Lately I’ve been (against better judgment) scrolling down to read comments on books, usually on Goodreads. Sometimes it’s interesting to see if people’s opinions match your own, especially if you didn’t particularly love the book.
For someone like me, reading the reviews can be helpful. As a writer, I need to see what works for books and what doesn’t. But at this point, I’ve just been trying to write something I’d enjoy reading. I know what I like. I can guess what others might like. But the problem is that no matter what I do, I’ll have people that leave mean comments or low ratings among the readers who loved the book. That’s just life in general.
You can take a book with the highest average rating and find a handful of one stars with the reviewer wondering at the popularity of the book. You can also find a book with a horrible average rating and see at least one person singing the novel’s praises. It’s all about taste.
I mean, I hate peanut butter. I’m one of the few I’ve met in my life. To people who love peanut butter, I’m crazy! To me, those salty-paste lovers baffle me. But neither of us are wrong. We just have different tastes.
That being said, as a person who decides how many stars a book gets when I’m done reading it, I’m trying to approach the ratings differently. I hate leaving 1 Star reviews. Why? Because the book has to be nearly illegible for me to consider a 1 Star.
Maybe I’m soft. Maybe I’m just not meant to review books. But to me, 1 Star means that the author essentially just picked random words and tried to piece them together with no meaning, no plot, etc.
It upsets me when I see someone rating a book so low over something like “I hated the main character!” Well, sometimes people in life suck. So it is with characters in books. Don’t get me wrong! There are several books that I didn’t enjoy because the main character was so difficult to be around in the fictional world. I’ve even stopped reading books because of it. But to give a damaging 1 Star rating without considering how the novel was written, how the other characters are, the word choice, the setting, the overall plot… It doesn’t feel like an honest rating about the author’s skill in the book.
Don’t get me wrong! Characters drive the story so much for me. Or if there’s a subplot that I can’t stand… Or if the ending lets me down in a big way… These are all factors! But I feel like sometimes reviewers (and I’m guilty of this 100%) take the biggest flaw in it and make that the sole factor in their judgment and rating.
I want to try and look at the book as a whole. Did this part of the book make me feel something? Anger, sadness, irritation? Was it supposed to? Is that something the author wanted out of me? That sounds like a decent job for the writer’s part. If this one part was different, would I love the book? Maybe the 1 Star isn’t the right rating then.
The problem with looking at reviews is translating what one person’s rating would really be for you. Some people’s 1 Star would be my 3 Star, for instance. And I can handle a 3 Star book. But some people hand out 5 Stars for free, whereas I’m a little pickier about my 5 Stars.
But 1 Star is a huge glare on any book’s review section. It says, “THIS AUTHOR CANNOT WRITE!” And that’s not always the case.
That being said, I’m going to attempt to do book reviews now. And I hope that every book I pick up will at least be a 2 Star. Heaven help me if there’s a 1 Star. Because then I’ll have to eat my hypocritical words here and take back everything I’ve said in this entire post.
What the star rating means for me:
5 Stars – Loved it, will reread it, among the favorites
4 Stars – Loved it, will reread it
3 Stars – Liked it, probably won’t reread it
2 Stars – Didn’t enjoy it, but got something out of it
1 Star – Didn’t enjoy it, wished I hadn’t finished it, ugh!