DNF – Did Not Finish

DNF – The most dreaded classification a book can get by a reviewer.

With all the crazy Hale stuff going around the interwebs, one of the talking points that stood out was the fact that the “evil reviewer” had reviewed the book even though she did not finish it. Feedback was given that the reviewer was a mere troll because she saw fit to destroy said book by going off on it with a DNF classification. Those that take this stance are convinced that no one should review a book unless they finish the book. To do anything else…would be unethical.

I declare shenanigans on that argument.


How much of the dish must you eat before you decided that you don’t like it? Photo by Monstruo Estudio

My argument for the DNF revolves around food.Β  What better? A chef is considered an artist, just like a author, correct? The meals they prepare might take less time to create, but they are still that chef’s creation. So, therefor the meal that you sit down to at a nice restaurant is that chef’s creation, just like a book. Yet, must you eat the ENTIRE dish to decide if you like it or not? I understand that each part of the dish is most likely going to taste the same…unlike a book, which has nuances that can change within the scope of the novel. So, this analogy might not be as 100% fool proof as I would like, but it is comparable.

If you find that your first taste of the novel is unpalatable – why shouldn’t you be able to tell others why it was unsatisfactory? Especially if your dissatisfaction is founded within specifics.

Now for that argument that It is Unethical to review an unfinished book…

The question of ethics usually arises when a negative response comes from the author. Does this reviewer have the right to review this title? I never like negative responses from authors, especially one where the author or fan call into question rights. But I have to say, it seems to be happening a lot more lately. I believe that some authors think that if they try to nudge a reviewer to see “their side of things”, the reviewer in question might remove the negative review, or maybe change their mind. I’m only assuming, because personally I’m not an author and I’ve never had a negative review posted about my work. I do understand their perspective though, as far as their work and negative reviews. It is hard to deal with negative feedback. Especially negative feedback that seems unfounded or based within an unethical package – like say a DNF. In a perfect world everyone would love everything, we would all have dogs that crapped in toilets, instead of on our rugs and we would be able to maintain a perfectly healthy size six, while we gorged ourselves on mass amounts of cookie dough.. and everyone would love EVERY book ever written. But last time I checked, it wasn’t a perfect world and reviewers, like myself,Β  tend to like a wide range of books and have different tastes, which makes life not so BORING. My advice to authors is to IGNORE negative reviews. My advice to reviewers that are contacted by Authors that don’t like their reviews. Ignore them. One big ignore fest. Yet, again, it isn’t a perfect world and some authors can get out of control, just like some reviewers can get out of control. But, the basic fact is – a DNF, no matter what prompted the reader to stop reading it – can be a very insightful review. The author might not like that you reviewed it based on only 50 pages of reading…but it is not unethical. Why is ethics in question? This is a book. It is a product. And as long as you took the product for a spin – 10 minutes or 2 hours, you did give it a shot. To review a book that you didn’t read – now that is when ethics should be called into question.

So now you have to ask yourself as a Reviewer…

DNFs – To Review or Not to Review?

Pro DNF Review Points:

  • It is Your Opinion
    You are a reviewer. A person who states their opinion. You can form an opinion about anything, even a book that you’ve only read 30%. You can, if you feel so obligated state your opinion on why you stopped reading a particular book. You can not comment on the ending of the book, because you have not read it, but you can state your opinion on the part you DID read.
  • Review Just What You Read
    This was covered in the prior point, but if you review a DNF you should be able to review the part you read.
  • Got the gist of it?
    Most DNF reviewers will make sure they reach a certain point in a book before reviewing it. If they give up within 10 – 50 pages, chances are they won’t do a legitimate review of the book. Maybe make a few points on Goodreads.com, but not a drawn out review. Yet, when they reach a particular line in the sand that they just can’t cross they feel they can legitimately review that book, having gotten the basics of the novel.
  • DNFing is a Strong Statement
    If the book was that BAD to warrant a slap close and hide away, there was obviously SOMETHING that wasn’t right with the book, most of the time readers would like to know what that was.

Anti DNF Review Points:

  • Your Opinion is Not INFORMED
    How can one properly give a competent opinion if they do not know ALL aspects of the book? A person that reviews a DNF is giving their opinion before seeing the whole picture.
  • Insulting to the Author
    DNFing a book and then reviewing is the ultimate insult. First you did not even take the time to finish the review and then to top it off you will review it? How low can you get?
  • Fairness
    You cross a line when you review DNFs. It isn’t fair for the author or your readers.
  • Gives the wrong impression
    You are misrepresenting your self as knowledgeable on the title and gives the impression that you’ve actually read the book. Let others who have read it review it.
  • You don’t know how it ends, so how can you review it?
    Again from the camp of you can’t review something you haven’t finished.

Bloggers – I would suggest that if you are a reviewer of DNFs to state this in your review policy. This way if you have a negative response to a DNF you can just point the author in the direction of your reviewing policy and state “Please refer to my review policy, where it states I will DNF a book…you accepted this by sending me your book etc.”

Well, I’ve stated in which camp my loyalty lies and I don’t begrudge the opposing camp, this isn’t something like Obamacare or anything BIG like that, LOL. This of course is a personal preference that we as Bloggers choose for ourselves. To call a person that reviews a book that they didn’t finish “unethical” is crossing the line though. Just like if I returned the favor and stated people that don’t review DNFs to be pandering to authors…I could understand calling out the reviewer if the blogger had written the review not having even opened a page. I’ve seen this done before, where the reviewer draws a conclusion based on not having liked the first book in the series, or the author’s online behavior (it happens) and writes a scathing review and 1 stars the book. This is unethical. I know, stop hissing. I know a bunch of you went out and marked Kathleen Hale’s book with a 1 star because of her behavior. I don’t think this is right. I marked it as “I won’t read because of behavior” but I didn’t mark a star rating. I think my shelf will be enough to state my opinion. Giving the book a review or a star rating is misleading because you didn’t read the book, so you are not judging the book, you are judging the creator of the book. If we could review her – wouldn’t that be nice? But, if the reviewer has read a certain amount of the book where they feel like they can competently discuss what they disliked or liked about that certain part of the book — why is this unethical?

I’ve taken English Lit classes where we go through books chapter by chapter, class to class and form opinions and analyze the book Chapter by Chapter. You can form an opinion about a book just by reading parts of it. Much like you can judge a movie by the first ten minutes of the show. Might it at the end redeem itself? Yes. It can happen. My dog hopefully one day will learn how to use the potty. He doesn’t even have to learn how to flush. I’ll deal.

Parajunkee's View

Questions for my Readers:

Where do you stand? Do you review DNFs? If you do or do not, why?
How would you handle a harassing email or comment from an author about your DNF review?

Parajunkee's View

Happy Thursday. Talk Less. Read More. Blog with Integrity.

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