A Beautiful Look at Bad Reviews

Atlas Obscura has a great post on the artwork done by Amber Share in her posters that incorporate one-star reviews of national parks.

I like Share’s view of bad reviews:

“If a national park—which is beautiful and incredible and inarguably amazing—is going to have one-star reviews, you also have no chance of pleasing everyone. It’s like—learning to laugh and have a lighthearted mindset about our critics, including the ones in our own heads, who are often the meanest.”

Possibly my fave (so hard to choose) although the one for Death Valley saying “Ugliest Place I’ve Ever Seen” is close (did you read the name on the sign, buddy?):

For more of Share’s posters, go here.

36 thoughts on “A Beautiful Look at Bad Reviews

  1. Oh my GOSH these are great!!

    Thanks so much for posting this! My favorite one might be for Arches — “Looks nothing like the license plate”.

  2. Hahahaha.

    We have supervisors who do classroom visits. Mine is particularly nit-picky so I deliberately leave something undone or untidy like messily stored charts. 😀 Her attention goes there and any mistakes I make during the lesson are less likely to be recorded!

    1. I wrote TV commercials for 30 years. Some clients simply had to find something to change, so for those would deliberate make one small mistake. That kept them from changing the big things.

  3. I love those posters. Someone shared a link on my FB feed a while back and I’ve hoarded several of the images. 🙂

    Also very timely because I got an editorial review last week that ended with ‘the romance was well done’ but the reviewer had issues with the number of characters and with the detail I went into concerning dance productions (in which my protagonists are involved as therapy for their issues). She found the detail distracting, which: I get it; not everybody’s interested in dance; but it is actually key to how these guys evolve in their relationship, so I have to just let it go.

    Number of characters … I’ve read a lot of books lately in which the protagonists have ONE friend. 🙂 In a novella format I can see that you don’t want a full community taking up space on the page. But in a full-length book, seeing how the characters interact with their families & friends is kind of important to knowing who they are. Here I have a guy who’s healing himself through dance, which means going to classes with other dancers. They’re talking; they need names.

    In a quick look at Chapter 1, page 1 has four names (the protagonists & 2 others who appear throughout the book). Page 2 has four more (it’s a conversation) two of whom are strong secondary characters. A few pages later we meet a cat who has a name. In the rest of the 19-page chapter we meet two more people (including one protagonist’s shrink) and receive one more name (another story-framing character). A total of twelve names. Is that too many characters to introduce? I’ve decided not to worry about it. Ultimately, this was the book I wanted to write, and I needed all those people. Even the cat.

    1. I feel you. Any time I’ve tried to write something set within the performing arts world, I end up with so many supporting characters. It takes a lot of people to make good art. Some artistic worlds are just inherently communal.

    2. Don’t get me started on people complaining about too many characters.

      My minimum so far, I think, has been seventeen characters with names and motivations. Lately it’s been edging up into the low twenties. I don’t care.

      Nita Button Frank Jason, Nick Vinnie Rab Jeo the Hotels,Sandy, Daphne, Phronsie, Dorothy Idle, Dom, the Mayor, Mr.Alcevedo, Marvella Cecily, Keres, Thanatos Beelzebub Lucifer Satan Mammon Max Ashtaroth Moloch, Mitzi Mr. Praxis,, Lilith, the Lemmon twins, Sadiel, Forcas, and the father of the guy who shot from SUV whose name I can’t remember. That’s 37. I’m okay with that.

  4. I love these. I worked at Yellowstone for a couple of years. Most tourists should just stay home.

    There was a statistic that we bandied about–that 95% of people who “visit” Yellowstone drive in one entrance, stop by Old Faithful to see an eruption, get back in their cars, and drive out another entrance. I mean, I like Old Faithful, but there is so much more to see… pretty sure those folks also complain that the bison seem to think that they own the road (which they do) and also that the rangers should go back to feeding the bears so they are around for the tourists.

  5. These cracked me up.

    I remember my first witchy magazine review of my first Llewellyn book. The reviewer panned the book because I suggested that for a Beltane (May Day) maypole dance, people could go into the woods to cut down a tree to use for the pole. She scolded me for not specifying that it be a tree that was already dead, and basically implied that if I would tell people to cut down a live tree, I was a BAD PAGAN. And therefore no one should get what she admitted was an otherwise pretty good book. *headdesk*

    (For anyone who has ever cut down a small tree for such a purpose, you usually do pick one that is already dead. If not, you pick one that is in the wrong place–usually being crowded out by larger trees–and will eventually die off naturally anyway. But either way, it’s not like I told people to go out and burn down the forest.)

    It took me a long time to learn not to read my own reviews, or to take the bad ones to heart. Note to self: be like the National Parks.

  6. Like others, I needed this reminder today. Got a rejection this morning on a series proposal where the editor loved the writing, the premise, the title, the atmosphere, the pacing, and even the bonus recipe (it’s a cozy mystery), but just didn’t connect with the characters. I’m a “fixer” by nature, always trying to fix problems when I see them, but there’s nothing to fix, the proposal is just not right for this editor. It’s still hard to accept and to sit back and not do anything about it.

    1. Ugh. I feel like you might have dodged a bullet on a bad editor if that’s the extent of the feedback you were given.

      Although not a writer, part of my job is presenting creative product to clients – and the comment you’re describing is the kind of non-specific feedback that I find particularly maddening because –

      1.) if you’re going to say you like everything and it is objectively good but it just didn’t connect…please elaborate more as to WHAT the disconnect is..because there is SOMETHING that isn’t working for you about the character. If I can figure out it’s just because she reminds you too much of your cousin Milly who said that totally bitchy thing to you last summer, well – that’s a very you specific thing.

      If it’s that you find the character to be a bit of a whiner in how she talks and that wasn’t my intention as a writer that she be whining, well now I can read it back with that filter and see if I understand that as a valid criticism or not given my vision of who that character is and how I want the reader to perceive her.

      2.) if this is a product that I am creating for you uniquely, that’s one thing, but if it is something that you will then be turning around to sell, please let’s discuss if it is likely to connect with the ultimate target audience or where your concerns are about them latching on to this character – because if you objectively think it’s well done, but just not for you…it is potentially a personal preference that may or may not be important in terms of the overall viability of this story.

      I will 1000% take more direct criticism “ie: this character is too whiny for me.” over these wishy-washy meaningless…”it’s just didn’t connect for me.” type comments. I mean, direct criticism can be hard to initially digest, but it will ultimately make for a better product. Wishy washy criticism is maybe a little softer upfront, but is just this lingering, maddening amorphous comment cloud that hangs over you with no way to understand what the actual critique is and no way to evaluate whether or not it matters for the art you’re making.

      1. I should clarify, I am a little kinder in trying to probe my clients to further explain their critiques then it probably sounds like in my comment.

        “Stop being wishy-washy!” are my internal thoughts, not the external … “Can you tell me more about why you didn’t connect?”

        And depending on how I’m reading their reaction, sometimes I’ll even offer some specific examples that they can latch onto, “Can you tell me what you thought when you were reading X or Y” so they can say “You, know it was the X that didn’t work!” or “No, I was with her on X and Y…but maybe it was Z that didn’t work for me?”

        But I do think an editor who can’t be more specific with you in their feedback is probably an editor you’re just better off not having, and that them passing in the short term just allows you to find a better editor for you ultimately.

      2. I once had a dinner / venting session with someone who’d had feedback from an editor complaining that the target audience wouldn’t understand [history of the period the book was set]. She said, “MY AUDIENCE — who’d read six or seven books in the series to date — IS QUITE FAMILIAR WITH THIS TIME AND PLACE.” Even if the editor, a new one, wasn’t.

        Not “too much / not enough infodump,” just “we wouldn’t want the readers to actually learn something.”

  7. I’ve only been to a few national parks. Never deep into the Everglades – gators and snakes! In Yosemite, with a group I climbed Mount Half Dome. At the top, there were no trees to block the view. Great Smokey Mountains? There were clouds, everywhere, but I didn’t mind.

    I always think of The Wizard of Oz. “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.” Plot summary? Bad review?

  8. Her posters are absolutely beautiful, aren’t they. And I just love the reviews. Really I think some people should just stay in the car and play with their phone.

    1. But “there’s no cell service and the wifi is terrible.”

      I got a poster of that one because it describes my house pretty well.

      1. You need an emendation on your poster: “They do have bonfires though.”


        Too soon??? If so, profuse apologies.

      2. I love these! I would love to have a couple of posters. Can you tell me where to find them? I read the info about the artist and could not find any kind of contact information. Thanks for the laughs. And please tell Krissie I said hello. I hope you too have an amazing time together.

        1. Of course I meant “you TWO.” One of the problems with voice to text.

        2. Krissie’s coming next week now; dental emergency this week.

          I googles the artist’s name, Amber Share, and hit the shopping tab. There were at least two places to buy and I think more.

  9. In the current world of too much information, I deeply miss the concept that “review” meant that someone with expertise in the subject presented her take on a romance novel, a hotel, a restaurant, a national park.

    Instead, now I only find anecdotes, or perhaps merely a score, that come from anyone who happened to try out the romance/hotel/restaurant/park and also happened to report on it. Even sites like The New York Times carries travel reviews where the reporter only tried the hotel/restaurant/park once.

    The worst case is medical advice. I tried to find out about surgeons and practices before deciding on my knee replacement. I could not find professional reviews. When I decided to have the surgery, the practice sent out a survey on the doctor and hospital before I even had the knee replacement. No wonder all the reviews were glowing.

    Grump. Grump. Bring back AAA tourbooks and reports from medical associations. I love national parks.

    1. I never do hospital’s doctor reviews unless there is something that really needs to be dealt with. Most of it is just a way to cover themselves if something comes up later that could lead to a malpractice suit: She gave us a perfect rating. Why is she complaining because one of the incisions was not closed one properly and did not heal? Obviously not our fault.

  10. On the other hand, for the right reader, negative reviews can provide incentive. I mean, I love all national parks by definition, so I’m not going to look them up to decide on a visit, but I’ve definitely decided to visit other places at least partially because people whose reviews annoy me hated the place. It all depends on what they are complaining about.

  11. That one person is lucky they just complained about bugs biting their face, bears bite faces too…

  12. Death Valley is actually quite beautiful. And if you pass through it and go out the CA side, you get to Manzanar, which was an interment camp during WWII. Desolate, sad, and a testament to a scar on our history.

    1. Death Valley and Mansanar. You really know how to lift spirits.
      Of course, you were dour in Maui, too. “We’re all doomed,” you said as you looked at the sparkling ocean and then you told me how you and Elizabeth George almost drowned there.

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