Taking one look at the GoodReads page for any book will lead you straight to the conclusion that rating books is entirely subjective. For one reader, a book could be a 5 star read, but for another it could be a 2 star. Whilst this is completely understandable, given that we all have different tastes and expectations, it really got me thinking about the criteria we can use for rating books and whether this should be consistent.
I’ve noticed that a lot of books that I’ve given a high rating (3.5/4 stars) to are objectively… not that great. The writing was bad or the characters fell in love after sharing one conversation and/or their personalities were shallow – all traits that I would expect to give 2 stars to. And yet that isn’t always the case; so in today’s post I wanted to talk through why my objectively bad books have got high ratings and how I’m trying to manage this to ensure that my ratings are consistent.
* For any books mentioned as ‘bad’ – this is just my opinion of how I personally found them so please don’t be offended if you loved them. All just light-hearted <3.
When an objectively bad book gets a high rating, it’s usually for two reasons:
- THE CHARACTERS PULLED THROUGH
For me, books are very character driven, so a book could have a rubbish plot but if it’s got characters that I genuinely love then I’ll be able to persevere through not so great writing.
For example, even though unfortunately this wasn’t the case for me, I’ve seen a lot of reviews citing the writing of The Foxhole Court as not so good (as I found) but they loved the characters and so enjoyed it overall. For me, I didn’t really care about the characters (although I wish I did because found family!!) and so I wasn’t able to push through the bad writing and I DNF’d. But, if I had loved them, I definitely would have loved the book.
- I WAS HOOKED AND FLEW THROUGH IT.
This is generally the main reason why I’ll still give a book a high rating – I’m in the mood for a fun and fast read and the book delivered.
I generally see this with the fluffy contemporaries (especially those that are a throwback to 2013 Wattpad). I know that they’re kind of trashy, and you always know what’s going to happen (insta love → misunderstanding → make-up) but I just fly through them and always really love them. So even though objectively they’re not great (9 times out of 10 due to insta-love), it ends up with a high rating anyway.
A recent book that this happened with was The Princess and the Fangirl which was a 4.5 star read for me (0.5 was taken away for insta-love). When I finished it I was left with such a happy and feel good feeling; but looking back at it, the insta-love was honestly crazy. I also really liked the characters too, which explains why with book 3 in the series (where I didn’t love Vance, our main guy) I gave it a much lower rating (3.5 stars).
My biggest problem with this is that my ratings are SO inconsistent.
For example taking The Princess and the Fangirl again, I gave that a 4.5 star read (and the 0.5 was only me being harsh about the insta-love – I initially gave it 5). But was it as good (objectively) as Six of Crows? Or Red, White and Royal Blue? Or Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda? Probably not.
My overall rating and opinion on the book came entirely from my initial thoughts and feelings which is both a good and a bad thing:
- Good because the response is my initial reaction – it’s fresh, it’s up to date and it’s given straight after I’ve finished the book so is my initial gut reaction.
- Alternatively, it’s bad because it is my initial reaction that doesn’t necessarily consider the book in it’s entirety? Often the ending really brings the book up, for example with King of Fools by Amanda Foody, the ending was so intense and meant it got 5 stars straight away. But when I looked at this later I ended up giving it just 4 (although don’t get me wrong, it was still incredible). The ending for most books should be the climax and the best part so it can leave you feeling more excited about it than the rest of the book actually did. So when do you rate? Later on when you can look at the book in it’s entirety or your initial reaction?
For blog readers therefore, it means that there isn’t consistency in my ratings. How are you meant to know if my 5 star rating is Six of Crows good or if it’s just insta-love cosy Wattpad good? They may both be 5 stars but they’re both on completely different spectrums.
- Revisiting ratings: I’ve started to do this a lot more recently and I think it’s really beneficial. After I’ve added my initial rating to GoodReads when I’ve marked the book as finished, I’m then going to revisit it maybe a day or a couple of days later and then see how I’m feeling. For a lot of books this tends to change.
For example Where Dreams Descend I loved it the whole way through and would have given it 5 stars up until the ending. And so my initial rating was 5 stars because the ending was just so quick and didn’t really stick with me. But given that the ending didn’t totally wrap (anything in) the book up, when I looked back and thought about this later I ended up removing a star.
- Writing more reviews and updating my GoodReads progress: Lastly, I want to start using GoodReads more to record my thoughts on a book throughout, rather than simply using it to track how many books I’ve read. I think that that is such a useful feature of GoodReads, and so I 100% want to utilise it more so that I can remember more of how I felt when reading the whole book (rather than just focusing on how I felt after the ending). I definitely think that this will give me a more rounded view of the book as a whole, so hopefully my ratings can be a little more subjective there!
Rating books for me is 100% subjective. I don’t tend to look at the quality of the writing, or the metaphors used, or the foreshadowing in the third chapter. My focus is entirely on how the book made me feel and I think for the majority of people that’s perhaps the same? So is having my ratings less about the critical quality and more about my emotions a bad thing? Maybe not.
Sorry if this post was a little bit of a ramble; I hope it made sense? I just wanted to jot down some thoughts I had about book ratings (and there’s another post on its way also about ratings) and how I want to try and make them a little more thought-out and consistent?