I have an idea. Shocking, I know. It concerns book reviews. Not reviews that I receive but rather my review of other books. There’s something I may start incorporating into my review process, and I’d like to know what you think.
Almost every other mode of entertainment goes through some kind of rating system that enables the entertained at least a hint of what to expect in terms of what could be considered offensive content. But not novels. Nope. When you crack open the cover of even a great novel, it’s likely you may be taken completely by surprise when that explicit sex scene pops up (whether a good surprise or a bad one is judged by the reaction of each individual reader).
So, my dilemma is this: I work at a school and have somewhat of a “religious” following if you will, even a young one. The last thing that I want is to give 5 stars to a book, praising its artistic quality, and have one of my young or sensitive fans taking it as a recommendation for them. Not if the book is full of sex, language and other things that most people wouldn’t want their children reading. So here’s my idea. When I rate a book that has a ton of language and explicit sexual scenes, rather than giving it fewer stars than the quality of the overall book deserves (in my opinion, of course) or writing a disclaimer a paragraph long, I’m thinking of including a simple key much like the one you see at the top of your TV episodes.
General Audiences, Mature Audiences, etc… And S, L, V, etc…
That way my bases are covered in a rather simplistic way. Yeah, this book was amazing, the writing sound, the plot faultless… (MA: S, V) So people will know that I really liked the book, but for the fans of mine that don’t want to be taken by surprise by certain elements, they’ll know going in to be prepared or to avoid the book altogether (which may help keep negative reviews down for the author, too).
What do you think?
I’ve seen reviews blast books for not disclosing that they contain religious elements or “unpopular” views challenging the party line, and in those cases it seems that the reviewer wants a huge stamp across the front cover stating “WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS A RELIGIOUS THEME THAT YOU MAY NOT AGREE WITH!” I think that’s stupid and highly hypocritical since, if these people had their way in any objective sense, then every book written would have to have a list that revealed every thought and idea within the book that someone might not agree with. Of course they wouldn’t want that. They only want book descriptions to come out and tell them what THEY won’t like about the book. And if there was a warning on the book concerning something THEY did agree with (WARNING: THIS BOOK PROMOTES ATHEISM), they would no doubt be up in arms as to why the book should be made to disclose this.
A friend of mine wrote a book that weighs the pros and cons of the God vs. no God scenarios. The book ends up favoring the belief that there is a God. So the reviewers that are atheists slammed the book, calling it an agenda piece, etc. However, if the author had favored the atheistic view, surely those reviewers would have praised the book, not slammed it. In fact, one of the reviewers that tore it up pretty good had someone else thank him for warning him to stay away from it, saying, “The religious based biased books are annoying. If they are such good Christians, why aren't they tolerant and respectful of other people and their beliefs?” And that just makes me laugh. The guy is saying that the author is somehow intolerant and not respectful of other peoples’ beliefs when the guy has just judged a book HE NEVER EVEN READ because of his intolerance for “religious biased books!” It’s bad when you get reviewers reviewing a book they didn’t read. But I guess that privilege is only reserved for objective, non-biased, and tolerant people!
Anyway, sorry for the mini rant. I just find it humorous the things that some find offensive, demanding THAT material be disclosed to them ahead of time. But again, it’s a completely selfish position that demands the world’s artists must inform them of any “concept” they might find offensive but would cry intolerance if the things they believed were stamped with warnings.
So, I won’t disclose that type of warning in my reviews. Religious, secular, whatever… It’s supposed to be a country free of book burning where everyone is able to make up their own mind about whatever they want. I’ll leave that kind of criticism (when it comes to a novel) to others (and I know that every side of every conflicting idea is guilty of it). I only wish to offer a warning of content, not of concept. And as I said before, every other mode of entertainment, from pornography to TV to movies to video games to music contains this.
It’s either that or I don’t review certain books that some might be offended by (I don’t need a parent coming to me and asking why I recommended that their 15 year old read…..).
Does this make sense to anyone? Good idea, bad?