah book.” Great Expectations, Charles Dickens.

    (Although I do have to confess I have just slagged off Hamlet in a blog of my own!).

  12. Really, the point of the post wasn't to make fun of anybody's reviews (well, okay, maybe a little), but more to highlight that all reviews, good and bad, are just one person's opinion.

    As writers, our own writing of course means the world to us, and obviously anything bad said about it hurts. But a lot of reviews aren't about the books themselves, they are just about what the reviewer likes.

    And that goes for some "good" reviews too, by the way. 😉

  13. Hilarious!

    Gotta love Vonnegut getting accused of a lack of imagination. Next time anyone complains about a one star (including myself), they shall be pointed here.

  14. This has got to be my favorite “Scarlet is a raging evil snarky miserable bitch and I hate her.” Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

    I must say I agree. LOL Growing up in the South, I've been forced to watch the movie too many times. Not to mention suffer through the book way back in middle school. All these years later, I still think Scarlet is a bitch. LOL

    This post does help put things into perspective though. You really can't please everybody. 🙂

  15. Wow,

    Thank you so much Ed. This makes me feel so much better about myself. I don't know how those writers were able to stand the punishment. Oh, I know…most of them are dead so they aren't around to see how much hatred the human race can pour onto its fellow man.

    Three thumbs up (where that third one came from, I'll never tell).

  16. Can I add one for my favorite books of all time?

    Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

    A group of literary elites have deviously agreed among themselves that this piece of sh_t book is actually good. Then they sit back and laugh when other people not in on the joke actually claim the book is a worthwhile read.

    And You Shall Know Our Velocity – (which reduced me to tears at the end)

    Dave Eggers

    Seriously, if you're young and you want to write "great literature" get a cheap used copy of this book and read it. Then do you very best to not write anything that remotely resembles the writing in this book.

  17. These reviews were obviously written by "tweens," as they have absolutely no clue. Their grammar (or lack thereof) is a dead giveaway, as is their impetuousness and total lack of respect for anyone or anything.

    Moreover, the "me, me, all about ME" attitude says that these were not written by professionals or even semi-literate bloggers. Things like "I was so bored…" "I would rather read 12 Twilights" prove that these "reviewers" have serious ADD issues and too much sugar intake.

    I'm guessing Mrs. Quigby had her 7th grade special ed class try to read and learn.

    1. While that would be somewhat comforting, a number of them were from older readers. Particularly with the "classics," several said something along the lines of "I had to read this 20 years ago in high school, picked it up again now, still hate it."

      And they aren't make any claim of being professionals or bloggers. These are just by real, live readers, sating what they think. And how depressing is that thought? 😉

  18. Hilarious and eye-opening. Thank you for putting this together!

    As an English major, I feel like I missed some of the classics I should have written (Freudian slip of the fingers — meant read!), and I've tried to catch up with most major books and read others again. Loved rereading Hemingway as an adult, since the situations went completely over my head in high school. But I totally couldn't get into Jane Eyre, which I adored as a teen. Sometimes a book just doesn't grab you…

    I respect these reviewers for sharing their opinions, however much I might disagree. Fortunately for these authors, they have numerous 5-star reviews to balance out the bad ones!

  19. If I am ever blessed by the GODS, to be published, and receive a poor review–"I feel now with broad-shoulders”, I can take it'.

  20. Not only were these reviews funny and that lifted my spirits, but I just read a bad of The Unwilling Bride. I shrugged it off as it was clear she didn't understand my character, but it did still sting some. She said the plot wasn't believable. Now I don't care what she said!! Thanks I really needed this today!!

  21. Best post ever! Bravo Ed! That was hilarious (and you make an excellent point. That said, I am a little offended because Twilight *is* the best book ever written in the American language. 😉

  22. “Overwrought, Vindictive, Dysfunctional and Insane.” Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

    Uh….yeah it is, actually. LOL. I never cared for the Bronte sisters. The 'heroes' treat their women like crap because they are either pining for someone else or keeping their crazy wives locked in the attic. Nice.

    There's my rant. Great article, Ed.

    1. I hated "The Hobbit" but maybe the movie will be better. Bilbo Baggins!

      This needs to be a weekly feature, something to stoke authors egos.

      True story:

      We read "A Christmas Carol" at book club, and a woman says, " My God, I was sick of the poor people! Why don't they just go out and get jobs."

  23. “Lord, could Romeo be anymore of a girl? Obviously Juliet wore the pants in the relationship.” Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

    “A horrid book which was like every other book that takes part in this time period about a little boy who has an overactive imagination which just gets boring after a while and it amazes me that people can find pleasure in this incredibly horrible book.” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

    Amen again!

    Okay, rant's over. Really.

  24. I'm going to bookmark this one. Some of those books are my favorites.

    But maybe it's because the average reading level is Grade 6. These people probably don't understand anything at a higher level. What goes over the head will never reach the heart and there won't be any kind of connection to the story.

  25. Unbelievable reviews! Some really made no sense! Example, "To Kill a Mockingbird" and in light of DNA now? The person really didn't think about when the book was originally written! Some of these people evidently had their brains out to lunch or something. And really, Agatha Christie missed some clues?? Some people really should not be reviewing books! Thanks for sharing these reviews with us. Indeed, they should make us feel better if we get bad review. Very interesting!

  26. I read one star reviews of all the books I admire, and want to one day be compared to. It has become a dirty little habit, that I am ashamed of because it is so enjoyable. I find I laugh out loud, and then wonder, oh god, what will they say about my book? Who are these people? Books are sort of like musical instruments. They do strike a cord inside of us, unless that is the cords are all gone and the Piano is dead.

  27. I have had many one-liner reviews that lambasted my books over the years. We used to set up open mic nights to have dueling BAD REVIEWS, Joe Konrath and I, and it got hilarious, crying tears funny. You can only have one response to these kinds of attacks by the stupids who read with 'half a mind' to read. At least they are making an effort to read…HA!

  28. Unless you write the world's worst book and receive nothing but shocking 1 star reviews, you really have nothing to worry about. As you rightly point out, everyone gets them – it may just seem daunting if your first review is 1 star, as that could potentially knock the writer's confidence. As long as the majority of reviews are good then you have a good book.

  29. AH! not too long ago I was purchasing my nth copy of "The Runaway Rabbit" and for the heck of it, I decided to look at some of the reviews. And when I did, I no longer recognized the world we live in.

    Quite a few reviews called the story perverse, and dangerous to child rearing. They likened the metaphorical God to Mommy Dearest. And said it should be pulled from library shelves in public schools across the nation. I kid you not. Check for your self and be prepared to feel very very bad about the future of literary classics.


    Wake me when it's over

  30. There was a distinction with some of these reviews that really didn't show up in the brief excerpts. While all were one-stars, some acknowledged that the book was obviosuly well liked/respected, but that the reviewer just hated it for their own reasons. Fair enough.

    The reviews that made me sad to the point of weeping for the future were the ones who decided that because they didn't like a book, nobody should like it, or in some cases even *have an opportunity* to read it. That sort of thought process is just terrifying.

  31. OH! These are so funny!! I note, in passing, how many spelling errors appear in some of the "reviews". Perhaps those readers should be set to a book of remedial spelling/grammar study. Review THAT, you pikers!! 🙂

  32. Great reminder that if you write, you are up for criticism. Regardless of the quality of your work, someone will dislike it for some reason.

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