#BeCritical…. Being Critical of Booktube

Okay, so there’s a Booktube issue and I feel like it needs to be discussed, not only by Booktubers but also by bloggers in general. So here I am, actually taking a break from my mad amount of work and reading, because this has actually really, really annoyed me and I’ve been noticing it for a while. In a way, I’m glad it’s blown up, because maybe now something will change.


There’s been drama on Booktube and Twitter, mainly around Ariel Bissett and Barry Pierce. They’re both really great Booktubers, who are (finally) actually challenging the Youtube status quo. They’re two of my favourite Booktubers, as they’re both challenging, intelligent and funny and never resort screaming or madly gushing. Though watching Barry do a screaming Booktube video would be hilarious…

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that some Booktubers, particularly the “big” ones, display a huge lack of honesty. I’ve noticed that several of them read books which sent to them and sponsored by the publishers. They give a blatantly negative review, deserving of a really low star rating, yet rate it highly. I’m talking a 1-2 star review being followed by a 3-4 star rating.


Obviously, there is a major conflict of interest here. This is a problem.

Watching a video or channel consisting of 5 star review after 5 star review begins to feel sketchy. I honestly don’t believe I could read ten books in a row and expect to absolutely love each and every single one of them… I feel like that’s not how reading (or life!) works.

I think Booktubers need to be challenged to think critically and give honest reviews. I understand that there’s pressure from publishers and from viewers to give a positive review, particularly when a book is very popular.

If a Booktuber consistently gives 4-5 star reviews for every single book, I will begin to distrust them. Why is a happy medium rating seen as a bad thing? If a book is truly terrible, made you angry, or just didn’t resonate with you, why not give it a middling to bad review?


Being critical isn’t necessarily being negative. For example, I can read a book, say that I found things I didn’t like about it but still rate it well, because I otherwise enjoyed it. That is being critical, not negative. BazPierce is highly critical about what he reads, but unfortunately he does tend to err on the negative side- I still like him and enjoy watching his reviews, but I don’t have to agree with everything he says. I respect his reviews because he reads books that I enjoy, he reads widely and reads books that I want to read, but if I disagree with him on something, that’s okay.

I don’t know if it’s a 21st century thing or a teenage thing, but if a book is extremely popular, any critical review is thoroughly shouted down. Remembering the Twilight phenomenon, it bordered on scary. It’s happening now with John Green, Cassandra Clare and Rainbow Rowell. I’m pretty sure that I’m yet to see a negative review of any of their books on Youtube. Is this because they actually all love the books, because they’re being paid to love these books or because they’re afraid of losing popularity? Why then go on and pressure others to change their opinion of a book or author or otherwise bash them because they disagree, just because you’re a “bigger” Booktuber?

who cares

I don’t think that all 5 star ratings are equal, which perhaps is a bit odd, but that’s how I roll. If I know a book is trash, but I really, really enjoyed it anyway, for whatever reason, I’ll still give it 4-5 stars. I think Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the weak point in the Harry Potter series, but because it’s still Harry and has a special place in my heart, I still rate it 5 stars. I think Jane Eyre is an actual masterpiece of literature, so I give it 5 stars. They’re all 5 stars, but for different reasons. My reviews (hopefully) should reflect why I chose that rating.

I believe that criticism is fine. Criticism is good! Criticism is something that helps ourselves and our society to move on and grow! We should be reading critically and thinking critically about what we experience. As bloggers and Booktubers, we should be giving honest, critical reviews of books, because that’s what we’re here for. If a book is absolutely rubbish, why shouldn’t I review it as such? Not negatively, not personally against the author, but critically. Yes, I tend to be brutally honest and blunt, but that is me. I don’t mean anything personal against the author. Writing my review of Northanger Abbey was fun, even if I hated it and picked apart everything I disliked. That doesn’t mean I think Jane Austen is a terrible person and a terrible writer- I just didn’t like that particular book.

Kathleen Hale might beg to differ, but that is a whooooole other issue!


Book reviewing doesn’t need to be a popularity contest. I take my reading seriously and I enjoy doing it. I blog to get my opinions down and out there. I get really invested in the books I read, so review honestly. If I would tell my friend that a book is awful, why would I publicly endorse it?

There is no value in a dishonest review. None.

Booktube is crashing into a popularity contest, which is disappointing. I respect those who are going against the grain and giving honest, critical reviews. I agree with Barry and Ariel, if you’re being paid to review a book, you owe it to yourself and to those who view your reviews to take it seriously and review critically and honestly. If you don’t, you’re a bookseller, nothing more.

The fact that this is even “drama” is disappointing.


7 thoughts on “#BeCritical…. Being Critical of Booktube

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and
    Agree 120% with you. I love the booktube community but lately I watch more tag videos, hauls, and anything else that isnt related to reviews, just because I have seen videos where they bash books, but then rate it 4.5 stars because there was “potential”
    I don’t know if its for viewing purposes or because publishers are now sponsoring their videos, but I just don’t know if I can trust their review after such a negative booktalk. Im not saying this is true for all booktubers, but there are a few I notice this with

    • Absolutely! I’m not saying it’s all of them either, but it’s definitely a noticeable trend. I’m not sure entirely why, but I’m aware that some of the “bigger” booktubers are potentially paid thousands to review a book. That definitely makes me question what they’re saying!
      Tags and hauls etc are fun, especially if the booktuber likes the same type of books as me, but I don’t feel that’s the real point of booktube… what’s the point of having a hundred books in a haul if they never review them?

  2. Oh my goodness. This post is so GOOD.
    I’ve never heard of Barry Pierce, but I absolutely adore Ariel! It’s great that she goes against the mold, for example, she just reviewed a book that a publisher gave her and said that it was the worst book she had read so far this year. That’s an honest review if I’ve ever heard one!
    I really hope this problem is solved, or at least improved, surrounding Booktube soon. It would be terrible if it turned into something resembling a popularity contest, but unfortunately I think that’s the direction it’s currently moving in. But I have hope!
    Awesome post! 🙂

    • Thank you! 🙂 you’re so lovely!

      Yep, I think her decision to leave Booksplosion over this month’s book is a wise one but it’s definitely caused some friction! Her review seemed fair, judging by others I read on Goodreads and from reading the synopsis, she’s totally entitled to her opinion!
      Barry is an Irish booktuber and friends with Ariel. He’s really divisive and has some pretty controversial things to say, but I think he’s great 😛
      I really hope so as well. If at least one more big booktuber takes this critique on board, hopefully the ball will start rolling. At the moment they’re either saying nothing o getting defensive 😦

  3. Yes, I agree completely with this! I found the same thing happened around Goodreads, and that’s why I started to question my place there. I love BookTube, but there are certainly a lot of discrepancies there. I’ve not reviewed many books so far on my channel, but I do the same as with my blog; even if I am sent something for review or gifted a book, I will write an honest and impartial review. That, for me, is the most important thing about reviewing on any platform.

    • It’s a shame that such negativity has become so prevalent in the book reviewing community =(
      I think the books deserve to be properly reviewed! I’ve only reviewed one ARC but I treated it the same as any other book I review.

  4. Pingback: How I Rate Books | bookarahma

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