Friday, May 3, 2013

Why I am not a Star Blogger

Source
Looking at the star system, one might call it a simple way of summing up thoughts upon finishing a story. If you loved it, you give it five stars. If it was only okay, three. It is a small system of symbols to which individual readers assign their own meanings, and a short rating can say so much.

And yet, it can also say so little. This is why I am not a star blogger.

The star system works quite beautifully for many because they have been able to put into words what each rating represents. Take, for example, Jessica of Chick Lit Teens's rating explanations:
5 Stars - How many times can I reread this without seeming eccentric?
4 Stars - It was great, but I wouldn't say it was one of my top 20.
3 Stars - This kept me entertained.
2 Stars- Not a big fan.
1 Star - I'd like my time back, please.
She has said that a five star book for her is an utterly enthralling one, a story that will not allow itself to be put down, a tale that makes readers cry or laugh or hold their collective breaths, a novel with characters that stubbornly refuse to leave the minds of readers for days after turning the final page. These things are definitely the most important to me as well, but I also must take other criteria into account when reading and reviewing a book. After taking some time to think about it, I realized four main points are key to me when determining how much I enjoy a story.
1. The plot and my level of interest in it
Authors, you can craft the most beautiful sentences in the world, but if I am not invested in the plot, it is not likely I will enjoy the book. I want to feel desperate to keep turning pages because I absolutely have to find out the ending of the story. I want humor, drama, tears, and/or suspense, depending on the book. I want a storyline that makes me keep reading.
2. The writing
I love gorgeously alliterated lines that spin around in my mind as I turn them over and over, trying to take in their beauty. Equally important is that the words have an appropriate tone; please do not use modern colloquial language in historical fiction and please do not make all teenagers sound like whiney brats who OMG hate their super-lame overprotective parents. I also appreciate fabulous foreshadowing, marvelous metaphors, and stellar symbolism, and I will often remember a novel's literary devices with more vibrancy than the plot.
3. The characters
Connecting with the main character can be nice, but mainly I just want to understand the people in the novel and fully comprehend their motivation. I live for conflicted characters, and I cannot even express how much I adore being shown the inside of an antagonist's mind and discovering why he or she is the protagonist in his or her version of the world.
4. The amount it makes me think
This can reference a deep, serious, emotional issue novel that really makes me reevaluate the world, but it can also refer to any book that gives me something to ponder, such as the way the author uses a specific setting to create a certain atmosphere. I enjoy books much more when I am bursting to write a review-even a negative one!-because I have so much to say.
All of this presents one overlying question. With so many standards, what do I do if a book excels in some but fails in the others?

Should I give it three stars? But what if it is so good in two categories that it makes up for its lacking in the others? And what if it is so brilliant in the first and most important point that I do not mind its shortcomings in the others?

I simply cannot create a consistent system of ratings because I have too many ideas to factor in, too many thoughts to be summed up with a number. And therefore, any stars I awarded would be ambiguous, meaningless, and contradictory. I choose instead to write reviews that explain my thoughts on the book in more depth, and if that is not clearer than a grouping of cartoon celestial bodies, I have not done my job as a book blogger.

I commend those readers who can clearly create boundaries between four and five stars. My lines are fuzzy and will never be as crisp and clear as theirs are; pretending otherwise would only cause confusion. Being a star blogger would make me much less of a blogging star, so I will allow these shining stores of hydrogen and helium to secure their spots in the sky…and on other peoples' sites.

Let's discuss: Do you use the star system? What do your ratings mean? Do you prefer reviews that include a rating of some sort? 

7 comments:

  1. Wow, thank you for putting words to exactly why I'm not a star blogger. And done so eloquently! I agree with everything said here. There are just too many things I have to factor in when I judge a book and having a star rating system would simply confuse both me and my reader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Annie! It really would be confusing to try to use the star system when you're not comfortable with it and it wouldn't be fair to make your readers wonder, "what do these ratings mean?" :)

      Delete
  2. "With so many standards, what do I do if a book excels in some but fails in the others?"

    That's exactly the issue with star ratings, they only give you the very very general idea of how the reader felt, not so much of a detailed analysis of each component! I'm a star blogger because it helps readers who don't have time to finish reading my entire review, to have a general idea of how I felt about the book, but it surely is not comprehensive. That's also why my ratings get very inconsistent-- one book gave me ALL THE FEELS despite being slightly brainless and another was so intellectual, giving them the same rating doesn't seem to do either justice!

    ARGHH THE DILEMMA. Great post though :D

    Alicia @ Summer Next Top Story

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a great point; sometimes with long reviews on sites you don't read regularly it is easier to look at the star rating and skim the rest of the review. This could be a point in favor of the star system or a reason to stay away depending on how you look at it, because you want people reading your reviews but you also want to make things easy for your reader.

      "ARGHH THE DILEMMA" basically describes my feelings here too. But as long as your review elaborates on what the rating in question means, you should be fine.

      Delete
  3. ^ See, Annie agrees with me that you have a knack for putting people's feelings into words eloquently!

    I very much agree with this post and kept nodding throughout the whole thing. There are certain reasons why I will like a book and I can't just sum it up in a star. Some people do it fantastically and like the example you gave, it means certain things. However, I agree with you and if I used any kind of stars, I would be sitting there for the longest time on how many stars to use. 5 seems excessive, but I did really love the book. I loved the characters and writing, but the plot seemed boring. I disliked the book, but I was addicted to it...etc. I raise my hat to "star bloggers" but I will never be able to do it. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are all far too nice to me. :) Thank you!

      That is another huge problem that the star system presents. I would feel bad using too many excessive five star ratings, but I would feel the same way about not using enough! I really would not know either, and I think my head would explode.

      Delete
  4. Amazing post sweetie. <3 thank you for sharing your thoughts about it all :) I, heh, love using stars (A) although looking back at a few ratings I have done I see that I gave some books too high ratings.. need to go back and change some of those, hih (A)
    Thank you for commenting on my blog. <3
    Love, Carina @ Carina's Books

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for leaving a comment! I love to hear your thoughts, and I read every one. You just became one of my favorite people, so I will try to visit your blog in return.