As I do more book reviews, I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a post to talking about how my rating system works. As you’ve all surely seen by this point, I use the 5 star scale which is pretty straightforward. The part that isn’t so straightforward is the criteria for each star rating. Let me explain.
If you head over to my Goodreads page, you might see that I gave 5 stars to both East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The former is a modern classic and retelling of the story of Cain and Able. The latter is a YA about a freshman in college who writes fanfiction. These two books could not be any less similar, and yet I loved them both immensely for different reasons. So how could I give a young adult novel the same rating as something by John Steinbeck? Easy. I don’t compare books from different genres. Fangirl got 5 stars because I considered it high above a lot of books in the YA contemporary genre. East of Eden got 5 stars because it was better than a lot of novels in the classics genre. I would never say something along the lines of “Well, Just One Day by Gayle Forman was really amazing, but I can’t give it 5 stars because people will think that I found it to be as good as All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.” You really just can’t compare the two. When I open a YA contemporary I’m expecting a lot of character development, some humor, some drama, a romance, and maybe a message at the end. When I read a fantasy, I’m expecting an intricate world, unique magic systems, maybe some dragons, and an awesome plot. If a novel fails in its own genre, that’s when I lower the rating.
Now let’s talk about some specific characteristics of each rating.
5: Excellent! Go read right now!
A 5 star novel has got it all! If I give this rating, it means that I was impressed by the writing, the character development, and the plot. It means that I couldn’t put it down. It means that I wanted to hurry up and get to the end to know what happens, but I also didn’t want it to finish. It means I felt all the emotions as I read. It means I closed the book and felt excited to review it. A 5 star book will stick with me, and I will tell everyone to read it!
4: Wow! That was pretty good.
A 4 star book is similar to a 5 star except it’s missing a few key components. These novels have one or two or a few things that I wished were different. Maybe there was a slow part or a character I couldn’t stand. Maybe this one little thing rubbed me wrong. Something that makes me think it just doesn’t deserve the full 5. It didn’t make me as emotional, but it was still enjoyable. I would still recommend a 4 star, but I probably wouldn’t re-read it.
3: It was just okay.
For me, a 3 star means that the book was meh. It wasn’t memorable or emotional or particularly great, but it also wasn’t terrible, and there were still some good parts about it. It means I might not read the sequel, and I will recommend it with a “maybe you’ll like it more than I did, but don’t rush to read it.” It means the story was cliche or overdone and the writing was bland. The characters were probably slightly annoying as well. It was just there.
2: I really did not enjoy.
I don’t give ratings below 3 stars very often because I do extensive research about a book before I decide to invest time into it. However, of the two star ratings I gave, they were because it wasn’t doing anything for me, but I didn’t full on hate it. 2 stars are reserved for those books that have very little about them that I enjoyed, but that I didn’t really care enough about to slap with a single star. They won’t get recommended, and I don’t get excited to review them. These books have un-enjoyable writing and too many things that annoyed me. I probably struggled to finish.
I can count on my fingers the number of 1 star ratings I’ve given. Thankfully, I rarely hate a book. Usually, my 1 stars are for required school books or ones I barely finished and despised every minute of. This means the book offended me in some way, was dreadfully boring, had terrible writing, or was overall just bad. I guess I’m pretty good at avoiding these.
There ya have it, folks. This is how I rate my books. Now, when you see a rating at the bottom of a review, you’ll understand why I gave it what I did.
On a completely unrelated note, my Instagram link in the sidebar had gone to my personal account since this blog was created, but recently I created an account specifically for Pen & Pages. You can now click the Instagram link and be brought there where I’ve been posting book-related pics. Check it out if you want! The username is @penandpagesblog. Thanks!
Talk to you all soon!
Until next time, keep reading and writing! – Veronica