A topic that everyone seems to talk about, but nobody (well, ok, so few are) is open about is reviews. So what am I going to do? Beat that horse carcass, of course! I’ve written about reviews before when I was with TGTBTU, and recently (okay, so a while ago. I’ve been delaying publishing this post a lot.) I believe it was Jessica who linked to a thoughtful post about reviews. When I’ve asked about them in the past, many readers say they like the one star reviews. Some say they only buy books based on one star reviews.
Well, I guess that horse might still have some life in it, because I’m going to talk about something else. Grading to a curve. I didn’t like the concept of them in undergrad, and they definitely made my life miserable in law school, but now… I can see a point to them. Well, in general. Do I think someone who has a 94% in a class should get a B+ just to fit the curve? No. Will I “assign grades” to books based on that system? Of course not.
In fact, I’m even playing with the idea of no grades. Total rebel right? There are objective and subjective aspects to grades… and nobody’s ever going to be entirely satisfied. My point and explanation is… while reviewers generally try to be as objective as possible… a tiny part of it is subjective. It happens the same way in academia. (Like if you have a particularly stupid class, people who might’ve been getting C’s a previous year will be getting A’s this semester.) And no matter what a teacher/professor says, his or her pet is going to come out better in the subjective “class participation” grade component. Grades gives us some sort of basis, or measurement.
The word “average” has acquired such a negative connotation. Perhaps “status quo” would be better received. That fancy Latin makes it smarter and thus better, of course. It’s a middle point. Many books are good. Dare I say most books are good? After all someone out there thought they were publishable. And thus, marketable and profitable. Books aren’t sold and printed on good will, there’s someone out there who thinks it’s a good business decision. The point of the book then, is to make money for both the publisher and author.
That point being understood, we should expect most books out there to be good. Consequently, a book that gets an average grade, could very well be good, and generally is. There are just ones out there that surpass it. They’re above average. Superior. Fantastic. Those are your B and A books. Four of five stars, books, hearts, coffee cups, apples, flames, whatever. Double it and you get the same thing – it just seems better.
There are many arguments as to whether reviews are objective or subjective… or whether reviews can possibly even be objective. I don’t want to go there. What I am curious about, however, is, do you “grade” books on a curve? Whether consciously or unconsciously? And this is a question across the board – not just for reviewers. Because everyone thinks “I like book X better than book Y… but not quite as much as book Z.” That’s a system of some sort, right?
I have to admit, I never would have thought I’d use a curve, even an informal one. (I definitely don’t have a checklist or sit there making a side by side comparison of each book or a group of books.) However, I will have to say that I’ve sometimes agonized over grades because I wavered between them, and went to check previous books I liked more or less, and looked at what grades those books got. I feel that in that at least, most people can be objective. I almost think you have to make the comparisons in order to make it work.
The question is then… do you want to see grades or not? Do you care to? While so many people shy away from assigning a grade, it seems those who look at reviews gravitate towards those first. The grade is a summary of the review in a one image or letter/character statement, that tells what the reader thought of the book. Good, Bad, or Awesome. I have to say that when buying books, if I’m looking at reviews, I want to see the grade. I actually oftentimes avoid the text of the reviews, because I don’t want any spoilers, or to be influenced by someone else’s opinions or reactions.
In the end – what do you look at in reviews? Do you look at reviews? It’s always been rather ironic – and yet something I freely admit… I don’t love reviews. Oftentimes I avoid them for the aforementioned reasons. And yet I write them. Guess I am one opinionated bitch. *angelface*