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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

But How Does that Make you Feel?

Liz from Consumed by Books, a fellow book blogger and friend of mine, recently contacted me for a quote regarding ratings and why I made the decision to use a starred rating system. (You can read the finished post here.) This got me thinking a lot about ratings. Not just why I use them, but what they mean to me.

As I was pondering this, I remembered comments I’d gotten or heard about some of my favorite books. When I ran a survey earlier in the year, one of the people made a comment that they felt some of the books I reviewed were trashy. This isn’t anything new to me; I’ve heard people go after the books I enjoy and review periodically. Chick lit (and YA in general) comes under fire from time to time. For example, I’ve heard a lot of people call the Gallagher Girls series, which I love, “fluff.” They all say they enjoy it, but it’s not anything heavy or serious. It’s just a potato chip book.

The combination of ratings and comments about “trashy” or “fluffy” books really got me thinking about how I rate. To the naked eye, a rating is merely numbers, but there’s a lot more beneath the surface. Liz’s post does a wonderful job of discussing ratings. I’d highly suggest reading it if you want to get different bloggers’ points of view on the use of ratings. That is not what this post is for, though. This is about quality vs. enjoyment.

When I started my blog, my goal was to help teens (and all lovers of YA) find books they’ll love. I am not here to comment on the “quality” of a book. I am not a literary scholar nor do I have a degree in literature. I’m not delusional enough to think that I have anywhere near enough experience to say whether or not a book is a literary masterpiece. And, heck, I don’t want to.

As any current or former high school student knows, some of the best literature ever created isn’t all that interesting. You have to read it, yes, but that doesn’t mean you always have to enjoy it. I love reading classic literature. However, I too have encountered some titles that I just cannot stand. That doesn’t mean they’re not brilliant works of literature, it just means that I’m not going to be reading them for fun anytime soon. Similarly, some of the most wildly popular books aren’t all that great quality-wise. Twilight may be one of the biggest books of our time, but we all know it’s no Hemingway.

You see, I appreciate quality, but that’s not what my blog is about nor is that what my ratings are about. When I review a book, it’s feeling that means the most. A five star book, to me, does not employ a whole host of literary devices, it doesn’t cause me to think about man’s true purpose on this earth, and it may not change the way I see the world. What it does do, however, is capture me. Five star books are the books that I cannot put down, that have me thinking about them long after I finish, that make me smile when I see someone pick up a copy at the bookstore, that have me sobbing or gasping for breath or laughing hysterically because I’m so enthralled.

Reviewing a book and loving a book is not always about the overall quality of a story, it’s about the way the book makes you feel. Because, if you’re anything like me, months after you’ve turned that last page, you won’t be remembering that fabulous foreshadowing or incredible moral. You’ll be remembering that heart pounding climax and the way it made you feel.

What do you think? Is quality more important than feeling to you? Or vice versa?

8 comments:

  1. I agree that it is all about the feel. I think that's largely why I've stayed away from star ratings so far on my blog. When I use the ratings on goodreads it is mostly about the feel, but also about the overall recommendability of a book. If it contains material I think is kind of questionable - especially in YA, it probably won't get a 5 from me (though a few do slip by). I often want "half" star capabilities so I can give 4 1/2's and 3 1/2's, but I do like the simplicity of "liked it" "really liked it!" or "it was amazing!"

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  2. I go back and forth about ratings. I do think there is more below the surface, but at first glance, it is a quick assessment. I am guilty of seeing a rating and moving on-then that really sticks with me. Is that a good thing? Not sure.

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  3. WONDERFUL post. I love your opinion posts.

    Whenever I discuss emotional connection with characters with people I always bring up my relationship with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

    It's probably one of the most well written books I've ever read, and I had zero emotional connection with it. It just didn't grab me. Whereas my favourite books are The Gemma Doyle Trilogy and I have such an intense emotional connection with Gemma I often call her my book soul mate.

    I tend to read like a critic and I am very aware of pacing, plot, character development and more. But a book can be amazing and if it doesn't click, I won't adore it. But a book I do love does always have several amazing literary qualities.

    Thank you so much for this post. Excellent thing to ponder.

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  4. I find that sometimes quality is important, but that is only if it really detracts from of adds to a story. Usually, when reading young adult at least, I read purely for the story.

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  5. I agree with this very well written and thought out post!

    I read mostly romance novels and when I say that I get an "Oh that" look, or the look like "you must be a frustrated virgin". One time my best friend even said I wasn't really a reader because of the books I read.

    But for me as well, it is about the feel, the connection to the characters. As long as it is not written badly I'll read it Some patterns have gotten a little stale but the good authors know how to mix it up and make it like new, make me fall in love with the rakish duke all over again.

    Well said!

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  6. Great post!

    PS- Emma, I'm so glad to read that there is another person out there who isn't gaga over The Book Thief!

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  7. I am a Youth Librarian and I must say I can't agree with you more. I come under fire on periodically because I select books that teens are going to read. I have some of the classics, but not as much as the traditional library. But I always come back to the question: why would I select a book that none of my teen patrons are going to read? It just doesn't make sense. I want my patrons to enjoy what they read, not feel obligated.

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  8. I just posted that last comment and I feel embarrased becaue I am now proof-reading it. Sorry about the errors!!

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