The Great Re-Rate

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Hello everyone! Today will be a bit of an unusual post, but it is something I have wanted to do for a long time.

Towards the end of 2016, I read a lot of good books. I have been reading a lot of good books in 2017 too. Before 2016 though? I didn’t make great reading choices. I read a lot of books that were hyped up or ‘popular’, rather than reading books that truly interested me. But now that I’ve been making much better book choices, I have discovered some truly phenomenal books that have, essentially, changed the paradigm.

I like rating books. Although rating a book from 1 – 5 is flawed and overly simplistic, my approach to rating is relative — namely relative to other books I have read. I like four starred books better than 3, and think 1 starred books are the worst books I’ve read. With new reads and new favourites, books I rated 5 stars in 2014 are no longer the best books I’ve read – I’ve discovered new books that are better.

Which is why, today, I’ll be re-rating a ton of books and sharing my justifications of why I have decreased or increased their rating. I acknowledge that how I felt about a book when I first read is valid, perhaps even more so than in hindsight, but for me, I cannot rate everything 5 stars – that would be inaccurate and a poor reflection of how I feel about a particular book. I want my ratings to, as accurately as possible, reflect on where I think a book stands.

Some notes:

1. I’ll be rounding down, unless specified otherwise.

2. I’d like to think that I have good memory of the books I have read over the years (and if a book is forgettable, well!), so I have not re-read the books to justify their re-rates.

3. I am a very big emotional rater – I rate books when I’m on emotional highs, which make me like/dislike a book more than I ordinarily would.

4. Five-starred books are reserved for absolute favourites. If I’ve rated a book five-stars, I’m talking real serious business.

5. If I don’t remember the book’s story (probably because it’s been a long time since reading it), I will remove the rating.

6. I tend to rate things higher than I should (i.e. out of sympathy or emotion) so don’t be alarmed by the decreases!

7. For fun, my Goodreads average rating before adjustments: 3.21

So without further ado!


Re-rated to five stars

5star

Animal Farm by George Orwell – Initially rated 4, but the other day I was explaining Orwell’s work to my dad and realized, holy shit, this book is so eloquent and good.

Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee – Initially rated four because I was still on an emotional high after reading Not Your Sidekick. Though it isn’t a 5 for me (a higher 4.5), this book is still so special and lovely and definitely one of my favourites.

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Re-rated to four stars

4star

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – I loved this book and enjoyed it so so much, but I am critical of this book, specifically regarding its cultural appropriation, its heteronormativity, the twisted ‘feminism’, manipulative writing (the list goes on), and I cannot, in good conscience, give this a 5.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – Don’t get me wrong – I love this book, and I loved its themes and its writing. It just doesn’t quite make a favourite or a 5 for me – it is more of a 4.5

Atonement by Ian McEwan – One of the first books I read when I started to read seriously in high school, though it affected me greatly at the time and it is still a fantastic and masterful work of literature, parts of Robbie’s narrative bored me. It just took me years to be honest with myself.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman – This book is incredible, and the portrayal of mental illness was powerful and immersive. I can’t quite put it to words, but it isn’t a five for me – a 4.5 is more appropriate.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn – This was my first read that portrayed mental illness as something complex and nuanced, which is why I loved it so much. After reading more books about mental illness, it is no longer a 5 for me.

Golden Son by Pierce Brown and Red Rising by Pierce Brown – Similarly to The Winner’s Curse, these two books have been adjusted because Morning Star was my favourite (by quite a bit) in the series.

4star_b

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer Smith – This is still a poignant, raw and emotional book, but it isn’t quite a 5 for me, more of a 4.5 now that my feelings about this book are at ease.

How To Be Popular by Meg Cabot – I loved this book as a teen, and I remember how much reading this resonated with me. This book taught me how to be brave, how to be myself, how popularity (something I thought was important as a teen) was just a meaningless construct. I haven’t read this book in a long time, but I still remember it, and I remember how it affected me.

Into White by Randi Pink – I still love this book, but after reviewing it, I realized that I held onto the small parts I connected with too closely. A good book, but not a 5 – particularly with some of the flaws I cannot look past.

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov – Still fantastic, so insightful for its time, and highly recommended, I recently read another short story, The Waves by Ken Liu, which was probably inspired by The Last Question, but I thought The Waves was better.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – I loved this book so much when I read it, but relative to the other books in the series, I love The Winner’s Crime (which remains a five) significantly more than I do The Winner’s Curse. Adjusted to reflect the differentiation of opinion within the series.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – I bawled my eyes out after reading this book; I felt so, so, so much emotion. Though I still think it’s a splendid and deeply affecting book, it isn’t quite a 5 for me.

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Re-rated to three stars

3star_a

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Look, the book is good, objectively good, but I fooled myself into liking it much more than I actually do. ADSOM is more of a 3.5 for me.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – It took me three months to finish this book, and honestly, I think cognitive dissonance kicked my butt so hard that I ‘liked’ this book more than I actually did. It’s a good book, a classic, but didn’t click with me.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas – Rated this 4 initially because I gave Throne of Glass a three, and I had liked CoM more than ToG – both have been lowered in rating.

Dracula by Bram Stroker – A classic, one of the first that I ever read (willingly) but I felt obligated to like it because it was a classic. In truth, a good book, but not fantastic.

Fables, Vol 1 by Bill Willingham – To be honest, Saga changed the graphic novel game for me.

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller – I really enjoyed this book, loved how it introduced a lot of dystopian concepts in an accessible and interesting story, but I’ve just read better books since then. A 3.5.

3star_b

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jae Kristoff – This book gave me such an emotional high after reading. An original and creative book with a compelling narrative, but in hindsight does not have much thematic nuance as I had initially imposed.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Another classic but I ‘liked’ it out of obligation. There’s a strange stigma around not liking classics, especially ones as loved as P&P. I appreciate this book, it’s a good read, but definitely not a 4 for me.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins – A fluffy-bunny-of-a-book and I enjoyed how funny and charming it was, but time has worn down its charm. A good and fun book, but I’ve just read better. Adjusted to 3.5.

A Thousand Worlds With You and Ten Thousand Skies Above You Claudia Gray – A good, sweeping story but, no longer a 4 for me. I’ve read better books since then.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Certainly an excellent work of fiction, but I read this years ago and have read so many other books that I like more. Not quite a five read for me anymore, so it is a 3.5.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak – A great book, but a book I read early in my reading career; I’ve read better WWII books since. An affecting book, just not quite a 4 for me. 3.5 is more appropriate.

3star_c

The Hiding Places by Catherine Robertson – This was one of the first ARC’s I had ever received, so had no idea how to be honest with my opinions; the fact that it was an ARC definitely influenced my perception of the novel. Re-rated because I’m being honest with myself now.

The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead – It was a fun read at the time, but, it wasn’t particularly special.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – A good book and (SO, SO) much better than the movie, but no longer a four for me – 3.5 is a more accurate rating.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson – Enjoyed it very much at the time, but in hindsight, it was decent. Plus, Under a Painted Sky, which has a very similar plot, was far more enjoyable (and that was a 4 for me).

Where She Went by Gayle Foreman – Though I still liked If I Stay (even though it was bloody manipulative), Where She Went was poignant but marginally not as good as its predecessor. Now a 3.5 for me.

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Re-rated to two-stars

2star

Nirvana by J.R. Stewart – The first eARC I received through NetGalley – I was so damned excited that I read it. I didn’t know how to let this book down easy. To be honest, it wasn’t that fantastic at all.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Made me cry like a baby, but it took me years to realize that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good book. It packs an emotional punch but otherwise it’s just… okay?

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – To be honest, I liked it because it was the ‘in’ book at the time and everyone loved it. I did not want to be a black sheep. But to be super super honest? This book was meh.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – In my young spring chicken days, I rage-rated this a one-star after my friend berated me for ‘disliking a book just because she liked it and it was popular’. It was the most inane ‘argument’ I have ever been in. Needless to say, I didn’t like this book because Collins is not a good writer and the story is stilted BUT I acknowledge and appreciate the contributions this book has made in help shape people’s understanding of socio-political problems — enough that it necessitated a two.

 

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas – Not utterly terrible, but not good either. I felt this way when I first rated it, but it feels like a I-don’t-know-how-to-rate-this-average-as-book-so-I-guess-a-2.

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Re-rated to one star

1star

Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie – My initial 2 star rating was mostly a sympathy rating – a I feel bad for giving this a crap rating sort of rating. I don’t feel bad anymore.

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Removed ratings – need to re-read one day (… maybe)

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King – I remember loving this book so much when I read it in 2014, but I just really don’t remember why I liked it so much. Possibly because it was one of the first books that had a very poignant and raw portrayal of grief? I don’t remember. Removed rating because I’m not confident in the four-starred rating.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – I read this book when I was in high school, loved it, but recently discovered that this book misrepresents autism. I also don’t remember this book too well, so given the possibility that it may be a misrepresentation of autism, have removed my rating. I will probably not re-read this.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – I read this to just say I had read it, not because I wanted to engage with the story and its ideas. I went through a phase. Removed the rating and will re-read this someday.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – This one is a little weird for me – I’ve seen a lot of criticisms about it lately so I don’t know how to feel about this book anymore. For the most part, I remember enjoying it a little bit but I want to read it again with a critical eye. On the other hand, frankly this series does not interest me. So, removed the rating for now.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot – I read this book when I was in high school and cannot remember the book at all. Removed the rating.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by J.K. Rowling – I read this it was first released in 2001, and I just cannot remember it at all.

The whole Peeps series and Uglies series by Scott Westerfield – Read this in high school, don’t remember a damn. But holy hell, that summary makes the book sound so awesome?!

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And that pretty much concludes my ‘great re-rate’ — which, I know, is a pretty melodramatic name, but it was a placeholder name for this post and it just stuck.

I probably won’t be doing another one of these for awhile since I’m fairly confident in my rating abilities (for now!) but who knows? People change, I’ll inevitably change, my tastes my change, and I’ll continue reading more and more books that will change my perspective and redefine a good book versus a fantastic book.

For fun: after re-rating everything on Goodreads, my Goodreads average is now 3.12!

  • Do you re-rate books? If yes, when do you re-rate them? Do you have a re-rate policy?
  • If you don’t re-rate books, how come? When do you think it’s okay to re-rate books?
  • Would you publish a post about all your re-rates? If you have published a post, please share it with me!
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40 thoughts on “The Great Re-Rate

  1. Sometimes you gotta re-rate stuff. It’s good when we realize we are rating something based on what others are thinking rather then ourselves. Being self aware helps us to truly be ourselves.

  2. Interesting! I’ve re-rated some books if, on reflection, I decided they really were not that good. However, I don’t do it in general. Maybe partially because I’m lazy. But I’m also a pretty big mood rater, and sometimes I figure that if gave it 5 stars at the time, well, I guess I thought it was worth 5 stars. And it’s not really changing the Goodreads rating as a whole or anything, so unless I have a personal reason to change it, I might as well just leave it.

  3. I re-rate all the time. I’ve even went as far as giving a 5 star book down to 2 stars. I think when I finish reading a book, I give more a “reaction” rating rather than an actual critical rating. I should probably wait a little before rating my books.

  4. I really love this post! It was so interesting to read about how your thoughts on these books have changed over time, whether for better or for worse. I have a habit of rating books immediately after I finish them, when I’m still caught up in my emotions about the story. More often than not, after thinking about the book over the next couple days/weeks/months, I go back and end up changing my rating. I definitely go back through my early Goodreads days and cringe at some of my ratings, though– I really should just go through and reexamine my entire “read” shelf someday!

  5. This is such a fantastic idea. I’m definitely a mood-rater too, and I probably should go back and look at some of the ratings I gave when I started blogging. I imagine some of the nominally diverse novels that impressed me at the beginning wouldn’t really have the same effect now that I’ve read books that really do emphasise diversity.
    To be honest though, I don’t like the whole system of rating books out of 5 – for me that’s such a reductive way to review something. I have a lot of difficulty differentiating between a 3 star and a 4 star read in particular. I’ve been thinking about only rating 1 star and 5 star books, and leaving all the others in my goodreads blank.

  6. This was a really interesting and fun post to read. 😄 I actually just updated my rating scale and re-rated a lot of the books I read last year. I might do a post similar to this one! I recognise the feeling of wanting to rate a book higher just because i feel bad about it or wanted to like it. Rating in general is pretty tricky I think.

  7. Honestly I’ve always thought this was a good idea because I’m kind of scared that people will judge me on my five star ratings from years ago. But at the same time, changing ratings gives me anxiety. Unless I reread the book and I feel differently the second time around, I don’t think I’d be able to change the ratings of books from the past few years (specially since there’s over 200 I’d have to look through). My rating system has changed as I’ve grown and as I’ve been a bigger part of the book and blogging communities but I don’t know, it makes me really anxious to think about changing things from so long ago haha

  8. i really want to re-rate my books because i know how much i have changed since i first started book blogging to now as i’ve learnt a lot more and read better books since then! i love this idea and this post which you took so much time to explain fully! loved it CW! <3

  9. Oh, I did that too last year! When I started reading again – and began to read in English – I was WAY nicer than now, especially in YA because I hadn’t read that many books in that category (I used to read loads of adult fantasy). So many of my 5 stars of that time shortly became 4… and I had some “sympathetic 2” too 😂 Now I only 5-stars absolute favorite as well :)

    • Hi Alienor!

      Haha me too! Understandable too, especially since we haven’t developed a paradigm for new things.
      HAHA I totally get the ‘sympathetic’ ratings. A lot of books in my post were sympathetic ratings. I hated feeling ‘mean’!

  10. This is so interesting to read! I’ve definitely become a more critical reader over time, and I’m better at choosing books I know I will enjoy. So maybe I should go on a great re-rate as well! I also tend to be more lenient with Aussie authors because I talk a lot with them on Twitter and I feel bad :’) It’s hard drawing that line between being an accurate reviewer and having online “friendships” with authors.

    • Hey Emily!

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading this. I have too, and I look forward to seeing how I’ll change again in the future. :D

      Haha fair enough! I can definitely understand, and can see how that would be a hard line to draw. Well, at the end of the day, those Aussie authors are getting a good boost and support from you! So it’s a win-…win? :)

  11. I love this exercise! I actually do this quite a bit, but nowhere as… ah, thoughtfully as you seem to, haha. I just re-rate based on how I feel at the moment. Like you, I also sometimes rate books when I’m on an emotional high (i.e. just after finishing the book) and that can totally affect my rating.

    I usually re-rate at least a couple of months after I finish the book. Usually some distance has been… formed between me and the book and I can think about it more objectively. I’m tempted to write a post summarising and explaining my re-rates, but at the current state my life is in I don’t think I have the time/energy.

    I think where I’m most confused at is when rating NA books. Generally, a 3-star rating for those books are already VERY GOOD to me, a 2-star average, and a 1-star pretty bad, but a 3-star rating for books of other genre is the average. (Sorry, I realise this is a tangent but this just made me think of that.)

    My average Goodreads rating is 3.10! So hey, almost twinsies. ;)

    • Hey Reg!

      Haha, fair enough! To be honest, a lot of my re-rates were intuitive of the time and I will admit that I elaborated more than necessary in some justifications! Some were just gut-feelings, hehe.

      I’m the same way. I get easily swept away by books and their endings, so emotional distance is necessary for me.

      Haha I know what you mean re: rating NA books! They’re a totally different animal and the paradigm just feels different. I think my highest rated NA is a 4 star — but I might be mistaken?

      GR TWINSIES. <3

      • I actually have romance novels sitting at 5 stars even while knowing they can be quite sexist (in the way romance novels can be) because they’re such comfort reads! When I think of that, there’s probably no real reason or rhyme to my ratings… but oh well. Definitely a gut-feeling thing most of the time. :P

  12. I really loved this post! I re-rate the books I read quite often, but I never thought about doing a blogpost on it! Would it be okay if I did this too?
    Anyway, I really agreed with a lot of your comments on the books. Especially with Animal farm, which I’ve grown to love a lot more, and ADSOM. I got swept up in the hype and felt very obligated to love it, but it was just okay for me :/

    • Hey Laura!

      I’m glad you loved the post! And yes of course, by all means! Please let me know when or if you post it – I’d LOVE to read it. <3

      Ah, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way about ADSOM. The worldbuilding was incredible, but it still felt 'okay' to me. Meh. Maybe I'll like the sequels better!

  13. I LOVE that you did this. Seriously. Love. It. I have been thinking about my relationships with my books a TON lately, and how they have changed over time (and, let’s face it, over knowledge). When I was younger, to me, a good book was simply one that totally distracted me from my life. That could mean an epic romance, and unlikely and ill-considered dystopia… pretty much anything. But the older I get, the more I want to get into something complicated, something that’ll make me think. Something that might help me understand a bit more why I spent all those years reading books only with the aim of escaping. I think there is in the bookish community (and in life, sadly), a very weird idea that once you assert a position, you have to keep it FOREVER. And that’s just plain wrong.

    The first time I read Twilight I enjoyed it. THERE. I admitted it. I LOVED it, because I was 15 and when I was thinking about Edward I wasn’t thinking about any of the weird shit that was going down in my house. Then I grew up, and learned about feminism and the context for a lot of the weird shit that was going down in my house and this book that had once been this amazing distraction just WASN’T any more. In fact it was the opposite.

    So rerate that one to 1 star.

    This was my favourite post of the week.

    Also I am so glad you unrated The Curious Incident. I HATE that book.

    • Hi Lydia!

      Thank you so much! I love that you loved it!

      I share your experience and personal journey with books too. I think as adults, we crave something that challenges us and expands our worldview as opposed to something that just entertains us (though, there’s nothing wrong with content that does just that).

      I share your feeling regarding having a concrete and fixed position. I think there is a general lack of understanding that people change. I think it was a Humans of New York post that I saw this quote, but it was along the lines of, and I am paraphrasing! ‘when people make mistakes, we demand maximum punishment; when we make mistakes, we want maximum forgiveness’. I think about this quote and how it relates to how we think of others vs ourselves a lot.

      LOL I enjoyed Twilight too! Then I discovered a website/forum called ‘Twilight Sucks’ and my perspective changed RADICALLY. I think I went through a phase where I would talk about how much I hated it every day. I must’ve been so obnoxious.

      Hehe I’m glad you enjoyed it so much! <3 Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with me – I always appreciate it.

  14. I didn’t start rating things on GR until last year, so most of my ratings are relatively up-to-date, but I definitely like the concept of re-rating because our perspectives on a book change as we change and gain more life experience. I read the entire Twilight series when I was about 14 and have no wish to go back to it. Also, learning more about social justice issues has transformed how I look at fiction. I can’t divorce it from the politics of representation, so I’m factoring those issues in when re-rating.
    I read the Uglies series when I was in high school and loved it, but in present day, even without rereading it, I can see a lot of the holes in its dystopian premise, such as the failure to account for how beauty standards are racialized, the omission of trans and gender-nonconforming characters, etc. It’s very much a white-centric take on beauty.
    Side note: the autism rep in The Curious Incident has been heavily criticized by autistic readers.

    • Hi Shenwei!

      Totally agree with you, and I think that’s what happened to me – I just grew and changed as a person and a reader.

      Me too! I definitely read for entertainment and leisure in the past (still do!) but I think I have more of a goal or purpose with my reading now. Like you, I can’t divorce it from politics either.

      Ooh thank you for your perspective regarding Uglies. I’ll definitely take that perspective with me when/if I re-read it. :)

  15. Hmmm … I understand why you would want to re-rate books only when you re-read them, but I never re-read. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Sometimes I check out chapters or certain passages again, but never the whole book. However, I have re-rated books nonetheless. Sometimes my feelings just change about stories and I re-rate them accordingly, without real explanation even hahaha
    Not gonna lie, the fact that you down-rated The Book Thief hurt my poor bookish heart a little bit. WWII is a touchy subject for me and this was one of the rare books I actually liked or even loved!

    • Hi Kat!

      I never re-read either – I feel like my time could be better devoted to reading new books and new stories.

      Ahh, I’m sorry! I enjoyed The Book Thief when I was reading it, but in hindsight, I liked it because I cried a tonnnnn. Not sure if that’s good enough for me anymore but hey! Maybe if I ever do re-read it (though, it is unlikely), I’ll like it more than my initial read. :)

  16. there are a lot of books that I rated way too high on Goodreads, mostly because I think I didn’t want to be “mean” and give a book a low rating. I think if I re-read or went over the book now I would rate a lot of books differently.
    – Yasmin

  17. I re-rate when I re-read, which isn’t often. I had to define my own ratings (loosely based on Goodreads) and I actually have to look at it everytime I have to rate a book! The 3-4 stars are difficult, and I tend to rate 3 if I enjoyed the reading experience but won’t exactly push to recommend the book or even want to re-read it, and 4 would be the ‘I might re-read this someday’. :D

    Gemma
    http://thetravellingbibliophile.com

  18. The only time I’ve re-rated is after I’ve re-read, which doesn’t happen often. Usually I reserve a re-read for something that I know I rated emotionally, and want to see if I’m impacted the same way a second time.

    • Hi Kelly!

      Fair enough! I don’t usually like to re-read because I feel like my time could be spent reading another book, but I’m thinking I should relax a little and re-read some of the books I listed! Who knows. :)

      What were some books that you’ve re-read and re-rated?

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  20. These were some great points. Re-rating is important if, on the second or third read, you realize there are some major things about the book that bother you. I’ve recently done the same with a few novels/series that at first I liked. It’s very important that we not try to force ourselves to like a book just because someone else does!

  21. I’m such an emotional rater as well and therefore am forced to rerate most books after I realise that it probably wasn’t as good as I expected! Pretty sure I need to go ahead a rerate all of Sarah J Maas’s books because they were definitely emotional ratings. But, great post CW <3

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