Discussion: DNF Reviews

For those of you that aren’t fluent in reviewer-speak, DNF reviews are reviews where the person did not finish the book.  Thus the abbreviation DNF.  DNF reviews are a little controversial in the blogging world and I’ll break down the two main points here:

Against: You can’t really judge the quality of a book if you didn’t finish it.  If you’re going to do a review you should be able to discuss all elements, including major plot points that may appear later on, character arcs, etc.

For: DNF reviews are a useful tool for reviewers to let people know that they gave a book a try but really couldn’t finish it because they hated it, were bored, etc.

Personally, I’m on the fence with this one.  If you’ve gotten half way through a book but can’t physically force yourself to read it anymore, I think a short DNF review is acceptable.  However, if you’ve only read a couple of chapters you should just chalk it up as a waste of time and not leave a review.  After all, you can’t really criticize everything about a book if you haven’t read all of it.

But now I’m curious: What do you guys think of DNF reviews?  Love ’em, hate ’em, couldn’t care either way?  If you’re a reviewer, do you ever write them or would consider writing them?  Why or why not?

13 comments

  1. LMcCJ

    All DNF reviews are valid as long as you point out exactly where you stopped reading (and where you wished you had stopped reading). You would think authors would find these particularly helpful because it alerts them to where they are losing their readers. Maybe the author needs to break up the exposition, or eliminate a subplot, or delete some beautiful prose but, it’s all useful information.

    • Carrie Slager

      Yes, I would think authors would in a way appreciate DNF reviews but many of them seem annoyed by them. Maybe it’s because they’re giving their books a star rating without finishing them, although this usually is confined to Goodreads. Not all authors are as thoughtful as they should be and some find DNF reviews more than a little offensive even when they’re well thought out like you describe.

  2. Jemima Pett

    I didnt realise I was leaving a review on Goodreads when I explained why I hadn’t finished a book. I thought they were helpful comments, said I thought it showed promise and wished them luck.. I was following the author on FB and found a huge rant about it. I don’t follow the author any more.
    I agree with LMcCJ. Where does your reader lose interest? Why? You have to take individual taste into account, but I’d like to know – especially if it happened more than once.

    • Carrie Slager

      As I said to LMcCJ, unfortunately not all authors are as introspective as I would like. Some find comments like yours offensive and go on huge rants like you saw. That’s sadly the way of things: you’re damned if you give a review and damned if you don’t in the case of book bloggers.

  3. Diantha Jones (@DianthaJones)

    I’m all for DNF reviews, but I do agree that the reviewer should at least get halfway before coming to this conclusion. I received a review on Goodreads that said they couldn’t make it past the first 5 pages. I’m like, why even open your mouth then? Of course, the reviewer’s GR profile is private 😛

    • Carrie Slager

      Five pages, really? If you only read five pages of a book before it loses your interest, you have a really short attention span. Besides, it’s not the Prophecy of the Most Beautiful drags on and on about nothing! Ugh, that’s a bad case of a DNF review. That’s definitely why I’d say you should at least read half the book before leaving a DNF review but if you can’t force yourself to do that, don’t bother.

  4. Rebecca Vance

    I am on the Against side. I have a policy that I won’t review a book unless I’ve read it from cover to cover. I don’t think that you can give a thoughtful review if it hasn’t be completely read. You can say, I don’t recommend it, but I personally won’t do it. I was asked about this recently on a LinkedIn discussion on why some reviewers only give 3 star (or above) reviews. I commented that if I had read the book from cover to cover and it was that bad, then I would rate it as such, however, If the book was that bad, 99.9% of the time, I will not have been able to finish it, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t review it. I started blogging my review blog a year ago in June. I have only refused one book because I couldn’t finish it. I wrote to the author and told him my reason and that that if I couldn’t finish it, then I wouldn’t review it. It had too many characters and virtually no character development on any of them..it was confusing and if I had to keep going back and forth to try to figure out who they were it was not worth my time to finish. It was also a sci-fi..and that isn’t a favorite genre for me. It was way too technical for me as well. I think sci-fi is an extremely difficult genre to do well. The author was very cordial and thanked me for considering it and promised to take my comments into consideration for revision. He said that he learned that he should also have only solicited reviews from sci-fi reviewers. Which goes back to an earlier discussion on being prepared. I guess everyone has their own policies. I was asked if I felt like I was being unfair to the reader by not telling them if I could finish it. I don’t think that I am . I am upfront about my policy both to the reader and the author. I’ve had readers thank me as well as authors for it. All reviewers are different. That is why there is more than one of us. We all are subjective with our reviews, it is based upon our opinions and particular likes and dislikes. That is why every writer should get as many different reviews as possible.

    • Carrie Slager

      Great advice Rebecca! Yes, I’ve always said that authors should target reviewers who love the genre of their book but some just don’t seem to listen. As for the DNF reviews I think I’m leaning on the against except if you’re going to leave a few comments about why you couldn’t finish it without giving a star rating. In that sense it’s not really a review.

      I can definitely see both sides of the issue here.

  5. Jenna

    I do a mini-review, usually only a couple of sentences, mostly so that I know why I gave up on it. Then if I read another book by the same author and have the same problems, I’ll know to stay away from that author in the future.

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s actually a good system, especially if you’re reviewing lots of books. I personally don’t do mini-reviews, but you and other bloggers have definitely shown me how useful they can be.

  6. DoingDewey

    I’m with the first commenter – as long as it’s clear where you stopped and why, you’re being helpful to your readers. I also avoid giving a star rating to these reviews, so that people either get all the information or don’t judge the book based on my incomplete reading.

    • Carrie Slager

      Yes, I definitely agree! If you’re going to write a DNF post/review I don’t think you should rate it. Personally I don’t think I’m going to do DNF reviews because I’m generally stubborn when it comes to toughing it out, but I certainly don’t judge people that do it the right way (i.e. saying where you stopped and why and giving no rating).

  7. KristinKristin

    I think DNF reviews can be useful if the reviewer is honest about why he/she quit reading and acknowledges that others may like it for different reasons. Just like positive, five-star reviews, DNF reviews can let readers know about potential negative aspects of a book. I, personally, give short DNF reviews explaining why I didn’t like it, where I stopped, etc. I think it still has the potential to be a valuable critique.

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