My Opinions About Review Ratings

Ratings are subjective. Even with the same reviewer -- from review to review. Writing is supposed to be persuasive, informative, or create an emotional experience. While writer's may have one intention, it is impossible for them to know or even understand why someone will react to what they write.

I review primarily fiction. Fiction, by it's nature, is a hallucination in the mind of the author. It may be based on a number of true things, but how do you rate a hallucination? It may be wonderful or a nightmare. Nightmares in fiction are still entertainment. Zombies? Space monsters? The author tells a story.

Rationally, or objectively, I can professionally critique a story. I am well trained to do that. But rate and review a story based on the story? Did it have a beginning, middle, and end? Did they write comprehensible sentences and paragraphs? Did they convey the story in any way the reader comprehended the author's hallucination?

As you may deduce by my questions, I asked questions about craft. A critique is technical, it is a criticism on the craft of writing. Reviews are commentary on the art of writing. You may look at any number of examples of art and may or may not like any of them to some degree or another. There are no experts on art despite the protestations of art critics. (Note they are critics, not reviewers.)

random ratingThis is my point.

I will give one example."Catcher in the Rye", by J. D. Salinger . Critically, it is excellent. Critically it is nearly flawless. As an editor, agent, or publisher I would not hesitate to publish this based on anything related to craft. Critically my review would be 4.5 to 5 stars.

random ratingThe story, the art... I hate the story. I hate Houlden. I think the novel is garbage. I would not publish that piece of garbage if it guaranteed to make me a billionaire. As art, I could say 1 star… it exists and I hate it, which is where I have rated it. I have a dozen reasons I hate that story. If I’m honest, all those reasons are more about me than Mr. Salinger’s character.

As you can see, my reaction to the story is about me in relation to the art. My reaction to the art. How I feel is irrelevant in almost every situation in life. Perhaps my spouse or children care about how I feel about Mr. Salinger’s story. 🤣 Okay, maybe my reaction could be entertaining or annoying to them.

So concludes my opinion about review RATINGS. It's art. Therefore, it is an opinion about my reaction. It is irrelevant regarding the actual art. Entirely meaningless.


Be happy. I have a bad memory. I may have given your book one star and berated it. I may read it again, having forgotten I read it entirely, give it five stars and rave about it next time. No joke. I have a dozen books on my "to read" list that I've rated on Goodreads. They're on my to-read list because I believe I should read them before I die. I have a multitude of movies I've watched more than three times, each time thinking I was watching it for the first time -- but periodically during the movie having a nagging feeling like I know what might happen next.