Hi, it’s Sabrina 🙂 Recently, I had the strange experience of reading The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti Skomsvold, a book which touched me deeply in a way I wasn’t expecting. Though I found it difficult to put down, I did not necessarily enjoy reading it. So, I was left with this question: How do I rate it? In today’s post, I’m going to be discussing the struggles I face when trying to rate books that didn’t bring me happiness as well as other kinds of books that I leave unrated.
When rating books, I think the most significant factor for me is whether I enjoyed reading it or not, and to what extent. My emotional attachment to the characters and the way the storyline made me feel really impacts how many stars I am willing to give a book. This is especially true when it comes to 5 star ratings (but that’s a discussion for another day). This emotional way of rating becomes a problem for me when I pick up a more tragic book. It’s hard to feel excited about the plot when everything that happens is, to put it bluntly, depressing. Even if I do get attached to the characters in this case, it just makes me frustrated to see how they are beaten down at every turn. How can I possibly say that it was a good reading experience, when it made me so upset? Even so, I do appreciate these books – whether it be for the writing, characters or awareness it brings to a big issue. Here’s a few examples of this:
CHILDREN’S AND MIDDLE GRADE
These are another broad category of books I tend to leave unrated. When reading a children’s or middle grade novel, I am always hyper aware that I’m not the target audience. I’ve previously tried to take this into account with my ratings, but it felt a bit dishonest – I couldn’t genuinely give a middle-grade novel that I didn’t totally enjoy 5 stars, just because I could see a younger version of myself loving it. Still, it wouldn’t feel right to give it a much lower rating either. My new solution? No rating. The most recent example of this is The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill. I thought it was absolutely adorable, but it bothered me that the plot was so simple. I hate even saying that, because obviously it is a book for children and they’re not going to mind that!
This is only a problem some of the time. I don’t find it so much with graphic novels or comic collections, as they tend to be longer and better fleshed out, but single comic books are so short! It is really difficult for me to rate something that I finished reading in a flash – that’s not long enough for me to become emotionally invested in the story or characters. I don’t even feel right rating it based on the art style. Maybe I’m just not picking up the right comic books.
To be honest, I didn’t like most of the books I read for school (as you can clearly see in this post), HOWEVER!! I think you could hate any book after studying it as intensely as I had to study some of the ones I read.
It is one of my greatest shames as a reader and writer that I generally just don’t get poetry. It mostly just leaves me feeling like I wasn’t smart enough to understand it, or not in touch enough with my emotions. Admittedly, often it probably is just that I haven’t understood it very well (side note: I love Jen Campbell and she has a series where she dissects poems and it’s really helped me out with that). The other factor is that when I’m counting poems on Goodreads, it’s because I’ve read them in a collection and even if a few of the poems included in that collection impact me in some way, it’s really rare that all of them will. And, to link back to my first point in this post – they’re often really sad! I don’t feel like it’s fair to give these books a negative rating when it’s almost entirely my fault that I didn’t enjoy them.
A lot of the time, I won’t rate non-fiction books. They are just not as enjoyable to me when they are instructional or purely informative compared to fictional. Sometimes, they will make an emotional impact on me, and in that case, I’ll leave them a rating. But it’s hard to tell, unless you are an expert, if a book has given you all the information you need on a topic.
BOOKS I DNF
am pretty unpredictable when it comes to DNFing books. Sometimes I can read 20 pages and determine that I’m not going to enjoy something, whether it’s likely to be a good book or not, and sometimes I’ll get three quarters through and decide I’m too bored or not invested enough to continue. Sometimes the timing isn’t right and sometimes I’m in a harsh mood. No matter why or when I put a book down though, I don’t feel right giving it a rating.
What do you think?
Do you leave any books unrated? Do you rate books at all? Do you rate books based on your enjoyment of them, or more based on craft?