The One Star Review


Since reading a brilliant blog post by Lisa Jewell earlier this year, I’ve been approaching negative Amazon (and Goodreads) reviews with rather more of an objective viewpoint. When Into the Darkest Corner was first published, I have to say that getting one and two star reviews HURT. I think the first one caused me to actually cry, lose sleep and suffer a massive crisis of confidence… but after a while, I got used to them, and having lots of positive five star reviews certainly helps with that. My books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, after all, and once I’d got my head around that, reading the reviews was actually a valuable learning experience. Many of them had very valid points to make and all feedback is useful, isn’t it? For me it is, anyway. Even if that learning experience is ‘get a grip and don’t worry about people who don’t like your writing’ or, in the words of my former boss, ‘toughen up, princess’.

However, I had a one star review on for the US edition of Into the Darkest Corner yesterday, and this one really upset me. I wanted to write this blog last night but decided to sleep on it, in the hope that it would take some of the sting away. I’m certainly calmer this morning (and it’s Mother’s Day, so I got a cup of tea in bed which helped) but I still want to write about it.

(Actually what I want to do is reply directly to the review, but everyone knows you DON’T enter into a correspondence with negative reviewers. That never makes things better.)

Now, most of what this particular reviewer has to say is perfectly reasonable. She thinks the story is ‘spoon fed’ to the reader, she thinks it’s too long and she doesn’t like the characters. All of this is entirely fair enough, and I appreciate hearing things like this because it reminds me that I need to work hard to get the balance of detail, characterisation and nuance right when I’m writing.

But then she just spoils it all with this bit:

“This author may have a future but not if all of her 486+ relatives keep leaving fake reviews to make her feel special.”

Β This little sentence REALLY upset me.

I want to reply to her that, to my knowledge, only one person I know personally has left me a review on, and that was my Aunty in Florida, and as I recall she didn’t actually like it that much.

What she’s done there, my reviewer, is insult all of those lovely kind people who don’t know me from Adam and yet took the time and trouble to leave a review to share with others and let everyone know what they thought. Good or bad. Much as she did, herself. Reading it again makes me so angry! Why would you even say something like that, when the rest of the review was negative, yes, but at least making some valid points? Because that isn’t making a point about my book, my writing or even me – it’s just plain nasty. Attacking my reviewers rather than me or my book makes me madder than a mad thing. It’s unkind!

And that, I think, is the key to it. I’ve always believed that people who are unkind often are like this because they are coming from a place of hurt themselves. Attack is a form of defence. This is the only way that I can find to deal with this kind of vitriol – to assume that she must have had a really bad day. Or maybe she is a writer herself and hasn’t had any reviews at all yet. Or something like that…

I am hoping that writing all this down will be a bit cathartic and I can now leave it, forget about it and get on with Mother’s Day. I hope you all have lovely days, wherever in the world you are. I have a roast dinner to cook, so I’d better get on with it.




  1. Wait – you’re the mom. Why do *you* have to cook the dinner?

    I took a look on the amazon site – apparently this person think you have relatives working for the New York Times Book Review,, the Wall Street Journal , Weekend Today Show , the Associated Press, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, The Guardian, Newbooks Magazine, The Book Case, the New York Journal of Books, Deadly Suspense magazine, BookPage , Cosmopolitan, and the Miami Herald. That’s one seriously connected family you’ve got there.

  2. What cass said — that’s some family indeed! πŸ™‚

    You’re right though – reviews should never be unkind, to the author or other reviewers. Reading is a personal thing, after all, and we all know nothing’s going to be 100% loved. For what it’s worth, I love your books. Just finished Dark Tide, and I can’t wait for more from you. πŸ™‚

  3. Spot on! Like you I cried at my first one star review then I toughened up but a comment suggesting my good reviews are only from friends and family still INFURIATES me! How self-absorbed is that reviewer to believe that anyone who disagrees with her/his review only does so because they’re related to the author? Maybe, just maybe the 486+ positive reviewers are in the majority for a reason – the book, to the majority of people, is a very enjoyable read.

  4. I must respond to this just so you get an idea of how some people review. I do look at the reviews and my sister leaves reviews that I do try to read. I will glance at some, and sometimes the reviews might help me lean one way or another about a purchase, and sometimes not. But, there are those reviews that keep my husband and I entertained. For instance, how can someone give a 1 star to an author when Amazon messed up the order? Sometimes, maybe the wrong book was sent. Sometimes maybe the package was delivered to the wrong address….and so on. People then give the author 1 star!? Nothing about the book was said, but the author gets 1 star and a statement like “I will never read this author again!” Think of that next time before you lose sleep over a 1 star, another words…..consider the source!

  5. Don’t lose any sleep over it. Anyone who opens a review with, ‘I need to explain something about me…’ probably has a different agenda than to write an objective review in any case; her comment about the 486+ relatives illustrates that. Sure, she doesn’t have to like it, but if she’d been as fussy about giving a constructive critique as she supposedly is about her reading material then she might have done herself more justice.

    I for one thought it was one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read. I thought it was uncompromising, rather than gratuitous, and I liked the flashback device used. It had me gripped all the way through, and I think it was very brave of you to take on such a subject matter in this way.

    As in any creative line of work, everything you do is very personal to you and negative remarks will get under the skin sometimes (although I don’t know if anyone ever adapts to the plain spiteful ones), but please, pleaseee just keep following your instincts because you are very talented. And any time you feel downhearted about the odd bad review in future, just measure it/them against the number of 4 & 5 star reviews you have and hopefully that will put things back in perspective. You’re a winner there too, by a huge margin! πŸ™‚

  6. Ditto to all of the above! “Into the Darkest Corner” was one of the best stories I’ve read and I usually don’t even bother to read anything written in the first person point of view. I stayed up all night just to finish the book. I gushed about it this morning to mother who now has possession of my Kindle to read it now. What a fabulous book! I will definitely be buying your other books since I am now hooked! πŸ™‚ So chin up, as they say, there will always be “haters”… what counts are your integrity, love for your craft and of course, your fans πŸ™‚

  7. I’ll read your book, just because I enjoyed your blog. I’m a reviewer and will let you know what I think. Keep writing, put the “big girl panties on”, (as my husband would say) and take all reviews with a grain of salt. The fact that your book was published and read is a testament to your writing ability. You did what many other people couldn’t, finished writing a book. Learn from it, hopefully you will get good reviews along the way, but most importantly: keep writing.

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