I’ve decided I’m going to change the way I do my reviews. From this point forward, there will be no more star ratings. I’m not going to change the reviews that are out there now. That would be a massive undertaking. Instead, I’m simply drawing a line in the sand here.
Why change it?
I’ve given this a great deal of thought over the course of months now, and I’ve decided it’s just time. People are obsessed with star ratings these days. I see ads for book reviews come all the time claiming “over x number of 5 star ratings on Goodreads” or whatever. Yeah? And? A star rating doesn’t say what the book is about, and it certainly doesn’t say whether or not I’d like it.
It doesn’t tell me if that rating was earned by how well it was technically written, or if it’s an emotional rating based on “all the feels.” It’s subjective in the moment. There are acknowledged classics out there that I don’t care for. There are truly badly written pulp novels that I love to pieces. Ideally, a star review should balance all of these points. But they don’t. People have it coded in their minds what it means to them, and it’s not the same across the board. It can’t be by virtue of the fact that we’re all different.
I’ve had encounters with authors or musicians where they feel like they’ve personally failed if something doesn’t get a 5-star rating. Or if my opinion doesn’t match that of the masses, it’s somehow wrong. I’ve had authors actually petition me several times over the years to change my rating because I clearly didn’t understand their work or what they were trying to do with it. No… I understood just fine. I simply don’t feel the same way about it you do, or I got something completely different out of it than the masses did. It’s like when people think a movie is good because it made x amount at the box office. That just means a lot of people saw it. It doesn’t mean people liked it. And on those points when they did, sometimes I just don’t feel the same way. Likewise, if something does deserve a 5-star rating, does it matter why I think that, or is the fact that it earned that enough?
When I do a review, I want to discuss the work. I want my opinion to mean something more than the stars I give it. I want to feel like my engagement (or lack thereof) with the work in question actually matters. You want to know what I think about something? Forget the rating. Read the review. I think both the work and my reivew are better served this way.
Thanks for understanding.