Four Book Rating Scales That Should Exist (But Don’t)

Retail sites and reader communities are all about star ratings. Which is fine. It’s an easy way for people to tell at a glance how much you enjoyed a book. But sometimes this scale is a bit too generic. Too…ordinary. If you want to really stand out, try ranking a book by the following scales:

The Kleenex Rating

All Bethany House books end with hope (not necessarily a perfect happy ending), but oh, can there ever be some sad moments in between! There’s something about a good cry while reading that is a perfect tension reliever. Whether you’re mourning a beloved character’s death, or just sympathizing with a heroine who is experiencing a similar struggle to what you’re going through, novels have a strong power to influence our emotions. I think the last Bethany House book that made me cry was From the Start by Melissa Tagg. (Yes, it’s a romantic comedy, but there’s one moment where I lost it…if you’ve read it, you can probably guess which one.)


This rating, in my mind, would include the number of tissues you went through while reading, which would correspond to the number of sad moments in the book. (Unless there was a really tragically sad moment that took more than one Kleenex.) Whether tears of joy count for this can be left up to your discretion.

The Theme Park Thrill Scale

I’m stealing this one directly from Disney World rides. To ensure that you’re aware of the intensity of a particular ride (without listening to the scream level outside of it), Disney helpfully categorizes their rides, and I think the same categories can apply well to books.

“Fun for Everyone”: A great story, loveable characters…and nothing that will scare you. These are for the people who like the focus to stay on the relationships and would rather not be terrified along the way.

“Wild but Mild”: You can still probably read these late at night without consequences, but there’s a suspense/thriller angle to the story that will keep you turning pages. (I’d include historical books with a mystery element, like Roseanna M. White’s Ladies of the Manor series.)

“Thrillers”: Hang on for plot twists and a roller coaster of suspense and emotions as characters are put in jeopardy. There may be violent situations, unsolved crimes, and bad guys lurking around every corner. (Insert every Dani Pettrey book here.)

“WHAT?” Moment Count

This is a numeric value exactly equal to the number of times you asked, “WHAT?” while reading a book. This could be astonishment at a new revelation, anger at the unbelievable stunts pulled by an incredibly narcissistic villain (shout out to Someone Like You for bringing this out in me), or giddy excitement by a character’s reaction to something. Obviously, a good mystery like Dressed for Death will have plenty of these, but even character-driven women’s fiction or historical romance should make you react emotionally to what’s going on.

Scoville (Romance) Heat Units

Okay, fine, the original scale was determined to measure the heat of peppers. But we can adapt it for our purposes, right?


If you’re measuring the romance as a whole or just the hero in particular, it’s good to know if you’ll be reading something bell pepper bland, chipotle spicy, or habanero hot!

Any other scales come to mind, readers? (If you’re a blogger/reviewer and use a creative scale of your own, feel free to tell us about it!)

11 thoughts on “Four Book Rating Scales That Should Exist (But Don’t)

  1. Hmmm, there are SO MANY times a sudden hitch comes up in a story, and I ask (the author) ” Now what will you do (write,plot) to get them out of THIS?”
    It happens so often that it may be something to rate?

  2. The “What!” rating made me smile. I said that a lot while writing Someone Like You. So did Zeke and Julia. No spoilers, but they win in the end and it’s sweet for them indeed 🙂

  3. i use the KissingBooks level scale (patent pending… ok, not really) on my blog – rating kisses in my clean/Christian fiction books on a scale from “IS this a Kissing Book?” all the way up to “Stick your head in the freezer to recover” 😉

  4. This post was SO fun. (Is it wrong that hearing that FTS made you cry made me smile? <–Also is that the most confusingly worded sentence ever, or what?)

    Lately, my scale is: Did I keep reading it? I think I'm getting pickier with what I read…not because I'm a book snob, but because I don't have nearly as much time to read as I used to. Another scale: how many times did it make me laugh out loud?? Those Drew Farthering books definitely blew away both those scales–I kept reading and laughed out loud so many times. Oh my goodness, I flew through all four of those books in a week. L-o-v-e!!

  5. Okay, Melissa, you don’t know how big I’m smiling right now. Having someone like you enjoy my series makes me so happy.

    Consider that Drew thanks you with his usual suavity.

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