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Star Ratings – the trouble with using them

I have been going back and forth about whether or not to use star ratings for a while. I used them heavily in the past, removed them for a while, and added them back. I still use them on my Goodreads but honestly, I have been on the fence about removing those for fear of backlash. I feel bad about giving a low star rating to a book.

The reason I take issue is that I found them kind of arbitrary and entirely subjective. One person’s five-star read could be an abysmal one-star for others. On top of that, there is no good scale for rating a book with stars. Do I give a book or video game lots of stars because I enjoyed reading it, even though subjectively it’s not that good? Or do I give it lots of stars because it is well made, even though I personally didn’t enjoy it?

There were many instances where I couldn’t decide what to rate a book and did half stars. Or times when I rated a book low but found myself thinking about it and coming to appreciate it later because it is a beautiful piece of work that I couldn’t forget. This was especially the case for Fuan no Tane, a horror manga I found so underwhelming while reading it but had nightmares about for days after. Conversely, I found that I went from a dazzling four-star rating for The Road when I first read the book but lowered it over time. The more that I thought about the book, the more I disliked it; the author’s lack of punctuation drove me insane, and the dedicated fan base made me start to hate the book after seeing so much criticism of those that had the audacity to give the book a low rating. When I review anime and manga on MyAnimeList I find myself struggling every single time. Don’t even get me started on the times I gave a book a low rating, and an author messaged me to ask why. Opinions change over time, and I found myself regretting or not really feeling that the rating that I gave a book or anime matched what I ended up writing about it.

Let’s Discuss!

  • Do you use star ratings on your reviews?
  • Am I just full of it or do you feel the same?
  • Do you honestly put any weight to other blogger’s star ratings?

6 thoughts on “Star Ratings – the trouble with using them

  1. Hallo, Hallo Jamie,

    I’ve apparently haven’t been back in quite a long while (forgive me) as I didn’t know you changed the name of your lovely blog! I need to update my sidebar – as I have the badge for the old one! 🙁 Ohh dear.

    In regards to star ratings and book ratings overall – my feelings have been super strong from Day One. I’ve never used them and never will; to me they don’t give you a well-rounded reason behind why someone is reading the stories they are reading – nor an indication of what they honestly felt about those stories as overall, the beauty of being a book blogger is to write “in length” not in short, whilst as reviewers, I equate that with the chance to discuss key talking points or criticisms about why a) you enjoyed the read itself or b) what turnt you off or took you ‘out’; curiously, the only times I’ve used ratings (at all) is whenever I was or am in a programme which requires them. (early review copies, etc)

    Precisely! Whatever someone is going to use for their ‘star’ is not universal standard. It is better to use our words and to use our chance to discuss a story – good, bad, indifferent than to attach this ‘star’ or number guide when it is completely subjective *based!* on an individual interpretation of the rating rather than a universally accepted measure of truth.

    1. Completely agree Jorie, and I agree that a book review should be more of a discussion of why the reader did or did not enjoy it. The star ratings can be so distracting, and for some end up supplementing a review. I tried to follow Goodreads “love it, like it, it was okay” labels for the stars but it’s still really loose. The stars just feel like they are not very necessary in the end.

      As for the blog change, haha I’m sorry! I changed it because I wanted to start fresh, and to include more than just books. I don’t even have a new badge for this page yet, I’m so bad about those.

      1. Hallo again,..

        I can respect the need to switch things up and have a fresh start – if / when you get a new badge, let me know and I’ll re-add it to my sidebar! 🙂 I’ve fixed the link area to reflect your new blog’s title and it routes back to here.

        Interestingly enough, I have been writing more “what I didn’t like” about these stories kinds of reviews this week than I first realised possible! Oyyy vie. Thankfully someone already dropped by and said one of them was a solid fit for them and that made me happy – as I always believe there are stories out there not meant for us but are meant for others.

        1. Will do! And I think that writing criticisms can be healthy, it can give a fair warning to folks about potential issues. There have been times I’ve seen criticisms that made me go, “Eh, I can deal with that if that’s the worst of it” or it might be my kind of thing (like unreliable narrators). Alternatively I’ve seen praise that turned me off to a novel by pointing out things that I hate. Overall the discourse I find is helpful for picking out books and adds to the experience!

  2. If I see someone rate a book lower than five stars at all, I read their review in search of a reason. I think too many people have misused/abused the star ratings by not explaining why they’d rate it low. Like, you never know. So I don’t take the star ratings into account, personally, but I hope that people who are familiar with my reviews understand. On Goodreads, they’re more for my records.

    1. Agreed! I feel similarly about folks that hand a book five stars, I’ve read some reviews where nothing was said other than a brief summary of the plot and, “I loved this!” Okay, but what makes it good? Goodreads has become more for my records and I’ve been debating removing all of the star ratings that I have entered, but it’d be a lot of work.

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