Book reviews are like snowflakes. They’re all uniquely different and not one is ever truly alike.
Sometimes that has to do with the person writing the review, and because they have their own personal taste their review, in turn, will also reflect that. But it also goes beyond that. Yes, reviewers all have their own style and rhythm for writing a book review but they also have their own definitive star ranking system and that’s where the differences and originalities really lie.
What can feel like a 5 Star review to one person can be a 3 Star to another, even if both parties equally enjoyed the book. Are you with me so far?
When it comes to my own book reviews, there are many factors that I take into consideration when awarding my stars, almost as if each star represents its own factor. If a book is missing that factor then it loses a star. So, if we’re looking at a 5 Star book, it’d have to have a great plot, a well written and appropriate narrative, compelling characters, a great romance (if applicable), and an overarching theme. But most importantly, to get the whole 5 Stars from me, it has to give me that feeling. You know, when you read a book that feels so special and different from others you’ve read, that makes your heart glow and sing. It’s hard to really pinpoint why a book deserves every star imaginable but when you get that indescribable feeling, you’ll know what it means.
One trick that I have when trying to determine how I feel about a book is that I go into a book and assume that it’s perfect, that it’s worthy of 5 Stars. But the further I get in the book and I feel like there are things I don’t like or that there are things that could be better, I knock off a star or an increment of a star. So, I could be enjoying the plot but hate the narrative and that makes it lose a star. Or I could like the characters but not get what the author’s trying to say. That being said, there’s always chances and opportunities to gain some lost points back but it’ll never be a perfect read. Make sense?
Here’s a little bit of a breakdown of my Star Rating System to get a better idea of how it all works:
- A One Star book, which is actually rare for me as well, is more or less un-saveable. The writing? Horrendous. The plot? Nonexistent. The point? Not even close to being made. A One Star book is something that I probably should have DNF’d but still forced myself to finish. It’s the kind of book that really makes you wonder how it got published in the first place. Or, you know, I just absolutely hated the book. Plain and simple. Examples include We Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott and Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi.
- A Two Star book is a book that has promise and potential but the execution was where everything went wrong. You can tell that there’s some semblance of a plot here, or maybe the writing is relatively ok, but there wasn’t anyone there to really shape it into something readable. Most of my Two Star reads come from the fact that a book could start off promising and appear to be compelling but it either hits waves of predictability or the story literally falls apart in your hands, and the disappointment is tangible. There’s obviously something there in the book that allows you to finish it, and since that’s a victory in itself it can deserve an extra star, but as a whole it remains to be a book that’s just not very good. Examples include From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout, The Change Up by Meghan Quinn, The Damned by Renee Ahdieh, and Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin.
- A Three Star book is something akin to lukewarm coffee: it’s drinkable and you still like it, but it’s not quite what you want or expect. You could be interested in the plot, but not like the writing. You could like one or two characters, but not all of them. And if there’s romance, you’re either not crazy about it or there’s a love triangle. To me, a Three Star book is one that is trying to tell me something, or get me to see something, and I can see it but it’s just missing that little extra oomph. It’s in the middle of the pack, good but not great yet also not terrible. Like, it’s fine but I’m not gonna write home about it. It’s the Goldilocks of books. Examples include A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager, Save the Date by Morgan Matson, and The Burning God by R.F. Kuang.
- A Four Star book is everything you could want from a book, with minor hiccups here and there. It has a strong and thrilling plot, it has characters you feel for, there is depth throughout the book, and most of all it gives you the feeling that you can’t put it down. You might still find issue with some things in the book, like the ending might’ve been rushed or it took you a while to get used to the prose, but as a whole you’re happy you read the book. It mattered to you and made a difference. Examples include The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, and The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams.
- A Five Star book is, in a word, perfection. It hits all the marks you want it to, it compels you, it almost makes you feel alive. The difference between a Four and Five star book all comes down to a feeling, really. Only you know when you have a Five Star read in your hands because you’ll feel it. In all honesty, most Four Star reads could probably be a Five Star because all the elements are there, all the marks are hit. But it’s nothing without that deep feeling in your soul. Examples include Lore by Alexandra Bracken, The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross, One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.
For some people, a Star Rating is as simple as “I enjoyed the book, have all the stars.” But for me, the stars matter and they have to mean something. This isn’t to say that all ratings should follow my example but more of an in-depth look into how my brain works and why you might love something and I don’t. Or vice versa.
This kind of system might seem crazy to you, but it works for me and that’s what matters.