6 Things I Struggle With When Deciding My Ratings for Books (and by Struggle I Mean Have an Existential Crisis Over)

I struggle with a lot of things.

And one of those things is: RATING BOOKS. Some books I know right away what to rate and don’t hesitate for just one second, but others take so much time and thought and even after that I’m STILL slightly doubtful of the rating.

So today I decided to talk about 6 things I struggled with when rating books. Hopefully talking about them will mean that I’ll recognize it when it happens and then I won’t have the same struggle?

(Who am I kidding I’m always going to have existential crises over these.)

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1. it feels like 5 stars but it’s not as good as [5-star book]

I struggle with this SO. MUCH. I’m a huge comparer, both in real life and with books (it’s not good I know), and that fact doesn’t help when I’m considering a 5 star rating for a book.

My latest source of frustration with this one is Girls of Paper and Fire. I’ve rated THREE books so far this month (including GoPaF) 5 stars, including The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Radio Silence.

Girls of Paper and Fire  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo  Radio Silence

GoPaF was absolutely amazing, don’t get me wrong, but if I compared it to Evelyn Hugo and Radio Silence, those books took it to another level. So does it really deserve 5 stars? But it was so good and meaningful? And I really loved so many parts of it? But Evelyn Hugo and Radio Silence both just blew me away?

(It’s definitely staying at 5 stars, though! I’ve worked it out with my head. Aka just convinced myself it deserved 5 stars.)

And another hard thing to do is comparing potential-5-star-books to my favorites! For example, Six of Crows? How can a book beat that literary masterpiece???

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2. i enjoyed the book a lot but it had flaws (or vice versa but that doesn’t happen often)

I rarely rate or review books based off of technical things. If it’s not written well, it most likely will affect my enjoyment of the book.

But there are some books that have a lot of flaws… but I enjoy reading them so much? Sometimes the flaws can’t be overlooked but sometimes they can. And sometimes I just enjoyed it way too much to really care that much about flaws (though I’ll mention it in reviews).

Autoboyography  Leah on the Offbeat (Creekwood, #2)

For example: Autoboyography. There’s one scene in this that I think was really gross and unnecessary, and the romance was kinda insta-lovey, and it’s just another book about a queer boy trying to figure out his sexuality instead of just a queer boy LIVING… But I loved reading it so, so much. (It got 5 stars from me.)

Another really big example is Leah on the Offbeat! My full review of it is going up soon on Goodreads, but there were four main issues I had with it that kind of ruined my experience. I REALLY liked reading it and it was enjoyable for me, but those “flaws” kind of overshadowed it and I can’t rate it more than 4 stars.

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3. it’s not 5 stars but not 4 stars but not 4.5 stars??


I don’t really have an actual rating system and rate books based on my feelings (1: hated it, 2: disliked it, 3: okayish meh, 4: really liked it, 5: loved it) and it’s not at all specific and requires me to analyze my emotions towards books… and I hate analyzing myself.

Summer Bird BlueThe most recent book I struggled with in this particular way was Summer Bird Blue. I ended up going with a 4.5-star rating, because I had a hard time taking a liking to Rumi in the beginning which prevented me from REALLY loving the story from the start. But it was hard for me to get the idea of a 5-star rating out of my head because 1) it made me cry and 2) it was written so GORGEOUSLY.

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4. i strongly disliked it but there were a few things that slightly redeemed it

Also known as me trying to be a positive happy reader trying to find the best in things but totally failing.

I just? want to love books? I REALLY don’t want to hate a book, thought it may look like it. So I convince myself that this ONE vaguely nice quality is enough to give the book a higher rating, even though the rest of the book was trash in my eyes.

Yeah I don’t know how this logic works either.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (The Epic Crush of Genie Lo #1)Usually if this situation happens and I think enough about it, I go back and lower the rating! Which is what I did to The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. I really liked the inclusion of Chinese mythology and Asian characters but god, I just hated the writing. It was really childlike and tried WAY too hard to be funny*.

(I originally rated that 2 stars, but lowered it to 1.5 stars, and am still considering lowering it further to 1 star!!!)

*Listen I know I do the same thing but THIS BOOK WAS EVEN CRINGIER THAN ME!!!!

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5. everybody else loved it!!!!

This is actually a surprisingly REALLY huge factor in my ratings?? (Or at least it was.)

For me, this is mostly with books I’m considering a high rating with. (I told you I struggled a lot with high ratings.) I think the biggest thing with this particular struggle is that I know the book isn’t 5 stars but everyone else loved it so I give it 4.5 stars instead of 4.

I’m easily influenced by outside opinions and it kind of depresses me!!!

My thought process is essentially: “Well… I didn’t love it, so it’s not 5 stars… but I really liked it! It was still pretty great! Everyone else really adores it so… it’s better than I actually think and therefore should get a higher rating”

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)  The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Guide, #1)

The two books I can think of that fit this REALLY well are Strange the Dreamer and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I had problems with the writing of Strange, and Gentleman’s just didn’t blow me away like I’d expected it to. But because everyone else loved it SO MUCH, I was like okay!!! I guess it’s 4.5 stars!!!

I’ve obviously gone back and changed my ratings to 4 stars, which I feel is the right rating for both of them based on my reading experience. And I’m really happy to say that this struggle doesn’t happen as often now! I read those two books like a year ago.

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6. i anticipated the book so much

I don’t know WHY this affects me as much as it does, but I also know that I’m really easily swayed by a lot of things. (Forget about these rating struggles giving me an existential crisis, writing this post is giving me one instead.)

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1)  Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)

There are some books that I am looking forward to SO MUCH that I want to love it so bad and then I kind of force myself to love it more than I do. For example: City of Brass. I was like “okay it’ll get better it’s really not that bad it’s just a bit boring and slow right now” for the whole time I read it, until DNFing and rating it 1 star. (Okay so maybe I didn’t struggle that much with that rating.)

But one that there was DEFINITELY a struggle with was Gemina. Listen, I absolutely ADORED Illuminae and it—by itself—is one of my favorite books. I expected so much out of Gemina, and though I found a lot of issues with it, I convinced it was 5 stars because I was just so hyped for it.

And then I returned to it, realized the issues really affected my enjoyment, and recognized that it actually was not worth 5 stars but only 4. I’m still actually considering a 3.5-star rating right now.

shall we chat

what things do you struggle with when rating books? do you face the same things i do? do other people affect your rating? and do you tend to have higher or lower ratings??? TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT!!

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48 thoughts on “6 Things I Struggle With When Deciding My Ratings for Books (and by Struggle I Mean Have an Existential Crisis Over)

  1. OMG this speaks to me so much! I have some books I still haven’t reviewed this year simply because I’m not happy with any rating?
    I especially know what you mean when rating and comparing to your previous reads. I have so many books that I have enjoyed, but just aren’t the same quality as other 5-stear reads, and so I flail endlessly deciding whether I should knock a half star?! I’m so glad that this isn’t just me (although also why do we make ourselves suffer so much OTL)

    I definitely tend to stay at a 3.5 for a lot, which is my go-to ‘undecided’ rating. Haha!

    This is a great post though, you’ve certainly hit the nail on the head.


  2. These are some really good points, I’ve had to go back and change the rating I gave whiloe I’m doing a review because I realized there were more issues with it than I thought. I get swept into a story and immediately after finishing it rate it on goodreads but then I’m thinking about it and it’s just not that good


  3. Yes I relate to this whole post!! I always go back and forth with my rating system and all of these factors are in my head! That’s why you should milk over a rating and not look at the reviews.


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