Friday, July 9, 2010

A Perfect Ten

This week I did something unprecedented on this blog. I gave a book a perfect 10.

For those of you who are unaware, my content scores are given on a 1 to 10 scale. The lowest score I've ever given is a 5, and I don't really foresee giving anything lower than that. So it's really sort of like a 5 to 10 scale - where everyone gets a 5 because to be a published book you have to be semi-decent. If I give lower than a five, then it truly means something is awful.

So what do I mean by each number I give?

  • 5 - This book was awful and I sort of regret reading it. I will not recommend it to my friends, in fact, I'll do the opposite. Example: The Law of Nines
  • 6 - This book was ok. I don't regret reading it, but I don't know if I will recommend it to my friends. It would have to be part of a really great series to get that. Example: The High King's Tomb
  • 7 - This book was good. Not phenomenal, not bad, but good. I enjoyed reading it and will probably recommend it to friends if its up their particular alley. Example: The Vanishing Sculptor
  • 8 - This book was great. I will recommend it to anyone who likes the genre, will probably spend a little bit of time contemplating its hidden meanings, and will probably one day read it again. Example: Pretties
  • 9 - This book was excellent! It's a must read. I will recommend it to everyone who I know likes reading, and I will definitely end up re-reading it at some point. A 9 means this book makes it onto my list of favorite books. Example: The Name of the Wind
  • 10 - This book was stunning. Everyone must read it. I will recommend it to everyone who is literate. It is one of my favorite books and will reread it multiple times. I'll read it when I'm uninspired, so it will inspire me. I'll read it when I'm bored, so it will excite me. I'll read it when I'm sick, so that I still feel active. I'll probably read it aloud to my kids one day. Example: The Hunger Games
  • "Greatest Books of All Time" - ok, this isn't a number. If I post a review for one of these, I'll still just give it a 10. But what is my criteria to be one of the greatest books of all time? It has to be a book that makes me want to reread it yearly. It has to entertain me every time I reread it, and it has to teach me something new every time I reread. Their are currently only two books on this list: Ender's Game and A Wrinkle in Time.

In general, I tend to give a lot of 7s and 8s. A handful of 9s dot the reviews, and I rarely give out 6's or 5's. I hate giving bad reviews. Most every book has a redeeming quality that makes it worth at least a 7.

But if 9's are great books I'll definitely re-read, what's the real difference between a 9 and a 10?

In a 10, I need to feel like the main character is me. I need to relate with the main character on such a deep level, that everything they say resonates within me. Meg Murray, Ender Wiggin, Kantiss Everdeen, these are characters that I feel express parts of my soul. Am I a girl tesseracting through time and space to save my father? No. Am I a boy in Battle School trying to save the human race? No. Am I a teenager stuck in some weird version of gladiator meets survivor? No. But parts of these characters are all me. Like Meg I sometimes feel monstrous, and I want others to fix my problems for me. Like Ender I was a very bright child who sometimes felt separate and distant from others, and my older brother resents me. Like Kantiss, I would give my life for my younger sister, and I would want to trust even in a world where everyone is trying to kill you. All these characters are a part of me.

This is what makes a book truly stunning. It's not how you can outsmart me and turn everything I know on its head. That will get you a 9. To get a 10, I have to feel so deeply for your main character that they are a part of me. To get a 10, your main character and I need to have something in common.

This is why, in general, I dislike YA books so much. I can never relate to the whiny, rebellious, angsty teenager. That was simply not me as a teen and never has been.

But Kantiss wasn't a whiny, rebellious, or angsty teen, and I related to her.

And that's what makes The Hunger Games a 10.

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