This past week, I was perusing books on Amazon when I came across a review that said something like this “I liked this book. I really did, but why is it that most heroines are in their mid-twenties? Maybe it’s just my own hangups because I’m in my thirties, but these romance novels make it seem like once the heroine turns 28, romance is too late for her.”
The reviewer gave the book 3 stars. So that got me thinking, when is it okay to allow subjectivity to rate a book? Next week I will discuss how to avoid subjectivity in book reviews. But first things first, a really great novel surpasses all subjectivity. Anywho, subjectivity is allowed when:
1) The setting is all wrong. I just read a book about a high school in Chicago that had a really weird racial dynamic. And it bothered me because, except for a few special exceptions, Chicago is about as segregated as you can get. I tried to squeeze the novel into one of those exceptions…it just wasn’t working. If the author gets things wrongs about locations, that has a tendency to turn off the reader, and I think its fair to lower a rating. A good book can surpass this, but it’ll still be in the back of the reader’s mind.
2)Ethnicity Issues. I’m going to go there. And it’s not always one race portraying another, sometimes its your own race or ethnic group portraying ‘you’. Without going into detail, if the author portrays your race in a significant way that you find annoying, it will detract from the book.
3) Nuances aren’t explained. I don’t really understand strong female voices in historical novels. I just don’t think women were that brave or that bold to stand up against or for issues (otherwise we wouldn’t have waited as long for the women’s right to vote). Therefore, the author should explain why their heroine is the way they are. And it must make absolute sense, I always tell my mom, no woman in the west in the 1800s would turn down a marriage proposal from a good Christian man. Life was too hard back then to be trying to do it on your own. The reason has to make sense! I’ll be honest, even in books today, I envy these girls their fierceness. But, I can understand it today, it makes no sense to me if the novel is a historical.
4) Get your facts straight. I’ve been leading up to this one. I’m a lawyer, I love legal thrillers…now more than when I was in law school, but nevertheless, when I’m reading books like these, my legal mind does not turn off. I’m constantly asking myself if the lawyer can do that. Same thing goes with historical facts. They must be accurate. You can play fast and loose with certain details, but others are written in stone. Know the ones written in stone.
5) The fifth book. There are some authors out there who I will tell you that I like, but don’t read. Because of the fifth book. When you read a lot of books by one author, after some point, you will begin to pick up on a pattern in they way they write, think, the words they use, when they introduce the villain, etc. For some authors, its so minor, its not relevant. For other authors, you begin to feel like if you changed the names and the cover, you would have the same books. When you can predict the characters’ personalities and what happens next, you’ve read the fifth book. I think you have the right as the reviewer to demand that the author branch out a bit more.
Well, these are my thoughts. Got anymore to add? Any you would detract?