The Complexity of Rating Contemporaries

Sunday, June 19, 2016
If you've been here a while, you may or may not know I've done A LOT of discussion posts on ratings, rating systems, when to rate books, et cetera et cetera. But I just finished a book and I realized something I wanted to add to my previous discussion about the complexity of rating systems. And that "something" I want to discuss is genre.

I touched briefly on my lack of specific rating categories for different genres in the original post, but that's not exactly what this is about. Perhaps I'll discuss that at another time, when I've sorted all my opinions out. What I do want to talk about today is the harshness of my ratings when it comes to different genres.

Specifically, I have the tendency to be more critical of contemporary novels than any other genre. I don't know about you guys, but it makes sense in my mind why this would be the case.

Based on my experiences, there are less "categories" that I have to rate when it comes to contemporary. For one, there's no world-building to critique. Contemporary is about the present on this very planet, so there's not much world that needs building that we don't already know about. Also, although romance can be a part of contemporaries, it seems that there are more books without a romantic focus in the contemporary genre than any other.

In addition, since it's a story that takes place in our world, I want the story to have meaning. In my opinion, it needs substance; it needs an emotional plot and deeper character development than any other genre. While I know there are "cutesy" contemporaries that can be as equally as enjoyable to read, unless they're executed brilliantly, they rarely receive above 4 stars in my book.

Lastly, the characters play even more of a role in the story. Unlike science fiction or fantasy, the plot of a contemporary novel cannot be carried by the evil villains or magic and mayhem. In my opinion, the best characters in contemporaries have to be written better and must be more flawed, more raw, and often more emotionally hurt to make it a good story. They are the driving force of the plot, after all. And not only do they need to go through greater catharses than in other genres, but I also have to like them. Not that I want to read about horrid characters in other genres, but it makes even more of a difference in contemporaries.

So in summary, I guess what I meant to say is that my criteria for contemporaries is almost identical to my criteria for other genres, but said criteria matters even more for me in contemporaries.

What do you guys think? Do you rate specific genres more harshly than others?



9 comments :

  1. I always thought that fantasy books were harder to critique because you had to comment on the whole world-building part and there had to be some really great character development. I always thought contemporaries were easy because you just had the romance and the plot. But you've made some very great points towards your argument of how contemporaries are harder to rate. In terms of rating, I tend to rate books based on the more general aspects- you know- how much I liked the plot, how I liked the characters and if the sequence of the story was at all logical. I'm not like super super harsh like some reviewers but I've learned a couple of things from book blogging.


    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

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    1. I know what you mean in terms of fantasy books, and I do think that there are more things that need to be analyzed when rating them, but yeah I think overall because there are less things to critique I'm harsher on contemporaries. You've brought up some great points as well!

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  2. I don't think i rate contemporaries harsher. Contemporaries are my favorite stories to read (not the cutesy ones). I love reading books about other people's experiences, and I love reading about darker themes. I think certain subgenres of contemporaries I rate harsher than others, but not the genre as a whole.

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  3. I definitely think I rate contemporaries more harshly, mainly because I don't like contemporary. Ok, I like SOME contemporary, but it has to REALLY blow me away. And I think all your points apply to me as well! Like because there's no world-building, and the plot won't relate to villains or magic or whatever, a lot more needs to be put in the development of the characters. Also, I tend to find the plots of contemporary very predictable, which is normal because that's based on real life, right? But all the more reason to focus more on character development. :)

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    1. I do enjoy reading contemporaries, but I agree, they really have to blow me away or else I find them kind of dull and like you said, predictable. As much as I like reading about fictional characters' "real" lives, I want the story to be meaningful.

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  4. I also think I rated contemporary more harsly. Like you said, they don't have magic or other original fantasy to rate for, and the plot are usually the same for contemporaries (love, growing up, etc). So for me it really depends on the characters, the atmosphere, and the description. I'd love to be taken away to another place, even though still in our own world, and author that manage to do that would earn a plus for me. Also, if there's a romance, it will go into consideration. I realy hate insta love so it definitely would lower the rating :D This is such an interesting discussion :)

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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    1. I agree with everything you just said! And thank you so much!

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  5. Thankfully, most of the contemporary novel I've read have been very good. I think what makes or breaks a contemporary is how and if they deliver a message. Sometimes their characters are kind of forgettable, because they're not as flashy as fantasy protagonists. You have to fall in love with their story and personality and what they want to project in order to remember.

    I think it's totally reasonable to be a bit harsh with this specific genre.

    Wonderful post by the way!

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    1. Thank you!!! And I agree--the message is a key element for me, and the characters' personalities and growth are so important.

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