MY Double Standard in Rating Books: Do You Do This Too?

SPARKLING LETTERS BOOK BLOG- MY Double Standard in Rating Books. Do You Do This Too-.jpg

Hello everyone! ♥ Welcome to another discussion post. Today I want to talk about double standards in rating books. I thought at first it was just me, but now I’m pretty sure it’s not just me. Wait, I should give you some contexts 😛 Ever heard or read these statements before?

“I don’t normally give 5-stars to contemporary books”

“I’ve never given a contemporary book 5 stars before”

There’s even a meme about it.

My two favorite genres are contemporary and fantasy and I read both daily. But when it comes to rating and reviewing, I feel like I’m (or should I say we are?) a bit unfair at giving ratings.

I read Tell Me Three Things a couple days ago. I absolutely loved it and even if there’s flaw, it’s not significant and no way changes how I feel about the book. I rated it 5-stars, at first. But then I proceeded to write my review and before I hit publish I decided to change my rating into 4-stars. WHY, you asked? There’s nothing wrong with the book. But unconsciously, I was comparing the book with my other 5-star reads on my mind, like Crooked Kingdom. And I thought there was no way this book could earn the same stars as CK. That’s why I decided to change the rating.

Talk about unfairness. It’s like, if a fantasy book is so great that the flaws don’t matter, I would rate it 5 stars with no doubt. But when a contemporary is that great, I rate it (mostly) 4 stars, unless it’s COMPLETELY mind blowing. Like my 4-stars for fantasy isn’t the same as my 4-stars for contemporary. And apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so. I mean, looking at the statements above, it seems like a contemporary needs to be at least twice as great to earn the same ratings as fantasy.

Fantasy & Contemporary Books 2.jpg

why fantasy earns higher rating.jpg

For me, a fantasy book is always more ‘productive’. It has A LOT of other elements that books from other genres (except probably dystopian/sci-fi) don’t have, such as world building and plot twists.

WORLD BUILDING is a really vital element from a book and it is one of those elements that could make or break a book. If there’s no world building, or the world building is super vague, I’ll be very likely to rate it low. But when the world building is flawless and the plot not so much, I’d still give the book an extra star for world building alone. I was instantly in love with all Victoria Schwab’s books because her world building is just incredible.

On the contrary, contemporary doesn’t have world building. Almost all of contemporary books are set in high school. I mean, of course it takes a lot of work too, authors don’t just throw random high school into the story. They have to do research and imagine everything. But still, it’s simpler. It seems that fantasy takes a lot more work and I just can’t rate them the same (and believe me I feel bad about it).

Fantasy books are known of their incredible PLOTS AND THE TWISTS. Plot twists are mind blowing because they suprise me. I love to be surprised. On the other hand, contemporary doesn’t have this element. Most contemporaries have predictable plot. High school problems, lovers quarrels, best friends trouble, family issues. I’m not saying these issues are less important (because it’s not, it’s REAL), but most of the stories are predictable. Most of them end happily, which is totally fine by me, because I don’t read contemporary expecting some major twist or something.

On top of these two elements, fantasy still has what contemporaries do, such as love interest, family issues, diverse characters, FEELS, etc. So fantasy is like contemporary + all the other cool, magical elements ♣

Fantasy VS Contemporary Books 2.jpg

But is it fair.jpg

The question is, is it really fair to compare different genres like this and then base my rating on it? I know it’s not. And I’ll give you a list as an explanation 😛

  1. Contemporary and fantasy (and science fiction and dystopia and historical fiction and basically every other ones) are each very different, independent genres. Each genre has its own characteristics, so theoretically, we can’t rate them based on the same standards
  2. In my case, in which I basically rate books using my standard for fantasy, it’s like saying that a contemporary will never be as good as fantasy. Which is SILLY because like I said, they’re just different.
  3. And being different doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the others.

And yet… YET I still feel like it’s unfair to rate them the same, which clearly is unfair because they’re not the same?? I don’t know, are you following me? I think I’m confusing myself, this topic is more difficult to write that I thought it would be :’)

BOTTOM LINE IS, I fully understand that every genre has its own standards and it’s probably unfair to rate them based on my standard for one particular genre, yet I still have trouble doing it. I still feel… reluctant (?) to easily rate contemporary books 5-stars because in my mind I keep comparing them to my 5-star fantasy books. So yes, I realized I’m some kind of a bit unfair rater. But seeing how people say they almost never rate a contemporary 5-stars, I assume it’s not just me who feel and/or do so 😛

To wrap it all up, I’ll present you some of my 5-star contemporary reads. It’s not easy for me to throw away 5-stars, so you know it’s legit 😛

5 Stars Contemporary.jpg

Everything Leads to You • P.S. I Like You • I’ll Give You the Sun • Isla and the Happily Ever After • Me Before You • Tell Me Three Things

P.S. I decided to rate Tell Me Three Things 5-stars! It’s just so good ♥


LET’S TALK! (1) Do you do this too, or do you have different standard for each genre? P.S. This question applies to every genre you can relate to, not just contemporary & fantasy. (2) I noticed a lot of people (like me) don’t normally rate contemporary 5-stars. But don’t you think contemporary books deserve to get their own 5-stars? (3) Are they really lacking of some things or are we just being too harsh on it? I’d love to hear all your thoughts! ♥

Also, have you read the books on my recommendations? If you have, do you like them? If you haven’t, I definitely encourage you to! They’re awesome 😀 and as usual, I’m open to any recommendations! ♦♦♦

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57 thoughts on “MY Double Standard in Rating Books: Do You Do This Too?

  1. OOH THIS IS SO INTERESTING!! i’ve actually never ever thought about this subject before which is my very favorite thing in a bookish discussion—my mind is opened to so many new ideas!
    i don’t think i really judge a book based on a contemporary. i kinda just have an overall standard for all books—ORIGINALITY ORIGINALITY ORIGINALITY. If a book isn’t something creative that i haven’t seen before, it will not be 5 stars. 4 stars, maybe.but never 5. So becasue of my originality standard, i guess i judge every book as it’s own thing…unless it’s typical and stereotypical? i don’t think i really compare books besides the originality factor but maybe i have…ahhh in so excited that you’ve opened my mind up to so many different thoughts! you’re so smaaaaaaart 😁💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh I see! I think that’s a great way to rate books, although it WILL be difficult for contemporary because you know, they’re predictable! Hahaha while it’s probably sort of easier for fantasy? Like, because you could make up stuffs and all. But I like your reasons! I wish I could be fairer towards different genres 😛 AHHH THANK YOU you’re always so kind! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is food for though for sure. I live fantasy. It is my go to, but I still read a lot of varying titles. I cannot recall ever having felt that I rated a title lower due to genre. But it is something I will think about going forward.

    I think that while contemporary titles may not have the large world building in terms of realms and physical environments, there is still plenty of construction happening. Sometimes the world, such as in a highschool setting, is established and built more upon making sure characters and actions create the right affect and set the tone for the setting. But maybe that is just how I view it? So I still see a lot of construction happening. I just dissect it differently.

    This is a fantastic post though and it will make me more aware in the future 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • THANK YOU! 😀 Agreed, I think one point that makes contemporary stands out is its originality? Like it’s so easy to create a stereotypical high school. Mean girls, jocks, nerds, those kind of stuffs. I’m always glad if author could portray high school life differently 😀 And I totally see your point, thank you for sharing ❤

      Liked by 1 person


    I’ve been feeling this way about contemporary lit for soooooooooooo long. An example for me would be All The Bright Places, which I really loved, but I couldn’t rate it 5 stars as well because I compared it to how I felt about Crooked Kingdom (!!!!!!) and when I realized how I felt about ATBP was nowhere near CK, I felt like rating it the same as CK just wasn’t appropriate. But I don’t know why I feel that way because objectively I know contemporary and fantasy are two different genres and you can’t judge them in the same way???

    On a personal level though, contemporary lit just doesn’t move me the way fantasy does? I don’t know what it is, I really don’t, but something about it feels lacking or not quite up to sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction, or the other genres I read. It’s an unfair thought to have but damn me if I can’t figure out why!!!

    This post has given me a lot of food for thought. Sorry if this comment is turning into a novel haha but you made me realize something about my reading/reviewing habits and because I can’t explain it I’ll be racking my brains until I figure it out!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • AWWW I LOVE THIS ENTHUSIASM!! 😀 anyway, so glad you could relate so much to this post, it’s been on my mind for so long 😛 Ah I think it’s a great way to put it : the impact of the book. I think it’s a bit weird that fantasy moves us more than contemporary does. I mean, fantasy is a bunch of makeup stuffs while contemporary deals with real life issues so close to us so THEORETICALLY, it should be easier to relate to contemporary, isn’t it? Hmm just a thought, either way I like your point! 😀

      I love All the Bright Places too! I love the plot and the portrayal of mental illness in it ❤ but yes I feel you for not being able to rate it the same as CK :') Noooo don't apologize I love it when people leave thoughtful comments, means that my post is interesting enough for you to want to share your opinions. So THANK YOU! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know! It /should/ be easier to relate to contemporary since these are the things that are most likely to happen to us in everyday life, and not the things in fantasy or sci-fi… But perhaps that’s why we subconsciously view it as “shallow”? Because we already experience these things and can work or are working through them so it doesn’t feel new or different? Ugh idk, I’m still wracking my brains.

        Man when a topic catches my eye, my enthusiasm knows NOOOOO bounds 😛

        ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES DEHYDRATED ME WITH HOW MUCH I ENDED UP CRYING OVER IT. It doesn’t help that I was reading it while slightly tipsy and up a mountain (I was on a vacation lol) and felt everything sooooo much more because of the alcohol and being away from the city 😥 😥 The people I’d gone hiking with were so worried when they found me crying, they thought I was hurt 😂 Their reactions when I told them I had just finished a very sad book were not pretty. THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND.

        Liked by 1 person

        • THAT’S IT!! I think that is definitely why fantasy/sci-fi usually blow our mind so we tend to give them higher rating??hahaha that’s probably also why it takes more for a contemporary to wow us 😛

          WHOAAA that’s intense?hahaha I bet they must think you’re weird? You probably are but you’re not alone, we’re all in this together haha I FEEL YOU! ❤ Although not with ATBP, I cried so much reading Me Before You :')


  4. I completely agree! I think this is why rating is so, so hard. Like how can you compare a contemporary novel and a fantasy novel? They both have different components you need to consider when rating them, so a 3 star rating for a fantasy novel may not be the same as a 3 star rating for a contemporary novel. Thanks for sharing this and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. interesting topic 🙂 I had double standard but not for differrent genre. I love reading romance book, but if I found kissing, and make out in Indonesia book, I usually drop a star.. But in foreign book, I can tolarate kissing and did not drop a star, I usually drop a star or more if there are explicit sex scene

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I never had the problem.I rate each book I read according to it’s genre.At first,even I had the problem of giving ratings based on fantasy genre(I love fantasy ❤️) but I guess after reading so much mystery and contemporary,I got used to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t read contemporary, so I can’t comment on rating contemporary vs. fantasy, but I think it’s fair to rate however you want. I mean, I rate books based on what they *feel* like. Some book feel like 4 stars, others like 3 stars, others like 5 stars, etc. I have no actually criteria. And so sometimes I do give 4 stars to a book that has no actual flaws. But that’s because, even though it didn’t have flaws, it didn’t blow me away, or didn’t have enough of something for *my* tastes. And books are subjective. So yeah, if the contemporary books just don’t leave the same impression on you as the fantasy books, it’s not that you’re judging based on the genre per se, it’s just that they don’t blow you away in the same way, and I think it’s fair 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ahh so it’s more like go with your guts right? See how the books impact you and based your rating on it? That makes sense and I also use that strategy a lot! 😀 and I’m also marveled to see everyone’s different rating system, it’s fun to know how and why people rate certain books ❤


  8. I do this too! I think I recently wrote a post on how I find it more difficult to rate romance books. Which is crazy, because it’s an amazing genre, and great books do deserve 5 stars. But like you, I can’t stop comparing them to fantasy or such. With fantasy, I rate on the characters, the worldbuilding, the plot and so on. But what do I rate on for romance/contemporary? The characters. Because like you said, the plot is often quite predictable and there is no worldbuilding needed. I find it so frustrating, and I need to start giving more 5 stars to contemporaries I truly loved…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! And I can’t stop thinking how unfair I’m being but I also can’t stop doing it :’) truuuuue! I think I need to think this over, like, what are my deciding factors in each genre? Haha I make rating sounds a lot more complicated than it really is 😛 but YES WE DO! Contemporaries deserve all the love they can get ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I never eally thought about this until you mentioned it but YES TO THIS POST! I think I’ve only ever given Anna and the French Kiss a 5 stars – but I’ve given a bunch of other books in fantasy and sci-fi 5 stars – it’s so weird and kind of sad 😦 Definitely have to think about this topic more!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. HOW DIDN’T I KNOW PEOPLE HAD THIS ISSUE??? Though I noticed that some reviewers rarely give contemporaries 5 stars I didn’t think it was because they compared them to fantasies (though I know it’s not the case for everyone)
    For me I rate each book in its own genre and that makes it a lot easier for me. Especially when it comes to Fantasy, Contemporary and Historical fiction. Those are my 3 favorites so in my mind, they each have criteria that can make for a 5 star rating 😀
    I’ll Give you the Sun and Isla are both 5 stars for me too OMG! I LOVE THEM!!!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahahaha I wasn’t even sure if it’s a thing or just me??! But looking at the comments I received, it seemed like a lot of people also had this issue 😛 I think I should start making my own criteria for each genre too, that will surely make rating a lot easier! YESSSS they’re just so so so good ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree with you when it comes to fantasy – the writer puts more effort when creating a story, he/she has a whole another world to build, and if it’s done right, I guess it deserves one star more then contemporary but….

    Since I read so many genres, I usually try to compare books from the same genre when rating a book.
    That means, I won’t compare Anna and the French Kiss to The Winner’s Curse, because they are from two different genres,
    Sometimes you do find similarities in characters or emotions they provoked, but still, I try to compare contemporary to contemporary, you get it.
    But I think any way can be looked as unfair. It’s just the way it is.

    I’m the worst when it comes to literary fiction. The writing style has to blow my mind in order for me to rate it 4 or five stars.
    And I don’t even rate non.fiction, bc I am not comfortable with it.

    Anyway, I think we readers are ones who make rules and there’s no right or wrong way to rate books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s exactly what I mean! And yeeeessss I think I should start doing what you do, like maybe not compare Tell Me Three Things to Crooked Kingdom? Haha I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help it? 😛 And yes I agree, most of the time rating comes down to how the books really make us feel, so it probably won’t matter if it’s a contemporary or fantasy or even a memoir. I also agree that there’s no right or wrong to do this as long as we’re comfortable with it 🙂 thank you for sharing your opinion! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t really think that I judge books of different genres differently, but there are SO many times where I’ve read a book and even after writing my review, I don’t really have any complaints but I still don’t feel like it’s a 5-star book. There’s just a certain feel that a 5-star book has, ya know? And no matter how much I liked a book, no matter how flawless it is, if it doesn’t leave me with that feeling, it’s not getting 5 stars from me.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is such an interesting topic! I’ve thought about this double standard before and while I don’t have all the answers, I have to admit that I’m exactly like this too – fantasy/sci-fi books can get 5 stars from me, but it’s almost impossible for a contemporary book to get that same rating. Perhaps it’s because I feel like there are so many elements to fantasy/sci-fi books: the world-building, plot, setting, characters, etc., whereas with contemporary books it’s really the characters that drive the plot.

    That being said, though, I am super stingy with my 5-star ratings. This year I’ve given like six books five-star reviews with two of them being contemporary (although one is just my all-time favourite and is a reread), so… well. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 😀 Exactly, but probablyyyy it has something to do with originality too? I mean, fantasy is full of made up stuffs so it’s easier to come up with something new while contemporary deals with real life issues that we might have experienced before. I’m not sure though hahaha 😛 Ahh really? That’s a very low number hahaha but I get it, the more we read, the harder it takes for us to throw away our 5-stars. But I think I’ve given more than 10 5-stars this year 😛


      • Hmmm, I don’t see originality as a problem, tbh – like fantasy has SO MANY TROPES, and if you read tons of fantasy you start noticing all these similarities. But perhaps the ROOM for originality is bigger with fantasy because there’s the setting to think about… 🤔

        Yes, really! I think I’ve just always been very stingy with it, doesn’t matter how many books I read. 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  14. First, I love your discussions post. You always end up coming up with something I’ve never really see discussed and I love it. Second, I completely see your point on this. Weirdly enough I’ve never compared two different genres when I’m rating. I tend to rate each genre differently. For example, I think I rate more based on my enjoyment, the writing, or character development when it comes to contemporaries. But with fantasy I’m a lot tougher and rate based on not just my enjoyment, the writing, and development but also the pacing and world building. It might be because fantasy is my top genre reading wise but more often than not I rate them 4 stars as I’ve read so many great ones that it gets harder and harder to wow me enough for a 5 star rating. It really is interesting to think about how each of us rate books. 😊
    Also, P.S. I Like You and I’ll Give You The Sun are two 5 star contemporaries for me too. I love those books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • THANK YOU! ❤ Don't mean to sound annoying but sometimes I'm surprised by my brain as well 😛 Ohh lucky you! I can't seem to get out of this mind set where I keep comparing one book from certain genre to book from another genre, which is kind of incomparable, honestly.

      Ah I see what you mean! I read so many fantasy too and I've become sort of immune to plot twists? Haha but it does take a lot more to surprise me now. I'm also marveled to know how different people's approach to rating books are! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This is really interesting and also so true! Like you, I mainly read fantasy and contemporary YA and I’m generally more likely to rate fantasy books higher than I do contemporary, because it is my preferred genre. I agree with you on the world building thing – I also kind of feel like more can go wrong/the stakes are higher in fantasy?! I guess I look for totally different things from each genre, so a 4 star fantasy and a 4 star contemporary would never really feel the same, anyway. My little brain is whirring with all the contradictions now, haha! Great discussion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed! I think you just have an infinite number of possibilities in fantasy that you don’t have in real life, so like you say, the potential for blowing people’s minds is that much bigger! I suppose for that reason fantasy books can also be a much bigger disappointment haha. I’ve definitely had that with a few! You’re very welcome. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I do this too, so I really relate to this post! Fantasy is my favourite genre, and so I always give it preference over other genres too, especially in regards to ratings. Whilst to some extent I do think I’m not really being fair, I’ll almost always enjoy a fantasy book more than a contemporary (however good a contemporary it may be), and so because it’s my personal rating of it, I feel like I’m just being honest (that’s how I prefer to think of it, anyway!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yayyy so glad that it’s not just me and that a lot of people could relate to this post! 😀 exactly, I think in the end, it all comes down to how much we enjoy the book and how the book makes us feel, doesn’t it? But either way, every reviewer could rate/review book however they want to and I’m marveled to see everyone’s different approaches! ❤


  17. This is such a brilliant post, Puput! I definitely have a double standard with my ratings. It takes a lot more for a contemporary to impress me and I think it’s because they’re supposed to be /real/. I’m a lot more forgiving in Fantasies because they don’t have that real life attachment to them. Since I don’t give out half ratings or things like that either, if 2 books receive the same rating from me it can mean two completely different things haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ohh this is an intriguing topic! See, I think that I (surprisingly, actually) give a similar amount of 5 stars across genres. I didn’t think I did, actually- I used to think I had fewer contemporary 5 stars, but that isn’t true, it seems. I think for contemporary, if I love it, I REALLY love it. The thing is, I DO think fantasy and such are more complex to rate- so it is, on one hand, easier for them to get more stars. BUT- contemporary, if done well, has fewer elements to deduct starts FROM, so in the end, I guess it’s all a wash for me hahah. Definitely a thought provoking post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Shannon! 😀 OOHHHH I totally agree, since contemporary has less elements most of the time the rating only comes down to how we feel about it, right? But I definitely need to give contemporary more stars though, because there are sooo many that I really enjoy! ❤


  19. I don’t think I really have a double standard. What I have noticed is that I’m super inconsistent in my reviews haha I kind of look at each book individually without really considering my other reads. Which can be a good thing and a bad thing. Good because I’m not comparing. But bad because then what is a five star to me at the time might not actually be. Like maybe I just wasn’t feeling super picky that day or something. I’ve noticed I’ve rated a book, lets say, three stars and at that time I HATED it. Then I’ll read a book that I thought was pretty decent and still rate that one three stars. LIKE WHAT. How does my brain even work like that?!

    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely good thing because who likes to be compared, right?!! Hahaha ah yes sometimes it all comes down to how we feel about the books and our mood/feeling certainly plays a major role in it 😛 But OMG YES! I didn’t realize until I wrote this discussion that RATING IS A SERIOUS BUSINESS! It’s complicated and I’m marveled to see people’s different way of rating books 😛


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  24. This is such an interesting post! I haven’t noticed this about my own rating/reviewing, but now that you brought it up, I will try to be more aware of it. Usually when I rate a genre typically higher than another it’s more about personal taste. Like, objectively I know that this such-and-such contemporary novel is 5-star, but is I prefer the genre of fantasy over contemporary in general, I’ll always rate higher because I just love fantasy. Also my ratings change over time anyway. What I think right when I close the book and hop on Goodreads is usually different than what I think a few months/years later. I have to let books “season” in my brain for a while and they can totally change in my memory, affecting the rating. This comment really wandered, haha, but anyway love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 😀 ahh me too, I think that’s one of the many reasons why fantasy almost always gets higher rating on my shelves haha omg yes! This happens to even when I write a review. There was a book I dislike and I rated it 2-stars, but then as I was writing the review, I realized I had so much negative things to say and decided to change my rating into 1 star haha rating is indeed complicated 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  25. when i started to read contemporaries I had this problem a lot, I somehow thought that a fantasy book deserved more somehow, but I’ve grown out of it luckily. I don’t have a problem throwing 5 stars and I do it much more frequently on contemporaries, because I read a lot more of those now. Great topic 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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