In my opinion, the grade is the most crucial element of a book review, but also the toughest element to figure out when writing a review. One of the reasons is because the grade is supposed to say it all in a glance. I mean, you can expand, justify and argue as much as you want in the review, truth is, some people will only look at the grade and that's the only thing others will take away. So it needs to encompass all your thoughts, feeling and analysis. Problem is, grading a book is not just an analytical process. Oh nooo, it involves our little pesky feelings, those that sometimes don't make sense out of things LOL. You know what I mean :) For example, a book can have a major flaw, but you'll overlook it for that one scene that you love or because throughout the book, the story made your heart aches or because you shed some tears. Then, to complicate things, these feelings can change as you write up the review. You start listing what you enjoyed, what you didn't and realize that hey, you liked this book much more than you thought... or you can't remember anything about it, so it didn't impact you much and probably doesn't deserve such a high grade.
Like, I said, toughest part of the review, no? :) But then, as if it's not complicated enough, there's the grading system! As some of you know, I've recently joined Goodreads. Yesterday, while grading some books over there, I took a look at their grading system - really took a look - and what it meant. Here is the breakdown:
***** = it was amazing
**** = really liked it
*** = liked it
** = it was okay
* = didn't like it
Now, me, I use the alphabetical grading system... in which case, it would mean that:
***** = it was amazing ---> A
**** = really liked it ---> B
*** = liked it ---> C
** = it was okay ---> D
* = didn't like it ---> E
right? Logical, n'est-ce pas? However, I'm not sure it's that easy an association ^_^; I know some of you think I'm a tough grader... but the truth is, I find myself quite reluctant to give out Cs and lower grades because I feel bad ^_^; Most of the time, I'll fidget in the B zone and avoid the C grade by giving out B- or C+ instead. The + makes it looks more positive LOL. I think this reluctance stems from my years at school. I've always been an excelling student and actually enjoyed competing for good grades, even back in elementary school. Truth be, a C was bad, a real catastrophe for and definitively not something I could let my dad know about... and so I guess I've carried that mentality to my books reviewing. However, reviewing books is completely different from studies obviously. As it turns out, according to Goodreads, a C is not bad at all - it still means I liked the book!
Thing is, we tend to grade books from 1 to 5 or A to E. When I started reviewing books, an okay book would be an average book and therefore, the median: so technically speaking, 3/C. In which case, I would have 2 states of disliking (1-2/E-D), 2 states of liking (4-5/B-A) and a neutral territory (3/C). This would be my grading system breakdown:
*****/A = loved it
****/B = liked it
***/C = it was okay
**/D = disliked it
*/E = hated it
That's logical too, right? But then, when you compare it to Goodreads grading system, was I too lenient? I mean, a book that I thought was okay would be a 3/C while it'd be a 2/D on Goodreads. Or perhaps, it is Goodreads that is too lenient, because it allows more nuances? I mean, in the end, with Goodreads, there is only one bad grade: 1 star (*). However, realistically speaking, when you see 2/D, it doesn't feel very positive, right? Ugh, all this is so confusing ^_^;
In any case, I want to readjust my grading system so it matches Goodreads'. Having one grading system is confusing enough, I don't want to have two - one for Goodreads and one for my blog! LOL. Since I can't modify Goodreads' grading system, that means I'm the one who needs to make some changes. Then, it raises the question of what grading system to use. When I started blogging, I used a number grading system, the usual 1 to 5... but then, I switched to letter grading system, A to E. I felt the letter grading system conveyed feelings better, that people related to it better and +/- gave better indication than 0.25, 0.5 and 0.75; however, looking back now, I wonder if it's because of all the years I spent on the school bench LOL. Really, what is the difference between 4.25 and 4.5? Then again, what is the difference between B- and B.... Hmmm. I was trying to figure it out this morning and this is what I came up with:
**** ---> B
| ---> B- = 3.75***1/2
| ---> C+ = 3.25
*** ---> C
But then, the X.5 becomes the limbo zone. There's nothing I match it with. Am I over-thinking this? I think so, because this post is getting really long LOL. So I'm going to try to wrap-up :P Basically, I decided to stay with the letter system. The problem with the number system in my opinion is that there is too much leeway. It comes to a point where I'm like .25 or .5 or.75? But I don't really know what's the difference. I know I have the same dilemma with +/-, but it seems clearer for some reasons. Ideally, I should switch to the stars system, there's only full stars and 1/2 star, but quite frankly, I'm not crazy about switching to another system... and I've never really liked the stars system much ^_^;
So I'm staying with the letter grading system, because it suits me most :) However, I'm going to try to be more consistent and objective and so, be ready to see more Cs and Ds. I think what I'm going to do from now on after finishing a book is asked myself how I liked the book. Then, from there I got my grade and can play with the +/-.
What do you think?
Do you find it difficult to grade book?
What grading system do you prefer?
Feel free to share your thoughts!