When Critical Reviews are the Best Kind

Sometimes I read a review that expresses such passionate hatred for a book that I can’t help but want to read more. Perhaps I am alone in that response.

Now, I enjoy literary novels – I read a lot of folks like Margaret Atwood and Alan Moore – but occasionally my mind requires a different sort of reading material. Sometimes I want to read a book that is a little wild, a little crazy, a little less good.

The Outliers.jpg

Luckily The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight has come to my rescue. The Outliers follows the story of Wylie, a girl who is investigating her best friend’s disappearance. Though the plot summary seems normal enough, I stumbled across a veritable treasure trove of scalding reviews on the book’s Goodreads page when doing research on novels being adapted into films. Readers were saying things like:


“…the only way it could be more insane is if Wylie was actually an alien with a mission to destroy the earth…” – Emily May

“This was a one-way ticket on the hot mess express.” – Kelly (and the Book Boar)

“Hah hah hah, what. This book is looney tunes.” – Wendy Darling


Those phrases are like catnip to me. I have to read The Outliers now. I have to know if it really is that extraordinarily, wonderfully, terribly bonkers. And worse, I hope that it is.

I am so excited.

Now to be perfectly fair, The Outliers has plenty of good to excellent reviews. Thousands of people love this book. But those positive reviews aren’t the ones that make me want to read it. The more, let’s call them passionate, responses are.

Normally I wouldn’t call out a specific book for a post like this, but since The Outliers is ridiculously  successful and currently being developed into a film by Warner Bros., any critiques mentioned here will do it little harm. Additionally I am planning to buy the book, and I bet that in spite of myself I’ll enjoy it. I’ve always been a fan of the hot-mess express. (Confidential to Kimberly McCreight: if you ever want to share your experience of writing a book and having it optioned for the big screen, call me. I’d love to chat.)

If you have ever experienced the joy of reading something that other people hate, please share! I’d love to add more novels to my “What on Earth is Happening” pile. I also encourage you all to check out the reviewers that I linked to above. They are a bunch of witty, well-read folks, and it’s a pleasure to see what they think of various books.


29 thoughts on “When Critical Reviews are the Best Kind

    1. I think the secret for me is that sometimes I do enjoy things that I know are ‘bad’. But I don’t think you should force yourself to finish a book that you aren’t enjoying! That would take all of the fun out of it. I’m sure that your way is just fine.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Exacto-mundo, Kristen! One I would recommend to you that people seem to either love or hate is “Dirty Parts of the Bible” by Sam Tarode. I thought it was super; loved it. And it actually got a top mention on Amazon lists for the year, as well as Goodreads (if I remember correctly). ck it out.

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  2. I’m not as passionate as reading a book with a bad review as you, but if I have two different people give me opposing views of a book (i.e., one person loves it and the other hates it), then I have to read it to form my own opinion and take a side lol The last time this happened was with Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I had one friend recommend it as a fun, easy romance read, and another friend go on a rant about how much she was offended by it. So of course I had to read it! 😉

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  3. Reblogged this on Rosepoint Publishing and commented:
    I love Kristen Twardowski’s view regarding the book industry, reviews, and trends and have followed her for some time, always enjoying her latest thoughts. This one is so right on, I couldn’t resist reblogging for you to enjoy here, unless you are also one of her subscribers as well. Enjoy! Then go check out some of her posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Usually, negative reviews will make me never want to pick up a book no matter how much praise it gets. But I will admit that sometimes, a passionate critical review will make be interested in a book just to see if I agree with the reviewer or not. But it’s a rare case for me, most of the time, I just won’t pick up the book.

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  5. I’ve noticed that my negative reviews consistently get the highest views – not so much comments, or likes, but they are read more than anything else I post. If you’re looking for horrid classical fiction, the book I hate the most is Villette… by Charlotte Bronte of Jane Eyre fame (and yes, I love Jane Eyre). You’ll have to read the whole thing to understand why it bothers me so much (or be okay with spoilers and I’ll tell you).

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    1. Negative reviews certainly pique people’s curiosity. Even if the reader doesn’t agree with what the reviewer is saying, it seems they want to know why someone disliked a book.

      And I’ll definitely have to give Villette a try! If you are willing to share what bothered you about the book, I’d love to know more.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely will tell you, but it’s a huge spoiler, so be forewarned.

        Basically Villette is a gigantic 500 page epic romance. There is very slow build of a tentative romance between the main character and a professor at the French school where she ends up working. They face many obstacles which are gradually overcome over the course of many years as they end up falling even deeper in love. Finally he takes a long sea voyage to secure financing that will allow them to marry, and is successful, only to die suddenly on the return voyage in the last five pages of the book. The character then spends her life running a school and basically lives as a widow for the rest of her life. I couldn’t believe I spent 495 pages invested in an epic romance only for the love interest to die in the last five pages!

        A lot of people prefer Villette to Jane Eyre, but I’m definitely not one of them.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha! Oh, that would drive me crazy. I understand that sometimes characters have to die, but investing so much into the relationship only to see it perish (literally) would be maddening. I hope that the protagonist got something out of the relationship. Other than widowhood, I mean.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I really have to disagree on this one… well to a point… I do sometimes go after reads that another person has vehemently hated, but usually only after checking their reviewing history. If they routinely hate on books I’ve enjoyed then I’ll try the next slated one as they’re clearly my polar opposite. It’s not quite the same not quite different!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fair enough! There is something to be said for the way that different people have different tastes in reading materials. In some ways though, it can be just as helpful to know who is your polar reading opposite. As you mentioned, if that person hates a book, then it is more likely that you will enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

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