That Time I Almost Didn’t Read A Book Because Of The Ratings

Back in May I talked a bit about how social media/the internet can affect me as a reader & one of those things was how seeing ratings and opinions can affect the books I’m considering picking up or starting to read. It’s a struggle for me to pick up books without consulting the internet to check what ratings say. On one hand it’s helpful in weeding out books that probably wouldn’t work for me and finding the books that probably WILL work better for me. But on the other hand? Sometimes I’m not picking up books SOLELY because of poor ratings. I’ve had a book in my hand at the bookstore before and then saw it ONLY had like a 3.4 average rating on Goodreads and put it back. Books that SOUNDED good but I’m like NOPE look at those ratings, look at all the hate.

And that was the case for this book — 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen


I had gotten it for review and was excited about it. And then the reviews started coming in….super negative and the average rating was much lower than it is now (it was like a 3.4 or something I think at one point). Some of the reviews made the book sound AWFUL and ridiculous and I was like NOPE and took it off my shelf and put it into a box to deal with later with my other castoffs. I was so sad about it. But then it caught my attention later because a few people I really trust LOVED it and gave it 4 & 5 star reviews so I was like WHAT EVEN I NEED TO KNOW. So I decided to read it. AND I REALLY LIKED IT.

In this case the SUPER jarring difference in ratings really intrigued me to pick it up. And the things that people who were loving it were saying about it made me realize OH MAN…these are things I WOULD LOVE ABOUT IT and not things that would bother me.

What 17 First Kisses Is About:

So it’s about a girl who has kissed quite a few guys but nothing STICKS really into boyfriend material and guys that she is interested in ALWAYS seem to end up liking her bff. And then in walks Luke. And both girls have their eyes set on him but Claire feels so much differently about him than the other guys…like there’s something real there. So the story goes back through Claire & Megan’s history as friends, all of Claire’s kisses & Claire’s family life but also is at the present where Claire has to choose what to do with her feelings for Luke and her friendship with Megan.

While I felt like sometimes it was a BIT dramatic and the high school hierarchy was exaggerated a bit IMO, I really REALLY liked this book. And the things that made so many people give it 1 stars? Those were things that didn’t bother me personally.

Things That Made Me Enjoy This Book:

+ It was actually a lot “deeper” & emotional than I thought it would be — the summary makes it seem a little more frivolous and fun than it is. Claire’s family is going through some tough stuff and I just thought this book really opened up some interesting dialogue about serious and emotional topics.

+ Family & friendship focuses: Okay so there’s the whole Luke thing but really at the heart of this book is about family and friendships. The friendships painted could have easily been the cliche popular mean girls story but I actually really thought they were well done and the girls were very real to me. I loved watching the friendship between Claire and Megan start and evolve and learn all the inner-workings of the group and those two. There were some not cool things they did to each other but it was realistic struggle and I loved watching them try to sort it out because their friendship really DID matter.

+ the storytelling: It just really worked how everything was revealed and how we learned more and more about Claire.

+ the slut-shaming dialogue: This is where a lot of people HATED this book — all the slut-shaming. BUT MAN did I find it super realistic and reminiscent of myself as a high schooler back in the day. I learned how unhealthy and wrong it was but it took me becoming an adult to realize that. For me, just because I HATE things that are happening in a book does not mean I hate the book. It was hard to read but the thing is IT HAPPENS A LOT and the slut shaming in this book had a point. There are a lot of reasons why I think people slut shame (I think a lot of it is a defense mechanism & insecurity — at least it was for me) and I think that this book really explored those in such an authentic and honest way.

+ the flawed, round characters: Yeah, you aren’t going to like all the things they do and say. The girl hate. The slut-shaming. The mean girl antics at time. The friendship no-nos. But if we laid out the book of MY teenage life (especially my inner monologue)….I guarantee none of you would like ME on paper when you focus on my flaws and ignore the growth (however miniscule) and the GOOD things. I totally dated a boy my sister liked, I backstabbed, I slut-shamed and I did things that 28 year old Jamie is NOT proud of. Sometimes I knew they were wrong and sometimes I didn’t. These characters reminded me of the beauty of this age because of how much you are finding yourself through mistakes and experience (lots of firsts) and how there is SO much room for growing and learning. So that was an aspect that, while I get why others didn’t like these characters, I totally did.

*I had to edit this post, because after I scheduled it, Hannah wrote this AMAZING post and a Twitter convo between myself, Hannah and Rachel prompted another paragraph*

Hannah’s whole point of her post is being true to yourself and reading the books YOU want to read. Obviously we rely on recommendations and blogs  to help us but we shouldn’t forget why WE want to read something despite what ratings and reviews say. One of the things I mentioned while talking to these ladies is how I’ve gone back and looked at ratings for books I LOVED but read before blogging and before I checked ratings obsessively and some of them, if it were NOW, I probably wouldn’t have picked up due to ratings or GR friend’s reviews. I’ve started dipping my toes in the waters of NOT CHECKING GOODREADS when I’m browsing at the library and it’s freeing. And I mean, so what if I read it and the ratings/reviews were right? It was FREE.

I think my experience with 17 First Kisses is one of those things where I learned exactly what Hannah is talking about…to trust my gut because in my heart I knew I didn’t always get bugged about the things that the people giving this 1 stars were bugged about. This experience made me realize I rely too heavily on opinions. I’m not saying I’m not going to stop reading reviews/looking at ratings because it so SO helpful to me but I need to let myself pick up a book I want to even if everyone else says it sucks and not give into all the opinions that are out there.

What about you guys? Have you ever almost not read a book because of ratings/reviews but then read it and were so glad you did? How do you balance reviews/ratings with what YOU want to read? Also, did you read 17 First Kisses….what did you think?


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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I try not to let bad reviews put me off but if I see a book has a low star rating on Goodreads, sometimes I’m less likely to read it. Sometimes it’s quite nice though if I’m not enjoying a book, seeing that I’m not the only one!
    Imogen’s Typewriter <3

  2. Ha — lately I’ve loved books that others have hated. And I really liked this one too.
    Jen @ YA Romantics

  3. I’ve gotten to the point where I really don’t trust the overall average rating on Goodreads or Amazon. Certain genres are way over-rated – nothing wrong with the genre just that readers of that genre are 5 star happy. I try to find 2-3 well written 3 star reviews – these will generally point out the major things someone might have an issue with so I can figure out if those things will be issues for me.

  4. I do this too, even though I hate to admit it. If I’m at a library or bookstore and I see a book I’m interested in, I immediately check its rating on Goodreads and if it’s below 4 stars I generally tend to not pick it up. I’d like to stop doing that because I could be missing out on books that I would really, really love 🙂

    Great post! 🙂

  5. I also really enjoyed this book. I thought the “slut-shaming” felt SO realistic to high school. And the book was much deeper than I thought it would be. Those extra layers made it so much better than I thought it would be, since I looked at rating and reviews beforehand too. I have started to only look at the reviews on goodreads from certain people…even then, if I really want to read a book, I still will.

  6. Yh I have to admit I do this quite often. I think I shouldn’t but then the reviews get to me. This is my exact situation right now. I have this book by Katherine Howe that I want to read it’s called conversion it sounds super interesting but the reviews are quite negative. Before I got to the reviews I wanted to read it but now not too sure.

  7. I have noticed I do this a lot. It tends to go like this: I find out about a book someone recs on twitter or tumblr and it sounds like something I’d be interesting in; I go to GR to add it to my shelf, see the low ratings, check a few reviews and in the end I don’t even add the book to my shelf at all.

    I’m trying to be more conscious about this so I can stop it. Because, like you said, there are so many little gems out that have low ratings, and what if what didn’t work for that person worked for me ?

    Recently, I read a book EVERYONE (booktube, blogs, etc) was raving about, that had very high ratings on GR (along 4.0 something), and guess what ? I HATED THAT BOOK SFM. Ughhhhhh. It made me so freaking angry…so lesson learned, don’t trust the hype or the hate, just go with your gut when it comes to picking something up.

    Also, I saw someone on booktube talking about how they pick books up (go to bookstore/library and pick something they find interesting, the end), and it got me thinking about how much I trust reading the summaries (which have spoiled me before -.-) and how hard it has become for me to go completely blind when reading something. I think I miss that feeling, of not knowing completely before going on, of having no “pressure” or others opinions when reading or picking something up. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have a love/hate relationship with how much the internet has affected my reading.

  8. It’s so hard sometimes to not let the bad ratings overshadow. But I’ve been working on not letting that stop me from reading a book. I can at least try the book. I don’t even have to finish it. Plus, I’m also not always reading the actual reviews for why someone rated it poorly until after I read it. Then, once I’m done I can read reviews and see what I agree and disagree with. The Internet has definitely influenced how i read and I really notice it now. Glad I’m not the only one who struggles with letting negative reviews stop me from reading a book I really want to read.

  9. I can relate. I’m dramatically limiting the number of books I receive, but if I’m thinking about buying or I’m weeding the books on my shelf, the first place I go is Goodreads. Funny how we do that. I’m well aware that other folks’ ratings won’t necessarily reflect how I feel and often don’t come *anywhere near* how I’d rate a book but I still allow ratings to influence me. Great post!

  10. Your review makes me glad that I have this book! All the things that made you really enjoy the book are things that would also make ME enjoy it. I have a similar view to things like slut-shaming in books–just because I don’t like it (who would?) doesn’t mean I don’t like the book. Actually, if a book has bullying, hard-to-like characters, etc., I tend to like (or at least, appreciate) it a little just because the author took that risk with adding those elements to the story. I love flawed, round characters because they’re more realistic and sometimes even more relatable.

    A low Goodreads ratings and negative reviews do make me more wary of a book than it should. I’m usually okay with a lot of things that bother other readers, so there are probably a lot of books with mixed reviews that I would end up enjoying.

  11. I’ve had my eye on that book for a while, but I haven’t had the time to buy it. I’ve just got way too many books on my TBR pile. I hope to get to it one day because it seems like an important book.

    If a book has an average rating of 3.0 or above, I’ll usually read it. If I notice that the book has an average rating of 2.99 or below, I start to reconsider reading it. I mostly try to look at reviews and ratings from people with similar tastes, but sometimes, it’s hard not to focus on the bad. But… there have also been other times when almost everybody loves a book, and I end up hating it. It’s a tough world.

  12. I shy away from Goodreads reviews when choosing books. I do like to read reviews once I’ve finished though to see how others reacted to the story. Often in doing that, my relationship with the characters/plot deepens. I get excited when I can see things I’d read one way in a different light.

  13. How funny you’d post this today. I’ve been browsing books off and on all day and cannot make my mind up. I find something that sounds promising and then read a negative review that completely turns me off. And usually I’m fairly rational about these things. Not everyone will like every book. Internet people can be especially capricious in their ratings. But I’m feeling very wishy washy today and am just finding excuses to not read things I’m on the fence about. I have times where all the reviews I read are positive and I don’t agree. Not sure I have many opposite experiences, as I found myself picking up a lot of duds before I joined Goodreads and the book blogging community. So… at the end of the day, I’ll still be checking Goodreads when I browse. It really helps me filter out the inexhaustible list of stuff I might want to read. Just gotta remember to take it all with a grain of salt.

  14. This is so true! Whenever I browse at the bookstore or the library, it’s like I have to pause and look up all the books I’ve gathered to see what people have thought before I choose. And sometimes the exact same thing happens — something I thought sounded really good has low-ish ratings and I’m like ok nahh. I’m definitely going to try to not listen to ratings and opinions as much because everyone DOES read differently.

  15. Sadly, I’ve passed on books in the past because of ratings, too. Goodreads makes it all too easy to do this, and it usually happens most when I’m browsing online book stores because the ratings are readily available. Lately I’ve been pretty good about not looking at reviews for books I plan to read and choosing them solely on plot summary alone. Now I only see others’ negative reviews/ratings when I finish a book and go to rate it on Goodreads.

  16. I really loved this book. It wasn’t what I was expecting from the description and felt, like you did, that it had more depth. I don’t typically listen to too much chatter about a book before I read it because many times my view differs and it will totally get tainted if I hear negative or overly positive stuff about a book. I do like to check ratings, though. But I only look to see if it’s below 3 stars. Many reviewers are a bit more cautious with ratings stars and so I think books that get 3 or more on average are positive. But if it’s overwhelmingly below 3 stars I will set a book aside unless someone I know and trusts reads and loves it.

  17. I also nearly didn’t read a book because it had less than 3/4 stars on Goodreads – and now it’s one of my favourites, so I always try to remember that the next time I feel I’m being swayed by Goodreads. I need to trust my own judgement more!

    (I’m also looking forward to reading this one!)