Updated: Aug 7, 2019
What does that really mean?
Recently I reached out to a friend for feedback on what I was doing here. She had a lot to say (mostly good) but then she confessed that I had confused her. Well, that wasn't much news...I tend to confuse a lot of people, but when she elaborated, I had to admit she had a point.
When I first started writing book reviews a few years ago (I've bounced around a few times to find the right blog platform for me) I, honestly, saw it as more of an excuse to read. At least this way I could make reading a necessity as a part of my work and I could, then, demand that my family give me time to read. It worked well, actually! But as time went on, I started realizing that there people who actually cared what I thought! Who would have imagined? And, in no where in it all did I realize that I didn't really explain my rating process! So, let me correct that right now!
The first thing I thought about when I was deciding how to rate a book was what items I was going to use. Everyone uses stars and, while I do like stars, I had seen other reviewers on YouTube and the internet who came up with relevant items to use instead of stars. A video game reviewer might rate their games as so many out of five Joy Cons, for example. There was something about that system that appealed to me, so I decided to play with that idea and rate my stories so many out of five...items. I just couldn't come up with one item so I decided to change it, choosing a new item that is relevant to the story at hand. Sometimes those items are chosen for obvious reasons and you'll understand it just by reading the review, while others are chosen with the knowledge that only those who read the book of have read the book will understand it. Kind of like a fun Easter Egg!
So now that I've figured that part out...how do I decide how many of anything a story earns? Well, the criteria can be tricky to explain. While I do sometimes review more then just books, I'm going to focus more on story based factors I look at. Please keep in mind, that my evaluation of these factors is subjective and only a reflection of my opinion. You may feel completely different about it and that's okay! I not only expect that, but I respect it and love to hear your respectful different opinion (and even those expressing that you agree with me)!
Characterization- One of the big factors I look at is the characters. Are they likable? Do they elicit the response they are supposed to (so we like who we are supposed to, hate who we should hate and are suspicious of all of the right suspects)? I also look at the journey they take. Do they grow? Do they learn? Do they change? Did they experience a character arc? Were they supposed to?
Story line- Is the story one I enjoy? Does it take me on a journey? Are there large gaping holes in the story line that can't be over looked? Does it draw me in? Does it leave me wanting more?
How believable is it?- This is critiqued a little differently. In the case of stories that take place in the "Real world", are the facts close enough to the truth that they seem true? For example, if a book takes place in a small town of 2,000 people and 200 of those residents suffer from what is commonly referred to as split personality disorder, the book's rating is going to go down (there are very, very few actual cases of the disorder. It's so rare, some even claim it's not a real disorder at all!) In the case of a less grounded in reality story, I look for the level of suspension of disbelief, which is your ability, and willingness to use that ability, to accept a world such as, say Harry Potter, in which there are significant factors that are obviously not grounded in reality as possible if only during the experience of reading the story. Does the story make me believe it? Does it create the world the story is trying to depict in a reliable fashion?
Style- What is the style of writing? Does it flow or is it jerky? Does the style work for the story? Is it well written over all? Do I like the style? Yes, I know that this is an area that is hard to quantify with facts but I think this is an important area to consider.
Do I want more?- Am I left wanting more? Do I want another in the series? Am I left wanting to find more books written by the author? Did I feel like it was over too soon? Am I left in a book hang over?
And emotional response- Again, this isn't something that I can quantify and, honestly, I don't always understand it. I do, however, take in all emotional response. Was I moved? Did I laugh? Did I cry? Does the rank I want to give it feel right? Do I feel touched, effected or changed by it? Do I want to talk about it, share it? And just, over all...how do I feel?
And, after taking all this into account, I decide on a rating, while trying to be fair. I know that,just because a book didn't make me fall in love or leave a lasting impression of me, doesn't mean that it doesn't do that for another and, to me, that means it does have some value. I also know that there are very few very bad stories so in order for me to give a one or less rating it has to rate incredibly low in pretty much all of the categories, which doesn't happen often.I also know that almost every story can be better, because nothing is perfect so it takes a lot to receive a perfect rating.
And, that's how it happens. That's where the ratings come from; the thought process and the journey that I go through as I decide on what rating to give the story. Of course, while reviewing games, I add factors such as controls, graphics and the appearance of the game as an entirety. While reviewing movies I take factors into account like acting, over all appearance, ect. but over all, the basics are the same and where my primary focus is for any story I take on.
When you're "rating" a story, what do you take into consideration? Let us know in the comments!