I realized I hadn’t done a discussion in a while — not for lack of desire but when things get hectic, I usually have less time to sit down and THINK about things and write them up — so after mentioning this on Twitter, Estelle happened to comment and ask for my thoughts on her review of I Was Here by Gayle Forman, which was both related and unrelated all at the same time. She thought our opinions differed a little bit and wanted to see my reaction about her thoughts, and after reading Estelle’s post (and general reflection on my feelings about the book once again), I decided to change my rating.
Now this isn’t something I normally do. Usually my feelings are best assessed immediately upon finishing a book. Everything is fresh in my mind — both feelings and plot — and so I can make a very informed and confident decision. But there are some books that need a little more time before I can put my final rating on it and I Was Here was one of them. I actually DID wait to write my review (and not just because I was lazy — because I was actually unsure of how I felt) and when I finally did post it, it was much longer than I anticipated… But going back to what I wrote really felt like I was justifying my rating instead of simply relaying my thoughts on the book. Why??? Yes, it’s true that I made this decision after I read reviews from other people and yes, it’s true that they pointed out things that I maybe hadn’t noticed BUT that’s not the reason I’m changing my rating. They were all only saying things that I already felt but almost tried to cover up and convince myself weren’t a big deal.
You see, I’m a HUGE Gayle Forman fan. Her If I Stay and Just One Day duologies are some of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE BOOKS EVER. I was afraid with Just One Day that I wasn’t going to love it as much as If I Stay and Where She Went and I really felt the pressure to fall in love with a new book from my favorite author. I felt a teensy bit unsure when I finished because Just One Day was different in its own ways and yet I KNOW that I fell in love with the characters, with the setting, with the plot, and all of the book’s little nuances, so when I finished I Was Here, I was sure that it was the same situation. That little sliver of doubt was just the fact that the book was different, I told myself. It was more plot-heavy than character-driven and that’s why it felt so different. Well yes, that’s true, but REALLY looking back on the book? I didn’t love it. I still liked it plenty and Gayle’s writing is always impressive, but I really and truly was missing those personal connections to the characters — both the personality connection with the main character and the swooning connection with the love interest. They were both there but not quite enough for me to totally fall in love. Deep down, I really did know it but I just didn’t want to admit that I didn’t LOVE a book by one of my all-time favorite authors. I Was Here is still pre-ordered and I will still treasure my copy, but I can tell that it does need a bit of a rating adjustment.
So how do I need to know if I should change my rating? It’s not something I take lightly because I don’t want to believe I was influenced by someone else or something else other than my level of enjoyment as I was reading and how I felt afterwards. Here are a few questions I’ve started to ask myself as I’m gathering my thoughts to write my review:
DID I HAVE EXPECTATIONS?
I mean, of course before I start ANY book, I have expectations but were they high? Were they low? Did this book fail to live up to what I thought it was going to be and therefore rated too harshly? Or did I rate it higher because I WANTED it to live up to those expectations? Or was I MORE impressed because it surpassed my expectations?
RATING CHANGED FOR: I Was Here (bumped down from 4.5 stars to 4 stars)
DID I GET CAUGHT UP IN THE HYPE?
Let’s face it. Being a book blogger sometimes means reading hugely anticipated titles before or right around the release day. Any books that are by favorite authors or sounds unique or exciting automatically get hyped, even without the readers meaning to do so. That means that any of these big titles can get quite intimidating and I feel the pressure to agree with all of the amazing reviews and opinions floating around.
Sometimes if I read a book that was seriously hyped, I feel like I SHOULD have loved it, even if I didn’t. It’s stupid, right? I don’t need to fluff up my rating just to agree with the masses. I think, “Oh, I really did enjoy that. YOU’RE RIGHT” and I ended up giving a half star more than I might, here or there. Even looking back now, I really did enjoy The Winner’s Curse and even looking back on The Winner’s Crime… I really, really enjoy CRIME but the fact that I didn’t love CURSE still hung over my head. I stuck with my 4-star ratings on CURSE, but I think I’m bumping my rating down for CRIME. I bumped it up a quarter star due to the ending but the ending can’t save the book every time!
RATING CHANGED FOR: The Winner’s Crime (bumped down from 4.5 stars to 4.25 stars)
DO I FEEL THE URGE TO RE-READ THE BOOK?
This more applies to the higher ratings than anything, but actually anywhere between 3.75 and 4.5 stars are the hardest ratings for me to pick and the ones that tend to get changed the most! If I rate it two or three stars, chances are there are very solid reasons why and that rating isn’t going anywhere. My rating scale varies from the “traditional” scale so anything above a 4 means there’s a chance I’ll re-read and 4.5 to 5 is definite re-read material. Do I REALLY want to re-read I Was Here? Maybe someday but it’s not an immediate pull that I’ve had with other books so that tells me it should be more of a 4.25 rating than a 4.5.
RATING SOLIDIFIED: The Start of Me and You (4 stars)