Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Are DNF Reviews Fair?

There’s been some discussion on the interwebs lately on the subject of DNF reviews and whether it’s really “fair” for a reviewer to opine on a book he/she didn’t actually finish. How can a reviewer know whether the book “worked” or not if he/she didn’t read the whole thing?

Well, my answer to that is that I can tell a LOT about whether a book works for me or not based on whether I finish it. If the author can’t hold me all the way through to the end, for whatever reason, that tells me something about the book. The question is why didn’t the author keep me reading?

For me, as a reader, a DNF review is just as useful as any other. The reasons a reviewer couldn’t finish reading a book are as important as their reasons for giving a book they did finish any grade from an A to an F. They help me decide whether it’s a book I want to invest my time and money in.

So, all you reviewers out there–please post your DNF reviews. I read them, I appreciate them, and I use them.


  • Stephanie Draven May 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I think it depends on how far you got into the book. Getting three chapters in, realizing that there is magic in a book you didn’t expect magic in, and then giving it 1 stars and a DNF because of that is a bit unfair.

    On the other hand, I think if the book isn’t working structurally as a story and you just can’t push past the middle, it’s totally fair to write a review on it.

  • Sofia Harper May 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    The purpose of a review is to let readers know about a book. What worked and what didn’t work. So a reviewer should be able to state why they couldn’t finish a book without being considered unprofessional or unfair. Those first chapters might gleam or drag. Something might go off the rails in chapter 8. If the reviewer is not invested to get to the end…that may be of value to a reader.

  • Emily May 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    DNF may also just mean that the book wasn’t right for that reader at that time, too. I’m a huge mood reader and a book may be the best thing ever written but if I’ve had a stressful day or just want to be reading something else, it won’t “grab” me. I think it’s fair to say, under different circumstances I may have finished this book too.

    And hey, reviewing is unique to each individual reviewer- if someone doesn’t like or appreciate the way I do things there are plenty of other people out there who do it differently.

    This is definitely an interesting issue.

  • B.E Sanderson May 24, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I can appreciate a DNF review – as long as the reviewer admits they didn’t finish the book. One review of a book I loved ticked me off because it was obvious the reviewer hadn’t finished the book, but she acted like she had – slamming the author for never resolving something that was resolved in the last chapter.

  • Ericka Scott May 27, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I’m on the fence over this. One particular book that I couldn’t finish (too many words, too slow, too many characters) has gotten rave reviews throughout the world (The female with a reptilian permanently inked cartoon). I got a distinct sense of failure that I couldn’t read and enjoy it when I’d see how many millions of copies it sold. I’d hate to be the reviewer that had a very public DNF review if it hit the NYT Bestseller list or had a rave RT review. Reading is such a subjective activity, that even when books get rave reviews, I want to decide for myself if the book is for “me”


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