I was reading through the reviews of a book about which I was contemplating marking it as a rare DNF for me, and one caught my eye. The reviewer gave it two out of five stars, and the only reason this person did so was that the book has almost no diversity outside of some skin color differences. This reviewer took offense that the author did not include any sex and gender diversity and therefore gave the entire story a negative review without really saying anything about the story itself.
A week later, I am still thinking about this review if only because it raises more questions than answers them. How should we approach a book review? Is it fair to judge a novel based on what is between its pages versus what is not? As the book community strives to become more diverse, should we critique authors on how successful they are to show atypical relationships and avoid gender norms?
I confess that the thought never crossed my mind to criticize an author for not adding some diversity to a story. I know some of that is because I identify as a white, heterosexual cis-female. I am only just beginning to grasp the idea of different genders and sexes. Plus, I tend to focus on the writing itself and not what is missing. I always try to include what does or does not work for me, knowing that reading is subjective.
Granted, there is no one way to write a book review and certainly no correct criteria upon which to base your critique. However, should there be? Should diversity in all forms be a requirement for a good book? I have no good answer, but seeing that review certainly got me thinking.
What about you – what do you think? How do you decide whether a story is good or not? What are your personal criteria when writing a book review or talking about a book to others? Also, what are your thoughts on judging a book based on diversity alone?