What Makes a 5 Star Book? ︱Discussion

In my first years as an avid reader, I gave quite a few books 5 stars. That being said, I’ve noticed that with time I’ve become a bit more critical with my reviews. Not only that, I’ve also learned what I like and what I don’t like in books so I’m not as easily influenced by other people’s opinions, which would happen to me a lot and cause me to rate novels higher than I probably should have.

So, after 4 years of being a bookwork, I can finally answer the question: what does a book need for me to rate it 5 stars?

First of all, characters are really important. I don’t want to read a story where I don’t care about the characters because, that way, there are no stakes and, in my opinion, virtually no reason for me to read the book to begin with. Now, the characters don’t need to be likeable (although that certainly helps), BUT I need to like them. This might sound contradictory, but take Vicious by V. E. Schwab as an example. The protagonists, Victor, and Eli are far from being classified as “good” people – they are both ruthless and have done horrible things. Nonetheless, I still like them because they’re very complex and you get see the reasoning behind their actions.

Speaking of, if the characters, especially the main ones, are as bland as a slice of white bread, that immediately makes me rate a book lower. I think that’s even worse than having characters I don’t like since, at least that way, I can still discuss what I don’t like about their personality. However, if they don’t have one, there’s not much to talk about.

Something else that is definitely a plus is if I can relate to any of the characters. Surprisingly, it’s not often that I find a character that I really see myself in so when I do, it’s always a bonus for me. One example of this is Cody, the protagonist of Late to the Party, one of my favourite books that I’ve read this year. In my review I literally wrote “Codi is me. I’m Codi” – it just made me love the book even more.

I’m not the kind of reader who is attracted to overly lyrical and flowery writing. Usually when I hear either of those two words, I tend to be a bit more hesitant to pick up that book because in my mind it means: lyrical writing = hard to read = it will take a million years to finish = I don’t want to read it anymore. That being said, it’s all about balance and execution. Reading about all the different green shades of a tree leaf that’s in the background of a scene is undoubtedly too much for me. On the other hand, it’s also not super pleasant to read a book and feel like the author either didn’t give a crap about how it was written or has very poor writing kills.

What I mean by execution is this: you can tell when an author is trying too hard to make their writing beautiful and stand-out. For instance, it definitely felt that way in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue with all the confusing and silly metaphors. An author that totally nailed this though is Laini Taylor in the Strange the Dreamer duology – it’s more than clear that she has a gift for writing as eveything flows really nicely.

Some people don’t mind if a book has virtually no plot as long as they are invested in the character. Although I can see where they’re coming from, I need at least something substantial to happen – it doesn’t need to be super action packed or anything but just enough to keep me engaged. Tweet Cute does this flawlessly – it has the perfect pacing and just the right amount of things happened to make me want to keep reading.

You know those books that basically carve a place in your heart and your mind and then you just can’t stop thinking about them? THOSE are my kind of books. If a story and its characters are living in my mind rent free, then I know that book is a new favourite (that sometimes is also true for books I don’t like but it’s rare). Also, if a book has made me cry or was really thought-provoking, there’s a much higher change I’ll rate it 5 stars – it’s not guaranteed though!

Our world is full of beautifully different people and when I read a book I want it to reflect that. Of course, you can’t have every type of representation out there in one single story, but at least have a few characters that aren’t white, cisgender and straight. I’m gonna have to mention Late to the Party again sorryyyy because Kelly Quindlen did an amazing job at including a very diverse cast of characters without it feeling forced. Sometimes authors seem to include minorities simply to appear “woke” and it comes across as if they were just checking off a list. You can tell that is the case when those characters turn out to be very underveloped and just there to help the white, cishet MC continue their story. Obviously, I also very much value representation that isn’t related to race, gender or sexuality as that’s equally as important!

A little side note: just because a book isn’t diverse doesn’t necessarily make me rate it lower, but it does make a difference and I always really appreciate it when that’s not the case.

What makes YOU rate a book five stars? Let me know in the comments!

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25 thoughts on “What Makes a 5 Star Book? ︱Discussion”

  1. Susana this was a great discussion post!! Same here, characters are the most important for me in a five star book… I really liked the point you brought out about then not needing to be likeable in personality but admirable in the way they’re crafted – ahh Vicious, perfect example, I haven’t read Vengeful yet and am curious to witness the dynamics between Eli and Victor… relationships being a big hit or miss for me in books! So glad to hear that you loved the writing in Strange the Dreamer, I’ll be checking that one out soon! ✨ Lovely post! 💖

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  2. Great post!! I started my book rating by giving a LOT of books five stars, even if I read them long ago and only vaguely remember that I like. Now most of that has been reduced to four stars or three stars because five stars is reserved only for the very best. I think what makes me make a book a five star is its impact, like the edge of your seat feeling you get while reading or the book hangover you get after.
    Late to the Party is on my TBR and I heard someone call it a love letter for introverts and I need to read it so much

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yess, I did the exact same thing! And now I look back at those books and I’m like “why did I give it 5 stars again?”.
      Book hangovers are both the best and worst things: best because you know you just read an amazing book or series but worst because it ended up and it leaves you feeling so empty.
      I definitely agree with that person! I really hope you love Late to the Party once you get to it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally agree with you on all these points. Years ago if I thought a book was pretty good then I would just give it 5 stars on goodreads and move on. I am way more critical since I started blogging and these days it’s pretty hard to get 5 stars from me. It’s hard to describe exactly what makes it for me though because it could tick all of these boxes and still just be a 4.5. There has to be some sort of “spark” for me to give it a full 5 stars!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, I was the same way! Now it’s pretty rare that I give 5 stars, too.
      I totally understand what you mean: sometimes a book seems to be “objectively” perfect yet it doesn’t feel like a 5 star, because it’s missing that *something* that you can’t quite pinpoint.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. i agree with EVERYTHING you just said. like, your thoughts are MY thoughts. i, too, love laini taylor’s writing. i honestly think she’s the only one who can pull it off. as i’ve grown, i’ve also developed more of a guideline to how i rate books! it makes me feel more organized! to add on to what you said, pacing means a lot to me; if it doesn’t flow and give an impact right, at the perfect moments, then that’s a bummer for me; can’t be too fast or too slow, you know? a book that perfectly does this is “a dowry of blood” by s.t. gibson.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahaha don’t worry, I love reading long comments, like the fact that you took the time to write all of that just to reply to my post makes my heart so happy 🥺💞 thank you!!

        Liked by 1 person

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