If you ever want to read some truly unhelpful reviews, take a look at the Goodreads or Amazon page of a book commonly assigned in high school and scroll to the 1 star section. I get it: sometimes the books assigned just don’t match the average teenager’s interests (or reading level). But it is entertaining to see a classic work of literature be so thoroughly misunderstood.
Obviously, “classics” can be critiqued just like any other book, but most of these 1-star reviews are not thoughtful examinations of the ideas brought up in the text. They usually don’t break down how the characterization lacked depth or where the plot could be tightened up. Instead, almost every book assigned in school will simply get labelled “boring,” whether it’s a war narrative or meditation on grief or a story about children battling each other to the death.
Because these 1-star reviews are so often generic, it would be easy to swap them into another book’s listing without changing a word. Which gave me the idea for this post: can you match the bad review to the book it’s describing?
These are all taken from the Amazon listings for these titles. Most are classics, but I included a few other well-known books, too. I saved you from the reviews that, say in their entirety, “boring” or “no,” but there is still a lot left up to interpretation. Scroll down to see the answers in full so you can really appreciate some of these unexpected matches.
The titles of the reviews (if given) are in bold, followed by the full review.
No: “What a waste of time , a nihilistic outlook on the human condition , with a boring and cowardice narrative” (1984 by George Orwell)
Pure Tripe: “If you’ve ever received a creative writing paper with the words “Show, don’t tell” written across the top, you’ll wonder how this book ever made it into ANYONE’S top list. … It reads like a boring, Victorian romance novel, written by a spinster who’s never been in a romantic relationship in her life.” (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
One Star: “Books about teenagers are everywhere. This doesn’t stand out.” (Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng)
“I couldn’t read this book
It’s like a Russian soap opera
Extremely boring” (War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy)
Not a Good Read: “The writing is awful. This book is written along the lines of Mark Twains Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, both awful books. The Narrator speaks the same as the characters. The narrator should be neutral. If I did not have to read this book for school, I would never willingly read it.” (Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston)
Terrible Story!: “I don’t care if this is considered a classic, it’s terrible! I only read it to help my son with it. It’s full of drinking parties and married people having affairs. This is one of those things from our history that doesn’t apply to us anymore.” (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
One Star: “All he ever does is go from one disaster to the next one.” (The Martian by Andy Weir)
Too Hard to Accept: “The truth of this unforgettable book is too difficult to deal with, creating a horror and sadness in me that will never go away.” (The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison)
Children’s Book?: “Why is this constantly appearing on the required reading list of Junior High children? Why is every required reading for children dark, depressing and tragic. Would it be so awful to have them read something that encourages or gives them hope rather than dread? The true savages here are the author and the tea her who made this required reading.” (Lord of the Flies by William Golding)
What’s All the Hype About?: “I don’t understand what all the hype is with this book. The “storyline” is illogical, the pages go back and forth between being in color to black and white, and then there’s pages with no wording…just pictures.” (Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown)