The Weekly Debate (9): Take My 5-stars With a Grain of Salt...

"Quality: The race for quality has no finish line. So technically, it's more like a death march."
from I love this site! It has some awesome demotivators. :D

This week's debate: Should reviewers give a 5-star rating? Is so, what does that high rating mean to you (either as a reader or a blogger)?

Wow, I haven't done one of these in forever. And it's not even Thursday. But today I'm in a bit of a blogging slump and was questioning my self-identity, my purpose, my reason to LIVE (okay, enough with the borderline-depressive thoughts) what exactly do my 5-stars mean? Is there ever anything as the "perfect" book? I don't think so. Technically-speaking, I know there isn't. In fact, I'm GLAD there is no such specieman that lives up to the ideal: flawless characters, plot, everything. The reason for that is simple: reading is objective. So what exactly is this "perfect" book? Is it as simple as having beautiful writing and personable characters? Or, rather, must we make angels weep and demons sing holy hymns? I may be wrong, but until I see the sky falling as a tribute to this holy grail, I will maintain my standing that there is no such caramelized and sugar-coated book that has completely natural ingredients inside. Some covers these days come pretty darn close to perfection, but I digress.

With that in mind, what does a 5-star really mean? The naive little me that started this blog believed in a "perfect" book with no shortcomings whatsoever. But as I've continued blogging, I've noticed my growing criticism of books: looking for plot lulls, taking a preverse glee in finding character flaws - OH, is that a TYPO I see there? *marks a big red X over the book and awards a 1-star rating* I would go back and change previous ratings to match my higher standards, but by the time I actually do manage to revise the ratings, they wouldn't match my new expectations again. On the other hand, if I don't change my ratings... catch-21. As the months passed by, I've noticed more-and-more that the books I mark as 5-stars are definitely NOT perfect. Even if there are no specific shortcomings to speak of, there is always the possibility of improvement and additions. That sounds obvious when typed out like this, and perhaps to many of you wiser minds it is, but I often forget that there is no such thing as achieving perfection, especially after reading a stunning book. I now try to take a few days away from the book before typing the review to try and reduce the influence, but it's still there at times and I need to remind myself.

The easily visible effect of this developing conception is that I started giving out less-and-less 5-stars; in fact, I haven't given out any for, say, a month or two now. Considering that books cannot be absolutely perfect in technical terms, I question if I should even be giving out 5-stars, though only time will tell. However, if you were to ask me right now, I still can't exactly describe what a 5-star rating given by me actually means. It definitely needs the "wow" factor, which any book I've awarded 5-stars too has, but in terms of plot, character, originality, etc., I can't pinpoint the exact extent to which each of the aspects need to meet my expectations. And what are my expectations for a 5-star book?!! I don't even know that. Maybe it's because I was in the mood to give a 5-star and maybe it was partly due to the fact that I had enough sleep that day. There's no such thing as a guarantee for enjoyment in such an objective activity such as reading, but I hope I can be presomptous and say: "I guarantee all 5-stars are AMAZING!" regardless of the confusion, or at least my confusion surrounding the rating. That's why I say: take these five pointy things with a grain of salt please. ;)