Why I Don’t Use Stars in Reviews

If you are brand new to my blog, first of all, hello! Welcome to my (usually) happy little corner of the book world. Secondly, I don’t tend to include star ratings in my book reviews, unless it’s a 5. There are several reasons why I do this, and I wanted to talk a little bit more about why, after seeing this tweet from Sam @thoughtsontomes.

While I 100% agree with this take, I also think that it’s helpful to just leave star ratings out altogether. Now obviously, on Goodreads, you almost need to include a star rating. If you are ever curious about my star ratings, you can find them on my GR page. Also, I did a post a while back about how I do star ratings, and what a 5-star review means for me. When I write a review on my blog though, I usually skip that step. Like I said there are a lot of reasons why I do this, but ultimately it comes down to one main point.

Everyone reads books differently

And we love reading for this reason! No two people read the same book in the same way. Maybe you got bad personal news halfway through, maybe you had a real-life experience that relates to what you’re reading, or maybe you have a personal prejudice (either positive or negative) about a certain group or type of person represented in the book. We all have those personal prejudices, no one is completely objective about race, gender, region, country of origin, whatever the character trait may be. All of these things make your personal reading experience unique. What does that mean for ratings?

No two ratings are the same!

My 5 star to KingΒ ofΒ Scars is probably based on different elements of the book than someone else’s 5-star rating. Even if we can agree that we both enjoyed the same elements, the points that really make you fall in love and give it the highest rating you can are going to be different. When you see a review give a 5-star rating you know that reviewer loved something about it. In your mind, you can still look at that book and assume it will be something great. Lower ratings get more complicated.

When you read reviews from people you know really well, you might have a good understanding of what a 4 or 3 star from them means. A lot of the time, my less than 5-star reviews are based on how I feel when reading, which is really difficult to convey in words! I do my best to identify specific elements of the characterization or plot that I struggled with, but when it’s a 3-star book I just sort of feel it.

I just feel it!? What kind of lame reasoning is that right!? But it’s true. The events of my life and my surroundings can conspire to make me love or dislike a book (I try not to say hate because I do think that’s too strong a word xD).

Ultimately what I want to impress on you, dearest reader, is that when I say I gave a book 4 stars, that may mean something very specific to you that it does not mean to me. The reasons I give books 2, 3, or 4 stars vary a great deal from book to book. I don’t have a highly structured rubric (does anyone? That might be helpful actually), so I don’t want your interpretation of my 4-star rating to influence your thoughts on the book.

Star Ratings can Lead to Miscommunication

When a person who has a really distinct idea of what a 4 or 3-star rating is looks at my 4-star review, they could get the wrong idea about how I feel about that book. In an effort to give every book its best chance to start on a good foot with the reading public, I want to avoid that situation. Even if I didn’t love a book, I try to focus on the things other people may enjoy. I don’t do this to try and be a publisher pleaser, I do it because I know everyone reads books differently.

I almost equate star ratings with author blurbs. While sometimes they can be meaningful, I usually don’t know the people who write those blurbs personally. They may be the reader’s honest opinions, but almost every book has super positive blurbs on it and I don’t love every book! That doesn’t mean blurb writers lie (maybe some do!), but it does mean that my reading experience is different for some reason.

Authors don’t put negative blurbs on their books for the same reason I don’t put less than stellar star ratings in my reviews. Even if I give a critique, you might not have a problem with what I cite as a negative point. No one can accurately predict how you will rate a book.

All of this probably seems like common sense logic, but I think it’s important to consider how you are affected by star ratings. Do you skip the review and just look for stars? Or do you ignore star ratings entirely? Would you like me to start including my star ratings in reviews? If you’ve read this far, you’re awesome. ❀

11 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Use Stars in Reviews

  1. I actually wrote a pretty detailed rating rubric in my blog when I started reviewing, and that’s still what I follow to this day! I use “keys to my heart” which are basically stars, and anything that’s a 3 or higher is a book that I’ll happily recommend! 5 star books are books I LOVED. Like, would buy a million copies of hahaha. I think it’s important to set expectations if you’re using stars.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I totally agree with everything! I understand how the way I rate books could be confusing to some people, since I’m not really someone who has a guide for how I rate. The more books I read, the more critical I become, and I also find it difficult to give a book 3 stars when everyone else says it deserves 5.

    However, I like to see other people’s ratings when I know that we have the same taste in books and I trust that person. So I guess you could say that I rate books by stars just to give someone and idea of how I felt about it, but I’m just assuming that everyone will have different opinions on each book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always feel like I have to apologize when my star rating varies greatly from the average, which is totally unnecessary! I definitely like to see star ratings from people who have similar book tastes to me. Makes it easy to know what to avoid. I’ve still had some big surprises though! One of my book friends hated Reign of the Fallen and I gave it 5 stars. I almost didn’t read it because of her rating.

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  3. I think that it is easy to get caught up in the star rating. I have read books that people gave 5 stars and I didn’t like. I have also read lower rating books and liked them. I know sometimes I won’t pick up a book if it has a low rating on Goodreads (which is sad because I could be missing out on great books). I try to look at reviews and see if the content is what I will enjoy.

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  4. I don’t tend to use star ratings the way everyone else does but I will admit that there have been times I’ve been tempted to skip a book because of a friends rating but in recent years I don’t read reviews, look at ratings or more and more lately, even read the blurb before I read the book. If a book catches my eye or is recommended or comes in a subscription box or whatever, I’ll add it to GR and wait to form my own opinion. How I use the stars is if I’m having a difficulty or not loving where things are going I’ll often pop on to GR and have a quick scan to see what other people thought, this is where I think bad reviews are important, I need solid reasons to rate a book low, each persons review space is their own so whatever works for them but if I see a bad review that complains about a character making decisions they don’t agree with I tend to disregard but if I see a review that mentions the same issues I’m having (world building problems, consent issues, magic systems not working etc) I feel justified rating lower or being generally annoyed. It takes a lot for me to DNF so having a quick look at other peoples reviews doesn’t tend to influence that and I rarely come across spoiler reviews.

    That was a ramble and a half and probably doesn’t make sense! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I always do look at star reviews, but form my opinion on the reason why they gave that rating. Because as you said, those ratings can be really personal and don’t necesarily say anything about what you will think.

    (www.evelynreads.com)

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  6. I recently started using a rating system for games and albums. I think it’s easier for the reader to understand exactly where you stand on a work in relation to other works you’ve reviewed by grading them. However, I hope readers focus more on the contents of my review than the number I stick on the thing at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For sure! I think it can be helpful, but I feel like if I leave out a star rating entirely readers may be more likely to just read my thoughts, and even if I didn’t like it, give it a chance for themselves. It’s definitely a personal thing!

      Liked by 1 person

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