Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Definition of Amazing

I'm not sure I can have a conversation with Hannah at So Obsessed With blog without being inspired for a discussion post. This was one of those conversations. We were discussing some of our favorite books and how incredibly interesting we find it when people give 1 star to a book we 5 star and vice versa. Thus the discussion of the elusive 5 star rating came to be. What makes a book 5 stars? Can you pinpoint exactly what makes it to that level of AMAZING? Is it the story? The characters? The message? The feels?

For me, it is almost an indescribable phenomenon that occurs when reading a book. It changes me in some imperceptible way to those around me but inside I feel different. I have been altered. Some chemistry within me been adjusted to make me see the world a little differently or make me look at something in a way I haven't before reading this. These are the books that are special to me in a way that will stay with me forever. Let me be more detailed...

What makes a book 5 stars to me? 
A little combination of everything. 

I need a story that is poignant and thought-provoking with characters that make me root for them. More often than not, a 5 star book has a character that I see a lot of myself in. I almost always need to feel an emotional connection in the way of identifying with a character. It gets me that much more involved which makes me that much more emotionally invested in the story, thus making that story really mean something to me. This aspect of relating to a character is what might make it take that leap from 4 to 5 stars. 

The storytelling of a book will always play a factor. Certain favorite authors of mine have a way with words that cut at your soul in the best way possible. You feel the words and they are palpable while in the zone of the book. The type of story that makes you anxious as to what will happen next. That pressure of not being able to read fast enough because you can't wait to find out what happens next. The investment in the story that makes you truly care about what happens to the characters. There is nothing like being swept away by a story and looking up a little confused as to where you are. The outside world doesn't exist. It is just you and the book. 

And we have to talk about the feels. *sigh* The feels are what pushes a very good book into amazing territory. That moment that you realize, no it's not a leak in the ceiling, it's a leak in your face. The tears are falling. The story reaches its peak or maybe its end and all you have left is your shattered heart and the broken tears. *sniff* I love that feeling. No, scratch that. I LIVE for that feeling. That emotional pull of a good ugly cry because this book gave you its best and its best was good enough. 

Are all MY 5 star books everyone's 5 star books? Hell no. In fact, I have this weird obsession with reading 1 star reviews of some of my favorite books. I love seeing what people's perceptions of a book were that I fell in love with. What did they see that I didn't? Or what didn't they see that I did? In reverse of that, I also love reading 5 star reviews of books I hate because it helps me to see them through eyes of people that got the book maybe in the way it was meant to be got. Will it change my rating? Probably not because I like to judge, for lack of a better word, a book based on my own unbiased experience. But it is nice to see the two extremes of a book's perspective.

Do all my Goodreads 5 star books fit this criteria? Not exactly. Some of my 5 star reads are just simply that to me--amazing. I love them so much and I love the stories and the characters without them really being 'life-changing.' They are too good to be deemed 4 stars and might fall just short of my 'life-changing' definition but they are still truly amazing.

So what about you? 
What makes a book 5 stars to you? 
What makes it jump from really, really good to amazing?


  1. I love this discussion! A book is five stars to me when I know it's going to stick with me. When I fall in love with the characters and really feel like they are my best friends. And when I get all the feels. I need to feel emotionally invested in a story to give it five stars. I love when you said you're reading a book and then you look up confused as to where you are. That really is the best feeling when you are so immersed in a book that you literally feel like you are there. I actually did a discussion today about why I like books that make me cry which has some similar points to your post. :)

  2. I love what you say about being able to relate to a character. For me, that is definitely what separates a 5-star read from a 4-star read. And I guess I don't necessarily have to feel that a character is similar to me--just as long as I FEEL for them and genuinely care about them, that's what gets me.

  3. Great post! I agree with everything you say, particularly about the reader's perception of a character or story. Different people have different triggers for both good and bad feels. Sometimes it feels like an author just gets you. Really gets you. Other times, you're wondering what planet other people must be on to like the tripe you just finished.

  4. For me it's all about the feels. A 5 star book ignites a passion in me that another, not 5-star book doesn't. And that passion doesn't always have to be one where I gush about how great the book is. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson? Devastated me. Like, I had tear tracks running down my face and it scared my husband because I couldn't talk to him about why I was so upset without crying. City of Bones? ANGER. I'm not lying when I say that I threw that book across the room when I finished it. But then I ran after it, picked it up and promised it would never happen again.

    Now, not all my 5 star books evoke such...heightened passionate experiences, but they touch me in a way that a 4 star read just...can't.

  5. I'm with Kelly, it's all about the feels! If a book had be crying/screaming/depressed/passionate/thrilled etc., then it's likely it'll be a five star read. If it messes with my emotions, it's pretty much guaranteed to be an all time favourite. To Kill a Mockingbird, Tiger Lily, The Ask and the Answer, and The Book Thief are some examples!

  6. 1. They have to make me FEEL. And SHIP. An amazing romance is key for me.
    2. They have to be well-written. I like writing that takes me places or makes me go "HELL YES" or is just so pretty that it hurts.
    3. They have to be re-readable.

    I think that pretty much sums it up. :)

  7. Reading is SO subjective. I get nervous recommending books because really it is our own personal experiences that affect how we feel about a book. I definitely go back and forth about five star books. A lot of the reviews I've written this year in particular -- they might not be perfect but I still want to buy them or there is one factor that really sticks with me and would push me to re-read. It's so hard but I also think it has a lot to do with mood or what's going on in your life? I want a 5-star book to make me feel so many different things, leave such an impression that I'm thinking about it way after, have great plot and character development, and not take the easy road.

    Thanks for writing this!


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