I was chatting with another reader recently and we got into a discussion about how we rate books. The different components of what makes a book good for me. Well from this conversation I came up with list. YES A LIST! A List of 5 things that your book needs for your book to be well done and ready to serve. Coincidentally there are 5 and the rating system is usually out of 5 stars. Funny how that worked out. 😛
Starting at the basic level of a book, it needs to have good world building. It needs to be obvious that even if the book didn’t come with a map (Though it’s always a plus if it does) that the author sat down and mapped this stuff out. I need to know that they researched and planned out the where of the story. I hate when you are so excited for a fantasy book and then upon reading said book it starts talking about the country and it doesn’t make sense. And not in a “Well this is different” way but in a “But earlier you said it was warm all the time and now it’s snowing? Question mark!!” No No NO! There is a line between revealing too much info and not giving the reader enough to actually find this place in our imagination. If we can’t find this imaginary place we will just put the book down and go find Hogwarts. (Because we can always find Hogwarts. Hogwarts is our home.)
If you’re book takes place in the contemporary world I still need you to research. One of the reason’s Anna and The French Kiss got a high rating from me, despite my hate of cheating plots, was that you could feel Rome when you read this book. When I go to Paris one day I’m going to make my husband go with me to find the star where the city begins. I want to go to the restaurants mentioned in this book. Contemporary books should make their readers long for this city, and the city should feel alive to us. It’s part of what makes a great book and thus part of my rating system.
Characters are the next big part of a story. Are they clearly defined, are they tropey or problematic, and does the character get make personal progress through the story. I’m not talking about whether I identify with a character or not. I can not like a character and/or not condone a character’s action and they can still be developed. It’s about being authentic. I ask myself, “Would this character say that sentence?” “Would this character do this action?” “Would this character handle this situation in this manner?” And if answers are yes then I know the character is authentic. I HATE when characters do things that they wouldn’t normally do. That came out of left field. But why are they doing this at all…? Nope. I’ll have none of it. I also hate when a character has made such progress throughout a series only to take ten steps backward in the newest installment. NOOOO! We are past this kind of behavior!! *whines*
The third component of a story that I think about when rating is the plot and pacing. Is the plot interesting? Is there actually a story to be told here? Which this can be kind of subjective. But know that I almost never pick up a book if I wasn’t interested in the plot to begin with. Just saying. So if I’m bored within 2 chapters then something isn’t right about the plot, writing style or pacing.
I consider Writing Style in the manner that I think about was this style the way to tell this story. Even if the style wasn’t exactly my favorite, I can usually appreciate if it was the way to tell a story. I recently tried to listen to the audiobook for The Star-Touched Queen. The flowery writing style just wasn’t for me. But I appreciate that it worked well for the rich fantasy/fairytale type story.
Pacing is all about are you putting all the action in one place or spreading it out. When I read Ever the Hunted recently my buddy reader and I talked about how everything on the front flap happens in the first 5 chapters. We could figure out where the story was going to go, but it was a little odd to make more than 75% of the book take place in this “other plot”. I’ve also read books like Tonight the Streets are Ours where the big story from the inside flap doesn’t happen UNTIL the 75% mark. So frustrating. Without good pacing I get bored, start skimming, and sometimes DNF a book.
This is where I ask myself if the story was handled well. I ask myself the following questions: “Was there diversity?” “Was there a theme, motif, or underlying issue of this story? If yes, was it handled well?” You wanna talk about rape in your book? Great, but don’t let the message of the book be that Rape is Ok if you love the person. No ma’am. Wanna write about mental health? Sure, but don’t make the message that everyone should come off their medicine because medicine is pollution. Young adults are reading these books, and I always think about how they will react to these books. You don’t have to be positive but you have to promote healthy ideals (as Slywia would say.)
How did the book make me feel
This is the most subjective category in my opinion. Because it relies on my feeling. And honestly, so many people rate things on mood that I think I’m entitled to one star being linked to my feelings. But to explain more, I want to feel something when I read your book. I want to swoon, giggle, ugly cry, sigh with happiness, or throw the book against the wall in anger. Yes! if your book makes me angry it still qualifies for making me feel as long as that anger isn’t related to the above four issues. But a great example is All the Rage but Courtney Summers. It’s about rape culture in a small town. I VERY similar incident happened in my own small town at the time I read this book and I was enraged. Fabulous book. Back to Anna and the French Kiss. I hated the plot line but dang if it wasn’t the easiest book to read because reading it felt homey. I had that feeling of when you have your favorite hot beverage, fuzzy socks on, and cat by my side. *Sigh* In fact the worst insult I can give a book is “Meh” It wasn’t great, and it wasn’t awful. This means I’ll probably forget about it within a week. I want my books to invoke my emotions.
So these are some things that I think about when I’m rating a book. Talk to me in the comments below if you think about any of these things. Or if there is something I need to add to my list. I hope you guys are having a great day!