Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Revised Rating System

Several of my dear readers have mentioned a wish for a more detailed rating system. Let's give it a try! The goal is to provide a better idea of a book's contents to potential readers, and to explain the degree to which I do or do not recommend it.

These are some of the categories I've come up with, based on how I judge books while reading them. (This applies to fiction only.)
  • Complexity of Writing -- how advanced the language of the book is (a relevant question when discussing YA lit in contrast to general fiction)
  • Quality of Writing -- how effectively the author uses language to tell a story, regardless of complexity
  • Strength of Characterization -- which may need to be broken down into protagonist/antagonist, in some cases
  • Logic of Plot Development -- whether the protagonists make the plot happen or whether they're just along for the ride; whether the story relies upon coincidences and gimmicks
  • Evocation of Setting -- is this a book of talking heads, or does the author set the stage? Have they done their research? Do they worldbuild?
  • Emotional Engagement with Reader -- frankly, do we care?
  • Mental Engagement with Reader -- does the book stretch the reader's worldview, does it challenge us in any way, do we remember it long after the book is done?
  • Effectiveness of Pacing -- my most common cause for grumping
  • Resolution of Conflict -- my second most common cause for grumping
Hopefully this will be more helpful to people who want to know if a book is for them. Some of these categories will be more important to certain readers than they are to others.  If I slam a book for its terrible pacing and logic, but the reader only cares that it has a high score in emotional engagement, they can make that judgment for themselves. I'd also like to include general content notes about violence, animal abuse, sexual assault etc., as well as my usual side comments about diversity and the Bechdel Test.

I'm interested in hearing feedback on these categories. Dear reader, if you have a suggestion for a rating category, or a refinement upon these notes, please feel free to leave me a comment at the bottom of the post!

(P.S. Soon www.bookgrumps.com will direct here! Hurrah for simplicity.)

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