Discussion- It’s hard for me to rate books outside my typical genre

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Recently I’ve been trying to expand my reading horizons so have taken on a contemporary (Anything Could Happen) andΒ  a magical realism (The Cost of All Things). Both books have been a great reading experience for me but I’m realizing that it’s hard for me to really rate or critique them.

When reading a genre I’m used to I find it so much easier to see where the author might have gone outside the norm or what might fall into the typical clichΓ©s (paranormal books anyone?) But having little experience with contemporary or even middle grade sort of leaves me at a loss.

I’ve found this to be an interesting thing to have occurred and wonder if it’s actually a good thing. I am basing my reviews and opinions solely on what is in front of me. I don’t have other books impacting what I’m reading and it’s really refreshing.

Although refreshing I have found that it does make writing a review more challenging. I find myself completely out of words and since I done have a lot to base it on I’m at a loss for how it might go over with other readers. It almost feels like when I first started blogging and writing reviews.

Do you feel like this when you go out of your typical genres?

Comments

  1. says

    My genres include everything from YA to Adult and in between (and beyond, sometimes), but I rarely or never read Middle Grade. I actually have a MG novel to review soon and I agree that it’s a bit difficult because it’s not what I’m used to or what I usually look for in books. However, I also agree that it’s a bit refreshing to review a book and not be impacted by what other people are saying. I guess I’m still more comfortable reviewing the types of books I usually read – I’m definitely not trying too hard to go out of my comfort zone. Great post, Kristen!

  2. Tsuki @ Tsuki's Books says

    I rarely review outside of my genre because i have different standards. I am much harsher on romance novels because I read so many. They need to “wow me” or they need to not have certain aspects for me to like them. Mystery, fantasy, and nonfiction are almost never rated on my blog. I think it is because I have very little to say about them. When asked I usually say “I liked/disliked it.” and that’s it. For example, I read “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman and described it as “Emo Harry Potter from book 5 goes to college for five years in one book and then travels to Narnia…it was okay.” I had very little to say other than I planned to read the other two books. My review would have been a paragraph.

    So in general I typically only review my usual genre because I have more to say.

  3. says

    I know what you mean! I feel like it can definitely be easy to rate and review books when you’ve read similar ones to compare them too. You can think “was this original or too similar?” and other things like that. I totally agree, though, that it can be nice to read books outside of your “norm” because you offer a different perspective that other people may not notice. When I read contemporary, which is my main genre, I compare it to other books (especially with my rating) and that may take away from its value in other ways.
    When Red Queen first came out, lots of avid fantasy readers said that it was too similar to many other books out there. Because I don’t read THAT much fantasy (and had never read the specific books it was being compared to), I didn’t have nearly as many issues with the book. It helps to have a wide variety of opinions, from experienced and inexperienced readers of the genre!
    Great post πŸ™‚

  4. says

    I find myself having the same problem sometimes. It is always nice to know how you rat books of the same genre, but at the same time sometimes you become too saturated! I read a lot of young adult fantasy novels and sometimes I find myself saying “oh this was done better in this book” or something to that effect and I feel like I don’t allow myself to just enjoy the actual book because I am comparing it to something else. I think because there are only so many tropes and ways to do a story in some genres, it gets super repetitive and you end up feeling as though you are reading the same story over and over again and compare. At the same time though, reading one of those staple novels of a genre gives you some sort of foundation for reading others of the same and gives you the opportunity to critique it in a way that makes sense.

  5. says

    First, I adore that Castle GIF! It’s so absolutely perfect!!
    I don’t read all that much contemporary or middle grade either, but I still feel like I can talk about how that experience feels for me, including a disclaimer about that.

  6. says

    This is really good that you are having a challenge writing the reviews for the new genres you are reading. I know for me after I a read a bunch of books in a genre I feel like I begin to repeat myself in my reviews, because I’ll constantly be seeing the same (let’s say) six things in every book I have read. For your case, you are being challenged to look for things that really stood out to you and how that made you feel or reminded you of something, etc. Your opinion about these new books are pure, fresh while others who have been reading the same genre over and over are becoming biased.

  7. says

    We are totally mind twins since i have in my drafts “Does blogging force you to read outside of your comfort zone?” which i will not be writing now lol. This is a great topic. Lately i have been trying to branch out of the Fantasy genre and it’s pretty tough. I love MG but i find contemps tough to review. I usually think the MC is an idiot so i am often cruel. A friend suggested I start reading more issue books so that is what I am going to try since my i am not too fond of the plain old romance books. I also feel myself getting a bit tired of fantasy (blasphemy i know). Great post lady!!
    <3 Britt

  8. says

    I’m too old to expand my horizons – well, not really. But because I’m a slow reader, I tend to stick to my own favorite genres, if possible. I will delve into books that come close or have something in common with genres I usually read, however. For instance, I’m not much into murder mysteries or crime thrillers, but if (for example) the protagonist is a strong woman, I won’t turn it down. Also, if it has a time-frame, location place, or population group that interests me, I might read it. But there are some genres I just can’t get into and I know I won’t do them justice if I read their books for review.

  9. says

    Kind of. My rating “system” is based on how much I liked a book, which I found make it difficult rating nonfiction since I don’t necessarily *enjoy* it, but otherwise, pretty simple. I guess I just keep writing about the elements that do and don’t work for me, and sometimes people well-versed in another genre will let me know if something’s “normal” in that genre in the comments. πŸ™‚

  10. says

    Yes yes yes! So this! I struggled with this when I read a contemporary the other month. It was a good book, but I didn’t know how to rate it because it wasn’t “my” kind of book. But I’ve been expanding out of fantasy and I’ve quite enjoyed it overall.

  11. says

    I think this is such an interesting discussion post because it makes me think back to all the times I’ve had difficulty writing a review for a book that I read in a genre I don’t read as often.

    What I usually seem to do, if I am not as familiar with the genre of the book is see what doesn’t work for me as a reader so that I am able to share my criticisms but also make it clear that it’s more specific to my personal tastes than the genre?

  12. says

    It feels similar to me. I don’t write reviews often, so I don’t have the problem with finding words for them, but it’s the same “problem” with rating outside-my-typical-genre-books on goodreads or when talking to others. I never know how to compare and therefore say if it was a truely good book – on the other hand I can simply say wheter I liked it or not, which maybe is even better. It’s honest.
    When reading books from your usual genre you always have certain expectations and your disappointed when it doesn’t fit, even if you try not to be like that. You are more critical. At least that’s how it feels to me. Sometimes I think I could have enjoyed a book more, when there weren’t all the other books of that genre I already read and all those expectations… That I would have loved it then. It’s kind of sad and then I always know it’s time to get a book from whatever genre I don’t touch very often πŸ™‚

  13. says

    Yup, there are some genres that just aren’t going to work for me, like historical fiction, magical realism and high fantasy. Sometimes i’m surprised though, but yeah it’s hard to review something we aren’t really enjoying, or don’t feel passionately about.

  14. says

    Hmm it’s never really occurred to me whether or not I feel the same way as you but the more I think about it, I can definitely agree in some ways! It’s pretty hard for me to think of things to say when writing reviews for fantasy novels because I feel like I’m repeating myself all the damn time haha.

    • says

      Yep, I feel like I repeat myself on all my reviews lately πŸ™ I think I’ve exhausted all the way to express loving a book or whatnot. haha

  15. says

    I love this post Kristen. <3 And I very much agree with you about most of it too πŸ™‚ I have issues with books I'm not usually reading too. Like.. I gave Every Last Word 5 stars. Because I loved it so much. But I keep thinking if I should have given it four stars, since I don't usually like this genre thingy at all :p Anyway. Love reading your thoughts about everything πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3

    • says

      Thanks Carina. I really should read Every Last Word. I have heard great things but knowing it’s not my genre I’ve not been inclined to read it πŸ™

  16. says

    I absolutely struggle with rating and reviewing books that are outside my comfort zone. I realized this when I finished Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I knew I liked it, but it was hard for me to verbalize why. I don’t often read books that are not YA. And there was stuff in the book that was satire, which I think I’m almost entirely non-versed in.

    I guess my reviews and ratings are relative to the books I’m used to reading.

  17. says

    I definitely have this problem! I mostly read fantasy, but I’ve been challenging myself to read more contemporary novels lately. I don’t read many of them, so I’ve honestly got not clue what’s “cliche” or not, and that makes it difficult to write reviews, especially if lots of other reviewers say that a book element is cliche, but it didn’t feel that way to me because I haven’t read many books in the genre! I feel obligated to point it out in my review but at the same time, it isn’t MY opinion. Does that make any sense?

  18. says

    I have this problem sometimes. I try to read a New Adult books last year and I didn’t have a hard time writing review of it. But once, after I finished an Adult (or new adult? Not sure) books, I really can’t write a review of it that I end up didn’t reviewing at all. So I guess it depends for me!

    • says

      Same! There have been books I’ve read that I’ve not bothered to review since I got stuck trying to write about them. I’m happy to know I’m not alone in that.

  19. says

    This is true though! I don’t like certain genres for the most part (like contemporary), but I push myself to read them, and sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t? So it is weird when trying to rate/review because it’s really just me and my non-preference for contemporary – or is it the book itself? Gaaaahhh. I have no answers/help for this. Someone help me too! πŸ˜€

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  20. says

    I am someone who reads a bit of a different genres and not necessarily just one, which means I don’t really get this problem because I have always read a wide array of genres since childhood. But I can understand how you could get this if you don’t know how to compare it to other books which fall under the same genre. I can only think it will get better after reading a couple books in the genre.

  21. says

    You make an excellent point with this post! The genre I read the most is Young Adult Fiction but even in that genre, I mostly focus on contemporary and fantasy YA. So if I read middle grade or historical fiction (I’ve read one historical fiction book this year so far), I would I have trouble rating the books I read. Unfortunately, I also rarely stray outside my typical genres because I know which genres I’m less likely to enjoy.

    – Rachana @ Addicted to YA

  22. says

    I’ve recently been reading more historical fiction books and struggle with the same thing. For the most part this drives me insane. I have the same issue with reviewing. I just wrote my review for This Monstrous Thing and I was at a loss for what to write in that review. It is good to go out of our comfort zones though. Eventually it will get easier.

    Amber ❀ The Book Bratz

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