(Or rather- why not 5 bananas?)
I’ve been doing this a while and one question I’ve had a few times when I post a 4 banana review is: why didn’t you give this 5 bananas?
Now of course I could do some soul-searching, tear my hair out because AM-I-BEING-MAJORLY-UNCLEAR and wonder WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH MY REVIEWS… but in all honesty, this is a very fair question and I can be totally calm about answering it (*freakout was for theatrical affect only… mostly*). Because sometimes it may not be totally obvious why a book- that on the surface level seems near perfect- didn’t get five stars from me. And, honestly there’s good reasons for that (I hope- otherwise it’s back to the drawing board and the aforementioned angsty soul-searching 😉 )
There was something missing– and sometimes it’s hard to articulate just what that *something* was… because, well, it was missing. So I don’t know what it was, do I? It’s a mystery to me…
Sometimes I might have been thrown by a handful of comments that niggled away at me– like woodworm or termites or maybe something less serious (the bug imagery’s a bit extreme for a 4* tbh) and even though I tried to brush it aside it’s ended up riddling the book with doubt about how much I liked it. Now it’s pretty rare that I won’t say if this was the case, but there are times when I’d have to go into a whole lot of political theory and I seriously can’t be bothered because aghh it was one comment (okay, yes I do have these freakishly strong reactions to random lines in books, but I can occasionally curb my inner nitpick- not often, just sometimes)
Maybe it just wasn’t unique enough. I’m sure as readers we all have tons of stories lodged into the back of our minds- the more we read, the harder it becomes for a book to clinch that coveted OMG spot, just by virtue of the fact that we can compare it to so many other stories.
Or maybe my experience reading it wasn’t tucked up in the perfect spot with pleasant-yet-not-overbearing instrumental music lulling me into a state of calm… Okay I don’t actually need that to enjoy a book- still sometimes I can be tired and distracted and a book needs to do *a lot* of work in order to WOW me. (FYI this is the one I’d ask author’s, on my site or others, to assume is the reason every time 😉 )
So, okay, it wasn’t perfect– but hey, there’s nothing wrong with that! I said this in my post about negative reviews and it’s worth repeating: it’s a scale. Just cos something didn’t scream THIS-IS-PERFECTION to me doesn’t mean it wasn’t great- especially since according to my very well thought out rating system, four stars is still awesome sauce with a side of bananas. Speaking of screaming…
It didn’t make me squeal gleefully. Yes, this is an actual requirement for 5 bananas. I’m a squealer. Not just over books, I think I must have squealed a gazillion times in cutesy tv shows like Once Upon A Time which I’m back watching again… but I digress. Basically the book might be objectively brilliant, but if it didn’t push me into the stratosphere it’s not going to get top marks from me. I’m probably looking something like this sloth though…
Genre bias? And yes the question mark is deliberate, cos I’m not sure about this one. I mean it’s not consciously done anyway. Looking at my book ratings though, I can see there is a clear bias in what books are more likely to get the best ratings. Fantasy and classics are just more likely to produce the aforementioned squeals… whereas contemporary and non-fiction draws the short straw. I have given a couple of books in my less-favoured genres 5 bananas before, but it’s super rare. Yet I feel like this is fair, because at ultimately the whole point of ratings is to showcase taste. So if my personal preference for certain genres is what pushes up my ratings for certain books, then I’m okay with that.
So what do you think? Do you sometimes have trouble articulating why a book didn’t deserve all the bananas/stars? If not- can you teach me some tricks so I don’t get asked this again? 😉 And do you have your own reasons why a book might not be classed as *perfection*? Let me know in the comments!