Tell me how you feel on a scale of one – five. One being you are ready to throw in the towel and five being you are the happiest you could dream. So, I guess three would be you are not really satisfied?
Maybe three is that you are satisfied, but just maybe you are looking for a bit more? Well, what about four? Two? ACK! Ok, there aren’t enough stars for me to even begin to figure out how I feel about my life, and what if I would tell someone I rated my life a three, and their idea of a three means I’m on the brink of suicide?! OH GEEZ! But they never listed to my reasoning behind WHY I rated my life a three… (I didn’t really rate my life a three, but let’s just go with it for this blog post, shall we? LOL)
Well, that is how I feel about the starred rating system for reviews on books. Those stupid little stars carry so much weight, and there isn’t even that little happy or sad face chart you get in the doctor’s office that guides you as to where you HAVE to rate your pain according to the happy or crying faces.
Those gold little stars out there just sit and stare at us, reflecting our attempted representation of our enjoyment of a book. I HATE YOU STARS, and here’s why.
I love to talk books. I talk about books with anyone else who loves to talk books. And yes, I usually force book talk on some of those out there who don’t like books (I will win you all over one day!). And in these ramblings, reviews and ratings have come up quite a few times. And you know what I learned. Those STUPID stars are always interpreted differently.
When we all review a book, we are asked to give it a star rating as well as DESCRIBE why we liked or disliked the book. Unfortunately, there are many reviewers out there who like to plop down a star rating, give us a sentence or two, expecting us to understand what they meant because… “Well, I gave it a three-star rating!”
Well, I rated my life a three too, and my only explanation was “I have a job, kids, and a house.” That’s enough for the optimists to go, “Wow! That’s wonderful! Her kids must be doing great in school, her home is probably landscaped beautifully, and she must really enjoy her job – she gave it a three-star rating!” The pessimists are all sitting around saying, “Yes, and I bet her daughter steals money from her purse, her roommate in her broken-down shack swipes her toilet paper, and she’s working for scraps at her job. Why else would she only give her life three stars?”
Unfortunately, even if I had gone into a more lengthy, drawn-out explanation to all the ups and downs of my life, some people wouldn’t bother to read it. They’d assume they know what I mean based solely on my star rating because, you know, we all think alike…
I would love to see reviews being based solely on the words the review has to say… not on a quick glance through the star chart to see how many three-, two- or one-star ratings a book has. I think it’s just a lazy way for people to sit back and say, “Oh this has fifteen three-star ratings, four two-star ratings, and even a one-star rating! Oh my gosh! This book must be terrible! Those sixty, four- and five-star ratings have to be from people the author knows. If it were THAT good, there is no way it would have other ratings that low!”
That dialogue up there may seem harsh, but in reality, it’s not. Some people have said I’m pretty harsh when it comes to my reviews and my starred ratings. That’s because I rate a lot of books a three. Not because I’m wishy-washy and can’t jump from one side of the fence or the other, but because I really believe they deserve it. I think a three star rating means it’s a solid book. But not everyone sees it that way. Let me tell you how I rate those stupid, stupid stars (simply because most places won’t let you post a review without the use of the dreaded star…):
One star – Generally it means I gained absolutely NO enjoyment whatsoever from the book. The characters were flat, there were plot holes I could have driven my home through, and the editing was non-existent. The book was confusing… You get the picture.
Two stars – This means it had SOME potential, and maybe I gleamed a bit of enjoyment out of it. There were probably some very questionable scenes, but not enough where I couldn’t follow the story at all. More than likely, there were a few other things going on that made me cringe, but I STILL managed to grab a bit of something from its pages.
Three stars – These are the ones you really have to get into my review to understand. I could have actually hated the book for personal reasons (just not my taste, I didn’t care for the language, etc), but it was well-written and the plot lines were tight enough. It could have been a book I honestly enjoyed, but for whatever reason, it didn’t have that extra little wow factor for me or maybe it was just a good, solid book – nothing more; nothing less. See where that pesky little thing we call a REVIEW comes in? LOL
Four stars – It means I REALLY, REALLY enjoyed the book. It grabbed my attention, took me for a ride, and if it DID have any errors in the book, they were either too random for me to notice or that I was so engrossed in the book that I forgot I was an editor. (Bravo for the author!!)
Five stars – This puppy is getting put on my all-star shelf, and I plan on reading this book over and over until the day I die. (For real – I have this shelf. And I have a butt-ton of books on it that I have read a gazillion times… don’t judge me! LOL) This book had me forgetting there was a world outside of the covers, I probably dreamt about this book when I had to walk away, and I most likely lost a lot of sleep over it anyway because I refused to put it down. My kids were yelling through the house trying to find where Mommy was… ok, I’m going a little far on this, but you get the point. This book to me was golden.
So, for those of you out there who are reviewing, take the time to review properly. Tell them what you loved, what you hated, what drew your attention, what made you shudder. Those little twinkle lights at the top of the review could mean so many things. Let your voice be heard! You were moved in one way or another at the power of the author’s words. Let YOUR words carry as much weight, and leave the stargazing to the astrologers.
Tell me, oh fluffy readers, how do you look at those stars?
Amy Eye is a regular contributor to Dandilyon Fluff and a professional editor, book designer and formatter for several publishing houses and for her own editing business,The Eyes for Editing. Visit her regular column here, Sticks & Stones.