This is something that has been on my mind for some time. I keep thinking about it over and over again, when I see these same situations pop up again and again in the blogosphere:
- Someone comments on a person’s review (whether Goodreads or blog) and argues how that person is wrong in their rating.
- Bloggers tweeting or posting about feeling bad because they didn’t love a book that everyone else did (or vice versa, loving a book that everyone hates), especially when the blogger then thinks something is wrong with THEM for not “getting it”.
- Authors stating that if they were to receive negative ratings or reviews for their book they would keep working on it until it was perfect because obviously it isn’t already. (Seriously, I have seen comments like this.)
My thought every time I see one of these types of conversations, comments, situations appear is the same:
there is no such thing as a “perfect” book or “right” rating.
Okay, I know I’m sort of talking crazy here with these big ideas and outrageous claims, but stick with me…
I am a firm believer that reading is a partnership between the author and the reader. The author writes the story based on what they see in their mind and believe in their hearts, and the reader interprets the story based on his/her own experiences and knowledge. What that means is that every person brings themselves into a story, whether writing it or reading it, and that affects the experience they have.
For example, I have an extremely close relationship with my mother. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I’m very aware of how important my relationship with my mother is. Do I expect all books to represent such a relationship? No, but I can’t help but pay close attention to mother-daughter relationships in books. A book I read for one of my book clubs (which I won’t name) included a really rough relationship between mother and daughter in the beginning. Later on in the book, the mother ends up in a coma and the daughter realizes she should have valued her relationship more. At the end of the story, the cause of this coma, some electronic glitch that affected numerous people. is resolved, and yet the author never goes back to explain what happened to the mother (and the other individuals in the coma). Did she get out of the coma? Did her and the daughter repair this relationship? It was just tossed to the side as a weak and unimportant plot point, while the romance and other story lines were resolved. And I was bothered by it. But when I brought it up in my book club? No one else had noticed it! They were like “Oh yeah… I forgot about that! What did happen to her?”
So what do I do? Do I shrug off my upset feelings that this wasn’t resolved? Do I blame myself for noticing these things when no one else did? Do I ignore when writing my review and make the rating higher than what I originally planned because obviously I’m just a weirdo that gets bothered by things in stories moreso than others? Heck no!
I rate the book based off my honest feelings. And then I fully explain why I liked it or didn’t. I know the author works hard to write a book, and I know there’s a chance the author may look at my review, but I can’t help but be honest and rate the book in a way that I feel truly reflects my reading experience. That being said, I think that second sentence is just as important as the first. I’m honest, but I’m also aware. I know the things that bother me won’t always bother everyone else, which is why I tend to be very outright about things that bothered me in a story when writing my reviews. It’s not that I’m nitpicky or judgmental or constantly trying to find things wrong in order to write my reviews – it’s just the things that do bother me I’m aware of and I feel it’s important to share that with others along with my rating in case it’s something that wouldn’t bother them.
We are all different people with different experiences who will respond differently to different books, and I think that’s perfectly okay.
What do you think?
Do you think there is such a thing as a “perfect” book or “right” rating? Do you view reading as an interactive experience between the author and reader, or is a book’s success entirely based off the author alone? Let me know what you think!