Book and Movie Reviews: Is a 5-star Rating Worthwhile?

Having recently completed and published a vampire fantasy book (Drasmyr), I am currently in the process of seeking out reviewers for it. Obviously, I want to get the highest score I can for my book; theoretically, a five out of five star review should attract reviewers. However, not to naysay the hard work of the reviewers, a five star review doesn’t quite mean what it used to, whether it is for a book, a movie or whatever.


The difference is the Internet; it has opened up the review process to anyone and everyone. I’ve seen some people review classics, like “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, and give it a mere two stars out of five. At the same time, I’ve seen books of far more questionable quality get a score of five out of five stars. Obviously, the problem is that there is a lot of reviewing going on by people who don’t have the literary credentials to be doing so. But this is a free country, and freedom is one of the foundations of the Internet.


Anyway, does this mean that an Internet review is worthless to the consumer? No. It simply means that the consumer must approach the review with care. The consumer must sample the work of the reviewer; if she consistently disagrees with the reviewer’s assessment, then it would be for the best if she sought a different reviewer out; there certainly are plenty of them.


A review is a matter of personal opinion. It always has been, to a certain extent, but it is even more so now. Just because a book is a classic, doesn’t mean everyone will like it. I liked “A Tale of Two Cities,” but there were a few things about it I didn’t like. And just because it is a well-regarded classic, doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to dislike parts of it, or that somebody else can’t give it a mere two stars. In all probability, the two star rating was probably given by somebody who was very young who was looking for an action-packed, pulse-pounding novel, or something similar. There is action and blood (a great deal of blood) in the novel, but it is of an antiquated sort.


As a writer, reviews still concern me (and you, if you write). If I garner five-star reviews in abundance, my book will sell well. However, a single poor review, provided it is not the only review, will not sink my book. In the end, for those who need consolation after getting a poor review, I point to “A Tale of Two Cities” above. A single review, no matter the source, is not the final say.


Of course, knowing this intellectually is not the same as feeling it in your bones. That can be a difficult transition to make.


What do you think?



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About atoasttodragons

The author, Matthew D. Ryan, lives in northern New York on the shores of Lake Champlain, one of the largest lakes in the continental United States, famous for the Battle of Plattsburgh and the ever-elusive Lake Champlain Monster, a beastie more commonly referred to as Champy. Matthew has studied philosophy, mathematics, and computer science in the academic world. He has earned a black belt in martial arts.

5 responses to “Book and Movie Reviews: Is a 5-star Rating Worthwhile?”

  1. Lily Wight says :

    You are so right, Matthew. Reviewing Art in any media is very subjective. There is a world of difference between a layman’s immediate response and the considerations of a professional/academic. I wish the internet would come up with a means to distinguish between the two! xx

    • atoasttodragons says :

      Yeah, given the current state of things, any individual review (whether it is a 1 or a 5) could be a fluke. I think the reasonable approach is to go with aggregate scores. But even that is only broadbased appeal which doesn’t necessarily entail technical skill.

  2. squigamunk says :

    I usually ignore the five star reviews, because (especially on Amazon) they always seem to be reviews meant to get you to buy the book, rather than an actual honest opinion. I personally look at reviews between two and four stars (unless it says “terrible, don’t read” and nothing more). Two, three, and four star ratings indicate to me that whoever wrote the review actually put thought into the book and review, rather than going straight to ‘oh-my-god-squeeee!’ five star ratings or ‘I-chose-one-star-because-I-couldn’t-choose-none.’

    Given that, I will give something a one star review if it was not what it seemed to be (such as a $25 summary of the Hunger Games trilogy advertised as a box set of the trilogy…I was not happy with that particular purchase, to say the least).

  3. kayglassauthor says :

    This is a topic I toss about regularly with a fellow author. He’s been crushed by some very nasty one star reviews lately that have no actual content in them, only nasty words like, “Even though this book was free it wasn’t worth the price” or “A waste of space on my Kindle.” I constantly remind him to pay attention to the content, not just the wording. A review isn’t worth much if it doesn’t provide reasons for the review- be it five star or merely one. While every reviewer is entitled to his or her opinion I urge all my friends who write reviews to write them with care. If it isn’t constructive, don’t post it! When I give a review, be it a good one or a bad, I make sure to post my reasons. And as a consumer I pay attention to the reviews that have content, not just negativity. For that matter, not just the gushing, “This book was the best!” reviews either. I want to know the reason behind a review, and I keep that in mind when I write one as well.

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