No two people read the same book, and one person can never read the same book twice. Because the moment of each reading, in itself, is so important to how we view a book, I’m going to weigh that heavily in my reviews.
For me, the overall reading experience outweighs any individual elements of a book, from craft and style, to characters and plot, to world-building and detail.
Here is my system, so you understand where my reviews are coming from. I’m considering five different categories, and while there is certainly overlap between them, I think they’re worth considering separately:
What was the reading experience like?
I loved it. Every moment was a pleasure. Couldn’t put it down, didn’t want it to end, my mind is blown.
It was lovely, “a pleasure to have in (reading) class.” I definitely got what I hoped for in a reading experience.
I liked it. It may not have been my ideal reading experience, but it was worth the time I spent on it.
So, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t fun to read, or at least not fun to finish. I want to rant about it, and I’m disappointed.
I straight up hated it. I’m angry, and can’t decide if I wish I hadn’t put myself through reading it, or if I’m glad I did because now I know to avoid more like it.
Style and Content
How do I feel about the author’s stylistic choices? Their use of characters, plot, world, imagery, and narrative techniques?
Perfection. Was there anything I didn’t like?
If I really wanted to nitpick… but nah. This work of art is exactly what I like to see. Truly brilliant.
This writer knows what they’re doing, and they have some tricks up their sleeve. Their stylistic choices definitely pay off. Are there a few things I didn’t love? Sure. But that didn’t get in my way.
I appreciate what I got out of this book, but the things I didn’t like annoyed me enough to distract from the things I did like. I may or may not have a bone to pick with this author as far as craft is concerned.
The bad outweighs the good to the point I’m not sure the good is even there…? If it is, it isn’t worth the effort of finding it. Whatever the author is trying to do, it’s not working for me.
This book isn’t so much stylistically unpleasant as it is straight up problematic, either because of bigotry or because it isn’t transparent about ratings, triggers, and general maturity of content, to the point that I consider it irresponsible or harmful.
In light of this read, how do I feel about the author?
Tell me there’s more. I can’t wait to read more by this human. If they weren’t one of my faves before, they are now. Absolute masterclass in authorship.
I’d 100% read more stuff written by this human.
I trust them to deliver a good story, and I like both falling into and analyzing their craft.
I may not go out of my way to read this author again, but there’s no ill-will. I’m neutral on them for now. Maybe another book of theirs would change my mind one way or another.
I probably wouldn’t read this author again. It just doesn’t seem worth the effort, because my tastes don’t align with theirs. Oh well.
I have issues with this human, to some degree or other. I don’t want to support them, and may discourage others from supporting them as well.
Would I recommend this book, and if so, to whom?
You’re telling me to shut up about this book.
Ok, everyone is telling me to shut up about this book. But seriously, you should read it. Right now. I dare you.
I’ve probably mentioned this book to you, at least once. If I think it’s your cup of tea, I will tell you to read it. Maybe I’ll buy it for you for your birthday. Please pretend to be surprised.
I might recommend this book to specific people I think would appreciate it, but any recommendation would be accompanied by caveats. I have a reputation to maintain.
I wouldn’t recommend this book, and if it comes up in conversation I’ll tell people why I wouldn’t. But I’m not going to tell people not to read it.
I will actively discourage other people from reading this book. Just… trust me. It’s not worth your time.
If this book were a person…
…we’d totally be soulmates. Their kiss would wake me from an enchanted sleep. I would break the curse that ‘binds’ them. (Get it? Binds them?)
…I would want to be their friend. I’d seek out opportunities to talk to them one-on-one at parties. I’d add them on all the socials. I would definitely want them to like me.
…we probably wouldn’t make good roommates.
We could be productive, friendly coworkers. We could share a friend group. But we’d probably never be best buds. We’re just a little too different.
…we’d annoy the hell out of each other. Like, they’re not my arch-nemesis or anything, but I don’t like them. It’s probably best for everyone if the two of us just keep our distance from one another.
…we’d be actual, literal enemies. This is the kind of person who throws up so many red flags I feel like I’ve stumbled into the Soviet Union. Our fundamental values are at odds with each other, and I don’t trust them for a second.