Scenario: You just finished typing up a review, and you realize you have to rate it, but you find yourself at a lost because what rating does this book deserve? It was okay. You liked and hated some stuff. It deserves a…B? B-? Maybe lower than that? Then months later, you’re going over your old reviews (for whatever reason—fixing formatting or comparing ratings) when you look at your review of The Bird Who Never Sang (a book I just made up), you frown and think, “wait, I rated the book a B? That doesn’t seem right. It deserves so much lower than that?”
DO YOU LOOK BACK ON YOUR BOOK RATINGS AND REALIZE IT’S TOTALLY NOT WHAT IT SHOULD BE?
Yes, absolutely. It happens frequently when I’m writing reviews. It usually happens with books that I had initially been unsure of what I should rate it.
Charlotte: Wow, I gave Avalon a really high rating. I don’t remember loving it that much.
Me: (Looks at my own rating and frowns, totally baffled by the grade) Huh, I gave it a B-??? Like why? I only remember the boredom and frustration. Why did I rate it that? It deserves like a C or C-, at best.
Everything about Avalon was the definition of meh. There were so many problems in that book—the main of which was the lack of connection with the characters—so why did I rate it higher than it deserved?
WHY DO MY RATINGS CHANGE?
I will answer this with another question: do my ratings change because my tastes have changed?
For me, I don’t chalk it up to taste changing. I think it’s because of two reasons: 1. I’m getting over my guilt and 2. I’m getting over the high of the book that covered my brain in a thick fog (which I didn’t emerge out of until months later).
Reason #1: Bye Bye, Guilt
Yes, you read that right. Guilt. I have a weird habit of feeling guilty when I rate books because I want it to accurately convey how I feel. (It’s a lot of responsibility on the grade to carry on its shoulder.) I’m a perfectionist, what can I say?
Most of the time, settling on the perfect rating is a bit difficult and rarely happens quickly, especially if I find an equal amount of pros and cons for a book or if I was kind of meh or bored with it. A battle is fought inside my brain. I rate books by grades, and despite the plus and minus signs, which gives me lots of choices, I am still confused if the grade I decide on is the perfect one. I flip-flop back and forth, weighing out the pros and cons. Here’s how my usual thought process goes:
“I think it’s a C-. Maybe? C- is a bit too harsh? I did sort of like it? The writing and big mystery were good. Maybe a B- or a C+? But the characters, ugh, soooo frustrating. And the romance, no thanks. Didn’t connect with anything. But gahhhh. B-? No. Maybe? What to dooooooooo.”
In the end, I tend to rate just a bit higher than I should because I just feel bad. (The guilt plays in here!) I feel bad because the book has good parts, but there are parts that were beyond frustrating. It’s like I’m setting the book for a bad future or for failure by putting a strike in their permanent record. It’s weird, I know.
Months later though, I get over my guilt, so I don’t feel horrible about giving Avalon a C-. I am the most ruthless.
Reason #2: The High Is Over
The honeymoon period is over. At least, for the books I read that I don’t harbor any strong memories or affectionate feelings.
That’s the only way I can put it.
I do feel like I get caught up in the high/excitement of the book, glossing over the things that I ignored initially (even though I addressed the problems in the review). And then months later, I just find myself puzzled of why I gave a book a certain rating. It really sucks when I realize it wasn’t all that cracked up to be. Maybe the idea of the high being over is a matter of taste changing?
Whatever it is, I don’t feel that overwhelming excitement for that book. It’s like I’m —
I feel like I can rate it better months later. Maybe because I’m looking at a book in a different light, or in a clearer mind?
(Note: I don’t feel this way for all the books I read. I still have the excitement and love for certain books—usually the ones that have made me reflect back on my own life or made me cry. The honeymoon/high will never be over for those.)