Bookish Discussion · Bookish List · Uncategorized

Leaving Books Unrated

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.

SAD BOOKS

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:

The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti Skomsvold
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Sadie by Courtney Summers

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!

COMIC BOOKS

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.

Runaways Volume 1: Find Your Way Home
Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal

SCHOOL 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.

POETRY

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.

The Girl Aquarium by Jen Campbell
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
Broken Teeth by Tony Birch

INFORMATIVE NON-FICTION

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.

You Can Paint Dazzling Watercolors in Twelve Easy Lessons
What On Earth? 100 of Our Planet’s Most Amazing New Species
100 Years of Fashion

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.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Life or Death by Michael Robotham
Toxic by Lyda Kang

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?

21 thoughts on “Leaving Books Unrated

  1. Remember sadness is an emotion like happiness, what the book has done is make you care abuot the characters in the book, just not in a good way, so use it the same way if you give say 5 stars for a a book that made you really happy then do the same if it makes you really sad. The books I find difficult to write is when the book is well written but just don’t care about.

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  2. I had the same experience with The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am. It’s a meaningful story, but I hated it. I never rate books on my blog, but I do rate them on Goodreads because it makes it easy to sort the books and quickly find the ones I liked. The only time I don’t rate books on Goodreads is when they’re written by an author I know in real life.

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  3. Sadie is a sad book but, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Everyone was recommending Sadie to me last year so, when I finally read it I was surprised by how much I liked it.

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  4. I think the only time I don’t rate a book is when I DNF. Like you say, it doesn’t feel right to do so when I may have only read a small portion of the story. I might write a mini review about why it didn’t work for me but it’s unfair to rate it. It’s why I don’t have many 1 and 2 star rated reads as I’m honestly unlikely to read the end of books I haven’t enjoyed. That being said, I’d never thought about not rating a book I’d finished because the story itself wasn’t enjoyable. I mean, for me I rate the book for how invested I was in it but also the feelings it gave me. I suppose I partially rate it emotionally but not to the same degree as you. I’ve always questioned if star ratings are the way to go because often my star rating doesn’t explain anything, I need the review to go along with it to justify the rating. And one book I’ve rated 5 stars maybe very different to another book I’ve rated 5 stars.

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  5. I think comics can be challenging to rate because the stories kind of bleed into each other. I read them in the collected volumes, but sometimes it just seems weird to rate them all separately, you know, because they’re sort of a continuing story.

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  6. This is such an interesting topic, Sabrina! I never thought about leaving books unrated! It makes me uncomfortable knowing there’s unrated books on my Goodreads shelf 😅, so I usually rate books right after I read them—that way the rating is also based on my initial reaction and closest to how I felt about a book while reading it. For really sad books I liked, I usually give high ratings because I think them being able to affect me so deeply deserves some credit 😅.

    Also, that’s a really good point you brought up about not being the target audience for MG or non-fiction books! I always figured that for Goodreads ratings, because there’s no way to control who’s rating what books, the database in a way wants a diverse population to rate their books based on their personal experiences/tastes (idk if that makes sense 😅). Like by having so many different types of people rate books on Goodreads, the ratings are more honest and general? Idk though 😂, I don’t if many middle schoolers use Goodreads, so the Goodreads population can’t be too diverse 😅.

    And I definitely don’t rate books I DNFed too! Giving them 1 or 2 stars feels off when I didn’t read the whole thing 😕.

    Loved this discussion, Sabrina! I’m definitely going to be thinking about these things when I rate books going forward 🙂.

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  7. I never rate books I DNF, as I don’t consider them “read”. However, I have to put a rating on every book I finish. I don’t know if it’s my engineering/science background, but I struggle seeing the full impact of a book without a rating. More and more people are posting reviews without ratings, and when they are super enthusiastic or very critical, I can easily understand how the person felt, but when they are somewhere in between, I can never get a good feel for if the person enjoyed the book or not. I also don’t like ratings without reasons. They are not helpful to me. My ratings are based on if the author kept my attention, entertained me, and made me feel something, and these things would apply to any book I finish.

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  8. I second everything Sam above said! But I also agree on most of what you said in your post. Emotional attachment to characters is integral for me to give a book 5 stars. The way you feel about comics is akin to the way I feel about anthologies…the single stories are too short for me to get deeply invested in the book – or, in the rare case when it happens, I don’t enjoy all the stories at the same level, so I can’t bring myself to rate the whole book 5 stars (the best I can do is 4.5). Since my blog is geared to YA (with the occasional NA/A book thrown in the mix), I typically don’t read MG or children books, but I understand your reasoning about not rating them. Poetry I do read, but only in Italian, so I have no reason to rate it.

    At the end of the day, I feel compelled to rate all my books…so it’s a good thing the books I review don’t give me any reason not to rate them LOL. (Sad books might pose a problem, but since I read very few contemporaries, I rarely read “sad” books, though some have broken my heart in a way or another…but I kind of liked the experience LOL).

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  9. Oh this is such an interesting post! I rarely leave a book unrated, but when I do it’s usually either because it’s a reread of a childhood favorite that I know I can’t rate objectively or, like you, it’s a DNF or something I read for school. I can feel conflicted about rating children’s books for the exact reasons you listed, but I usually try to rate them based on my enjoyment while being a LITTLE more lenient than I usually might. And I’m the same way with poetry haha…I just don’t understand it and I feel bad trying to give it a rating 😬

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  10. I actually love sad books! But I agree that it can be unenjoyable when the entire thing is downright depressing to the point where it overwhelms you. I want books to feature a variety of emotions because that is the true reflection of the human experience. But anyways, I always rate my books. I don’t think I have ever left one unrated but I have struggled to accurately rate them. Some books I enjoy but I know are objectively bad, so how do I rate those? Or what if I find a book to be so well-done and perfectly written but just bland and emotionless? Such an interesting topic.

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  11. Sad books are amazing when they make you feel great things for the characters, but when you begin to dread picking up the book, I agree that it is overwhelming.
    .
    It is rather difficult to review comics; I never know whether or not to review the plot, characters, art or anything else.
    .
    Amazing post!
    – Emma 🙂

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  12. You don’t have to feel bad about not understanding or getting poetry! You don’t have to love everything or it doesn’t make you less of a reader. I have tried true crime and it isn’t a genre for me but that’s also okay 🙂 I actually rate everything but that might be due to my perfectionist and completionist nature? It would niggle at me to leave it unrated and I feel like I always have an opinion…

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  13. Oooh, this is such an interesting concept – especially bc I recently finished a book that made me feel EXACTLY as you said. It was beautifully written & I appreciated the story, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I felt that it was unfair to give it a low rating just bc it didn’t appeal to me, so I ended up rating it based on technicalities. I’ve never even *thought* about leaving a book unrated!

    Loved this discussion!!

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  14. I totally rate books based on how much I enjoyed them. I don’t have the energy to be one of those people who dissects everything they read to rate its quality. If I loved something, no matter how cheesy or simple, it’s 5 stars! I also usually leave DNFs unrated, though sometimes if I reeaally hated them I get tempted to leave a ranty 1 star.

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  15. I think I do the same with a lot of these, now that I am thinking about it! I WILL rate sad books because I love a cathartic cry so I feel like I can accurately rate them. But I agree completely about MG books- I only rate them if I am rating them 5 stars (which has only happened like, twice, because I usually don’t fall too in love with MG). I also agree completely about poetry! I have NO IDEA! Glad I am not alone! I also don’t rate DNFs- well, it’s got its own rating on my blog, and I just mark it on a DNF shelf on Goodreads. Doesn’t seem fair to rate it when I couldn’t finish it. Unless it was like, wildly offensive or something, then I’d give it a one-star hah. Love this post, very thought provoking!!

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  16. I struggle rating comics sometimes too! Like you said, they’re short. However, I try to rate them based on an issue made me feel. Did I enjoy it? Were the characters likeable? Love-to-hate-able? How were the illustrations and dialogue? Did they compliment each other? That sort of thing! I do review comics on my blog, but I like to wait until I’ve read at least three in the series, so I have a good idea of the story and its characters. Although, I will review a single issue if it leaves an impact (either really good or really bad).

    I’ve read both the Runaways and Ms. Marvel series you’ve listed here, and I had meh feelings about both. Here are some I’m currently reading and really enjoy!

    Once & Future by Kieron Gillen (spin on King Arthur, crazy grandma that’s also hilarious), Undiscovered Country by Scott Snyder and Charles Soule (trippy dystopian), Jessica Jones: Blind Spot by Kelly Thompson (just ended, but very good), Family Tree by Jeff Lemire (science fiction, daughter turns into a tree), Firefly by Greg Pak (if you loved the television show, the comic is just as great), Marvels X by Alex Ross (everyone has mutated, only one human left), Miles Morales Spider-Man by Saladin Ahmed (AMAZING), Daredevil (current run, sexy Matt Murdock) by Chip Zdarsky, Ant-Man by Zeb Wells (lots of father and daughter stuff), Hawkeye: Freefall by Matthew Rosenberg (love).

    Things I’ve loved in the past (in case you like to read back issues): All-New Wolverine by Tom Taylor (he created Gabby, who is also Honey Badger), All-New Hawkeye by Kelly Thompson & West Coast Avengers by Kelly Thompson (both ended too soon, and both follow Kate Bishop), Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows by Jody Houser (loved the family aspect), Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky (mini series).

    I’m sorry if that was overwhelming! I get carried away when recommending books and comics, haha. Let me know if you decide to try anything (or if you’ve already read them), and what you thought!

    New follower! 🙂
    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?😷 💬

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  17. I felt this post so much! I just finished Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo and I don’t know how to rate it at all, even though I’m pretty sure (?) I liked it. Like, if I /had/ to give it a star rating I’m still not even sure if I would give it a 1 star because I did not necessarily enjoy reading it and it wasn’t a book that particularly stuck with me, or a 3-4 star because it was a really beautiful and introspective read with a strong voice and so well written. And ugh, I struggled so much with rating children’s books / really short books, novellas, short stories, webcomics, etc, that I’ve just stopped rating them completely. I’m honestly not even sure if I like rating systems at all, hahah! I love this post and it really resonated with me, Sabrina! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone talk about leaving books unrated for this specific reason, and I appreciate you doing it because it’s something I really identify with.

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  18. I only rate 4 or 5 star books, so anything less than that doesn’t get an actual rating from me (even if I do leave a short review on Goodreads). I also don’t put books that I wouldn’t at least round up to four stars on the blog. That solves a lot of rating issues for me.

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  19. I very, very rarely leave books unrated. I could only come up with two reasons I’d leave a book unrated. the first is because it’s because it’s a DNF, although I have rated one or two DNFs because they were NetGalley books, and I was forced to provide a rating. But I don’t count books where I only read a few pages as DNFs. My official DNF page on Goodreads has only 10 books, where I’ve set aside over 100. So I feel that if I gave a book a fair chance and am officially DNFing it, it’s okay to rate it. But I would never rate a book on just the first 10-30 pages.

    The second reason I wouldn’t give a rating is because it was a coloring book or coffee table book and I didn’t read it in its entirety. But if I read the book in its entirety I feel justified in giving it a rating.

    I base all my rating off of a mixture of emotions and craft, and I make no exceptions to that system. Sometimes one of the aspects is weighted more heavily than the other, like how books that make me cry get higher ratings, but I always will take into account the other aspect as well.

    But this means that I’ve rated school books (some I loved some I didn’t), middle grade books, graphic novels, and even non-fiction! My personality is such that it would bother me not to rate a book I had read!

    This was such a wonderful post and it was so interesting reading from your perspective of why you don’t rate books, when I myself am such a big fan of ratings!

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