“So how would you rate this book?”
One of the most loved and hated questions for a bookworm. Loved, because it gives us the opportunity to talk about a book we read and share the love. Hated, because it’s just a very difficult question. People may expect a simple answer like “Oh yeah this was so good, definitely a 5 star book. You should definitely read it!” or “I did not like it at all, I would not recommend it to anyone”. But the answer is almost never that simple, so if you ask the question you should be prepared for a longer (and probably more confusing) answer than that.
Because ratings are complicated guys! It’s possible that I enjoyed a book so much that I read it in one sitting. It got me obsessed and I gave it a 5-star purely for enjoyment and feels, even though maybe the writing was just not that great. It’s also possible that I give 5 stars to a book that was so amazingly written with a beautiful plotline, even though it was a bit heavy and hard to finish. They are both 5 star ratings, but it’s not the same. At all. So if you ask me for a rating, it’s absolutely necessary for me to give a breakdown too. Only so I can give you the best possible idea on the book. Not so I have an excuse to talk about the book. Promise!
Everybody has a different rating system. Some people add more importance to writing style, other people more to plotline, etcetera. Thats also why we can’t just give you a simple answer: it needs to be explained. For me personally, my rating depends on 4-5 different criteria:
- Writing style
I’m not too technical about this but I do look at the writing in general. Did the writing flow nicely? Was there a nice balance between action, dialogue and descriptions? Is it too flowery? Or maybe not flowery enough? How was the pacing? All things that determine whether I like the writing or not.
Is it original? Can I predict the plot twists from a mile away or am I completely surprised when they happen? Is it full of tropes and clichés? Is it believable? Is there enough action and suspence? Is the romance just enough or does it take over the entire story?
A big portion of what I read is fantasy, dystopian or sci-fi, so basically all books that take place in a different, imaginary world. In this case it’s very important that that world is well thought-out and believable. If things are a certain way, I need to know why and how that happened. Don’t just say “Oh the apocalypse kind of happened and some day we just decided to live our lives in this particular way. You know. Because why not?” Tell me why and make me believe in it. No matter how crazy, the world still needs to make sense.
Just like the world, the characters need to be well thought out and believable. Preferably I like them, or even fall in love with them. But it’s okay if I don’t like them, as long as their actions are believable and I can understand their way of thinking. If there is romance, is that believable too?
The most vague criteria of them all, but in some way also one of the most important to me. How do I feel while reading the book? Am I completely invested in the characters? Do I feel all the emotions while reading? Am I obsessed? Do I sneak open my book every chance I get because I just NEED TO CONTINUE? Do I look up fanart on pinterest? Do I fancast the movie version in my mind? Am I reminded of the book by every song I hear on the radio? (Oh, this song exactly describes what character X is feeling at that moment in the book!) What was the size of my book hangover? If it’s a series, how desperate am I to get the next book in the series? How many times do I reread certain scenes? And so on.
Hw do all these criteria correspond? When I decide on a rating I first look at the first four points. For me writing style, plot and worldbuilding are all pretty evenly balanced in importance. Characters are the most important one for me. Then when I have a rating, I determine my feels. Big feels can turn a 3 star rating into a 4 star rating. Or a 4 star rating into a 5 star rating. But they will also never turn a 1 or 2 star rating immediately into a 5 star rating.
About all-time-favourites (also known as 5 star ratings or as favourites OF. ALL. TIME!)
My 5 star ratings are my all-time favourites. They are the ones that scored high on my rating for all 5 criteria. They have great writing, an interesting plot, well though-out worldbuilding, amazing characters AND they gave me all the feels.
Though it is possible that if the feels were high enough, I may overlook small flaws in the other criteria and give it 5 stars anyway. Because in the end, I read for my enjoyment and if I enjoyed a book that much I’m not going to get all nitpicky about it either.
How do you rate your books? Do you use the same criteria as me or do you look at other things too? And what do you consider the most important criteria of all?