Chatterbox: Do We Have Different Ratings for Different Genres?

August 26, 2016 by Aila J. | Books, Chatterbox, Features


It all boils down to this: what kind of books do you prefer?

I know my immediate answer would be “fantasy!” because that’s the way I roll. Recently I’ve been noticing how absolutely subjective ratings books is, and how there are so many factors that make a reader like a book. For example, I may love everything about the book except its main character and end up rating it 3 to 4 stars. From a general perspective, it seems like a rather excessive star loss for such a small matter, but to me, liking the main character is exceptionally important to my reading enjoyment. And it differs with all readers. Which brings me to the observation of: do readers rate things differently based on genres?

Looking at my own past reviews and reads… I would say that I do. I see myself way more harsh with contemporary books, partly because I am so darn picky with those. I personally like to see situations that I can imagine myself in, which makes me more empathetic towards those characters. I also see myself quite lenient with fantasy books as well. (Sorry not sorry!) Sometimes I find myself thinking along the lines of:

“Hmm, this book was okay. So-so, but not the greatest. Maybe a 3 star read?”

“BUT, it had this magic thing and that really cool part of the setting, so bump it up a bit!”

“Yeah, but I couldn’t really connect to the characters… I mean I liked them, but they were mostly eh…”

“BUT, they had these rad skills and that swell betrayal. Plus they’re not so bad! Definitely bump it up!”

“Okay FINE, so it had all these boring things that I would have rated lower for a contemporary book, but these fantasy elements are making me bump it up a star!”

… And that’s a pretty good representation on how my internal argument works.

But seriously, sometimes I find myself going into books with already a certain inclination based on the blurb and genre alone, whether it’s positive or negative – and I can definitely see that affecting my rating. A book that seems “meh” based on blurb and subject already sets my brain geared towards a “meh” read. But what if I didn’t have that feeling? A confirmation bias is the “tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories,” and I feel like that’s exactly what I’m doing when I read a book sometimes. Is there even a way to not have one?

And should that feeling not affect the rating at all since the moment I made up my mind about that blurb/cover/genre/summary, the rating scale was already going down?

And is it really my mind thinking this, or a remnant of a thought from another reader friend or reviewer?

(I think this is a good time to say that I’ve been taking classes in the Theory of Knowledge for the past two weeks, which has really been making me ask questions about the things around me, including my reading habits. )

I think, therefore I am.

What are your own thoughts about the subjectivity of reviews? Do you like to read one blogger’s reviews more than another because you like their book choice and agree with their thoughts more, or do you like to keep your mind open about the different opinions of stories, or both?

Am I confusing myself? Probably.

But if there’s one thing that I do know, it’s “Thank god for reviews.” Because they’ve saved me so much time on choosing what books to read and what books to skip. And although that choice may backfire sometimes, for the long run, the memories I’ve made in the book community and with other bibliophiles is worth a mind-boggling stream of questions about the subjectivity of how we rate our books.


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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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17 responses to “Chatterbox: Do We Have Different Ratings for Different Genres?

  1. bookwormgirls123

    Hahaha, I totally understand your dilemma! It's hard to be completely subjective, because if it was a different genre, it would be a different book. Honestly, I just try to be honest. Did I really like it? Or not? (If only rating was really that simple….)
    My recent post I love my library so much. What about you?

  2. Hahah I have the same thoughts! And mine are also confusing! Like my fantasy novels need certain elements to be highly rated because I've read SO many of them that I can't not compare. But then for contemporaries they have to be really good to or else I will just be bored (even though I have read maybe 5 contemporaries). I guess overall, I am hard to please? But then not really because I give out a good number of 4/5 stars so WHO KNOWS WHAT MY BRAIN THINKS

    Awesome discussion Aila <3
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  3. Aila this post is genius! I definitely bump up my fantasy reads and even reads from my favourite authors (and Aussie YA as well). Like you, I'm definitely harsher on contemporaries as well. And I actually do tend to prefer a blogger's reviews over other's, especially since I've grown to trust their reviews. Definitely an interesting topic!

  4. Fantasy is my favourite genre as well, but I'm not sure if that makes my ratings more or less gentle toward fantasy books. My instinct is that, because it is my favourite genre, I'm more likely to like a fantasy book, so it MUST have some effect… but, at the same time, it also means I have almost zero tolerance for certain tired fantasy novel tropes. I think I have more of a system for rating fantasy novels than I do for contemporaries, though, if that makes sense?

  5. Yes, I think this is REALLY true. Not even that I am more fair or less fair with one genre, but I do rate them differently in general. Because like you said, in a fantasy (or any non-contemporary, really) there are just different elements, and it's just a whole different beast to review than contemporary. I mean, no one is going to talk about world-building in a contemporary, or whatever. And I think it balances out. For example, it's true that I have less to rate in a contemporary, so I DO judge the characters and relatability harsher. BUT on the other hand, that also means that a fantasy book has to have SO much more stuff on point to get a high rating. I hope that made sense, it sounded better in my head 😉 But I LOVE this post, because you really made me think about how I rate the different genres!!
    My recent post #ShatteringStigmas as Book Advocates

  6. I am not afraid to admit that I rate books differently. I have various criteria for books based on their genre. Like I am not going to rate a contemporary book on the quality of its fantasy elements. All books are unique, so I personally think that ratings should adapt to accommodate that.
    I am more picky with science fiction and contemporary because I have read so many books in those genres. Therefore, my mental rubric for those genres is very specific. On the other hand, I don't read a lot of mysteries or non-fiction, so I review them more generally.
    Anyway, you made good points about the subjectivity of book reviews. I do not think that it really exists either, especially if you are a book blogger. Odds are that you already know something about a novel and its author before you even pick it up. So there is going to be some kind of prejudice, either good or bad. The trick is not letting the prejudice blind your reading experience and affect your judgement while reading.
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  7. Khairunnisa Putri K

    I love this topic! 😀 I'm actually guilty of this because I generally rate fantasy higher than contemporary…. It's just I feel like fantasy is a lot more complex? In the span of one book, we could have action, murder, romance, friendship, family drama, character development, major plot twist, etc etc while on contemporary, we seem to only have friendship, romance, family drama, and a little character development. So most of the time, I only rate a highly enjoyable contemporary as 4 stars and I won't hesitate to give a really good fantasy a 5 star. Maybe I'm actually being unfair here :') I used to only seek reviews from the people that have the same taste as me so I knew it's legit, but recently I'm leaning toward people with more objective reviews. For instance, I love reading a list of pros/cons and likes/dislikes, I think it's fairer because those kind of reviews show us both the good and the bad from the book itself. Great post! 😀
    My recent post Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

  8. Yeah, I know what you mean, I have the same internal struggle when trying to rate. I was just thinking about this concept when I rated a contemporary book four stars and I was like wait I rated some of my fave fantasy books four stars and THESE TWO THINGS ARE NOT THE SAME xD I try to point out negatives and positives (at least from my POV) but I guess those can be biased as well. Interesting topic!
    My recent post Review: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

  9. I totally agree about reviews and ratings being incredibly subjective. I personally prefer to read others opinions about a book after I have already read it. That way what the reviewer things doesn't influence me while I am reading. After I've read a book I'll look at other blogs where someone has reviewed it to see if their thoughts were similar to mine. It is always nice to see someone else agree with how you felt while reading!

  10. yes ratign books is so subjective and I definitely think the genre can influence my rating, in fact I think a lot of outside elements besides the actual book influence what I rate it. When I was in a slow reading mood I might enjoy the book less or when I am in a sci-fi mood I might enjoy other books less and rate them lower just because of that. I usually go with what the book feels like for a rating, does it feel like a 3, 4 or 5 star. It's not always easy as sometimes I don't know myself how much I enjoyed a book. I also feel like I am more picky with contemporary romances, I give out a lot of 3 or 4 stars, but very rarely a 5 star. I very rarely give out 5 stars in general, but it seems with some genres I am even more pickier with my 5 stars.
    My recent post Review: The Immortality Cure by Tori Centanni

  11. I don't. But I wish I did. Lately, I'm noticing the unfairness of my rating. Especially since I've been reading a lot more literary fiction. I feel like some books I rate are based on how I enjoyed it, but some books are based on technical and literary merits.

  12. I definitely give different ratings to different genres, and I do admit I'm harsher to contemporary. Maybe that's because contemporary doesn't have much to back them up, when in fantasy, there are the characters, magic, world building, cultures, etc. The point is, fantasy has more aspects to rate, while contemporary relies more on characters and plot. But in both case, character is a REALLY IMPORTANT aspect for me. We read about their adventures, of course they have to make me care and like them. Blurbs rarely avoid my ratings, because most of the time I'm wrong about them xD They mostly managed to surprise me in a good way haha! This is such a great post Aila!
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  13. Reviewing and rating is definitely very subjective, Aila. And I think that's also in part because we bring our own past experiences into the book with us. So, if in real life you've known a person who acted like the character who was really mean towards the main character, you might feel closer to the MC because of that. Or if the MC acts in a way that you find mean based on something that happened to you, you might just hate on her because of one action…
    When it comes to rating different genres differently, I'm not sure I do that. Because to me, what I find the most enjoyable in my books is the character development – and that is something that (should) can happen in any genre. Plus, the way the writing makes me feel is important… That doesn't change across genres, either.
    Great post!!
    Have a wonderful weekend and happy reading xoxo
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