So as I’m writing this I’m reading Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, which I was really excited to read and is objectively AMAZING. I mean, the writing is so readable but so intense. Would definitely compare to Gabrielle Zevin in that’s is “chick-lit” or “women’s fiction” that can easily be taken seriously as “literary”.
I’m not enjoying it. In fact, it’s stressing me out. Not because it isn’t amazing, but because I’m currently SOOOO stressed at work. We are attempting in-person school in the middle of a pandemic, and we’re not letting kids browse the books so I have to pull a hold (or two) for EVERY KID IN THE SCHOOL. Plus we’re going to try start giving books to distance kids, so that’s a lot to plan! Plus I’m finishing grad school this semester. I just have a lot going on, and I’m having stress dreams literally every night. So reading Queenie, who has anxiety and panic attacks, is really activating my own stressed, anxious feelings.
I think if I had read this book this summer, which was very laid back, I would have been much more appreciative of what Carty-Williams has very successfully achieved with this book. I really can’t downplay how GOOD this book is. If I wasn’t so stressed right now, would I feel differently?
A lot of the time my currently emotional state affects what I choose to read. Mood reader, all the way. When I’m stressed I want something escapist. When I’m sad I like fluffy romances. When things are going smooth I like to be challenged by something new or a different perspective or a difficult book. But I’d never thought about how my mood might affect how much I like a book before.
But it makes sense. Of course I’m less likely to enjoy a realistic book when my real life is difficult. Of course something too optimistic doesn’t hit the spot when things are going to heck in a handbasket. Of course something too sad around the holidays won’t be the right fit.
As a pro mood reader I’m usually pretty good at picking a book that I’m going to enjoy. But sometimes you just miss the mark. In my defense, when I put the book on hold I didn’t think the kids would actually be coming back. But I think it’s okay to be honest and say “I didn’t love this book because my mood was wrong for it.”
So, does it affect my ratings? … Yes. My ratings (almost always) reflect my personal enjoyment of a book. I think it’s stupid to attempt to say your ratings reflect the objective quality or “good-ness” of a book, because it just ain’t true. A book can be really successful at being just-for-fun, but I’m never going to enjoy a book like that in a five-star-way. I’m sorry, I just won’t. But I don’t put too much stock into my star-ratings, and in the review I always try to make sure I express that my lack of enjoyment was all on ME and in no way reflects the BOOK. I’ve included sentences like “I didn’t love this book because _______ just hit me too close to home.” And you know what? I think that’s fine. I know not everyone agrees with me, but it’s just how I feel.
But sometimes, very rarely, when my enjoyment was SO FAR removed from how good I can tell the book was, I amend my star ratings. I’ll start the review with a quick “#-stars for rating, #-stars for personal enjoyment.” Then I take the average and put that in my stars at the top.
Ultimately, I’m really disappointed that I’m not enjoying Queenie more. I’ll definitely have to revisit it in the future when I’m not so stressed.