You’ve heard the age-old saying: don’t judge a book by its cover. But in the year 2020, where book communities now thrive online, I propose something a bit more modern: don’t judge a book by its Goodreads page.
If you’re an avid book reader with some sort of online presence, you’re probably aware of the online book community known as Goodreads. From a yearly reading challenge to book discussion groups, Goodreads is the ultimate book lover’s experience. But the most popular feature of the site is its ratings and reviews.
Goodreads gives you people’s most honest thoughts on a book–whether that be people raving about it or condemning it. People do not hold back, and as a result, there can often be a lot of diversity in ratings. If you’re deciding whether or not to spend money on that book you want, but don’t really need, Goodreads can be an invaluable resource. If the average ratings are low, you might not want to take the risk and spend money on a book you won’t love.
On the other hand, you should be careful when judging a book by its Goodreads rating. Just because a book has low ratings does NOT mean you won’t love it, because regardless of the fact a majority of people don’t love a book, there are always going to be others shouting its name off the rooftops because THEY loved it. On the flip side, there are some well-loved books you might hate.
I will say, however, that Goodreads is a really good place to go for trigger warnings and other important things to know before reading. Skimming some of the reviews will usually give you an idea of how mature a book is and what’s contained between its pages, whether that be violence, sexual assault, explicit content, etc. This is an especially good resource for YA readers, since the genre caters to such a broad audience.
The moral of the story is: give low-rated books on Goodreads a chance! Just because a book is highly rated doesn’t mean you’ll like it! But don’t take my word for it: I bring to you, Bookstr’s analysis of books you should pick up (and those to avoid) despite its Goodreads rating.
Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis
Goodreads Rating: 3.21 stars
Bookstr’s Rating: 4.00 stars
If you scroll through the Goodreads reviews, there are a lot of one-star reviews. A lot of people found the book confusing, or didn’t find the plot very compelling. But there are also a lot of four- and five-star reviews within the mix, many of which say that the book dragged at parts but ultimately made up for it in the end.
The issue with these reviews is a lot of people DNF (a.k.a did not finish) it. Of course, this doesn’t apply to ALL of the negative reviews (and I myself am someone who rates books I hate even after DNFing), but the fact remains that some of these people might have had a different perception of the book if they followed through to the end. Just because the book starts off slow or uninteresting doesn’t mean it won’t pick up later on.
As for myself, there were definitely parts of the book I didn’t like; it could be confusing to understand the world, and the characters were unlikeable at times. But by the end I was immersed in the story and loved the message of the overall book. I couldn’t stop thinking about it even days after finishing–a tell-tale sign that you just read a damn good book.
All I’m saying is…give this book a chance! If I’d been discouraged by the ratings, I would never have gotten to read this incredible story.
Wintersong by S. Jae Jae
Goodreads Rating: 3.55 stars
Bookstr’s Rating: 5.0 stars
Despite earning NYT Bestseller status, this book has a fairly low rating.
See, here’s the thing about Goodreads (well really, any book rating site), 54% of people rated Wintersong either four or five stars. A majority of people liked the book, but a good chunk–27%–gave it an “eh” rating of three stars, hence the 3.55 average rating. So MOST people enjoyed the book, though the rating doesn’t reflect that.
Here at Bookstr, we happen to be part of the 54% that loved the book, regardless of what its rating is!
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson
Goodreads Rating: 4.04 stars
Bookstr’s Rating: 0.50 stars
Despite the high ratings, Bookstr’s Camila found the book so bad, she simply couldn’t finish it. Need I say more?
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
Goodreads Rating: 4.00 stars
Bookstr’s Rating: 3.00 stars
This NYT bestseller was so hyped up, but I ultimately found it to be an “eh” read.
The Goodreads page is littered with five-star reviews. People found the story engaging and emotional, leaving me to wonder…did we even read the same book?
I didn’t hate it; it was certainly well-written, and I enjoyed the characters, but the plot felt so dull to me. I didn’t feel any emotional draw to the characters, and ultimately could’ve cared less if they lived or died at the end.
The next time you’re scrolling through a book’s Goodreads page, proceed with caution! Ratings are informative but not the be-all-end-all of reading. At the end of the day, no one can predict whether or not a book will resonate you in particular, though you can certainly give it the chance it deserves.