A new Rating System for readers.
Because no two readers are the same, and but no one should be afraid to read.
The Marie Rating System for Books is the rating system I use for all my reviews. For anyone else who wants to adopt the system, this page is dedicated to teaching you how to use the system. If you have any questions regarding clarity, feel free to contact me.
Please note that as of right now (May2022), this system is specified for FICTION books. There is a lot of nuance to Nonfiction, poetry, and some other types of plays and short stories, that this will not work for — or at least that’s what I think. I don’t know too much about nonfiction to be completely sure about this.
My OG Rant about book ratings.
The Marie Rating System for Books is a five part system designed around the fact that books can not be classified into single age range categories, without taking specific considerations into account. Also I believe books need content warnings and theme labels, as this can only work to the benefit of the reader’s experience.
This looks like:
Lead Genre | Reading Level – Content Rating | Content Warnings | Themes
Genre: The category that the content of the novel would fall under
Reading Level: The marketing audience/reading audience intended
Content Ration: Based on the audience, a one letter rating based on the content of the novel
Content Warnings: are warnings to the reader on what the book contains, specifically trigger warnings.
Themes: information on the themes addressed in the book.
Genre, while complex and complicated, I have decided to narrow
down in specific groups. These groups (while not the end all be all) are
the general categories for the majority of fiction novels.
Genre is the expectation of a novel. Above all else, genre defines the
reader’s experience. Thus it MUST come first.
EXPANDED GENRE LIST
The parent category is the category in which most of these genres will fall under. I know that there is an argument for more than what I have listed. Additionally this is not exactly inline with the way that marketing works for books in the current publication sphere BUT I don’t care.
For this reason I have not made “literary” and “Speculative” as their own genres. I have made them subsets of other genres. This is in part because I think both terms are classist and inherently place themselves above genre, which results in an unequal balance. I don’t believe that any one genre is better than any other. Thus while I do agree that there is a different writing style for both literary and speculative fiction, both have become subsets of all the parent categories.
The way I decided the other subcategories under each parent category was by combining tropes or types of stories (or using terms we already have). For a lot of these I had difficulty narrowing it down into overarching types. Takes Sci-Fi for instance, there are a lot of specific troupes in the genre rather than genre defining words, so I had to create genres to fit those types. I used a few different sources to help me with creating these lists. Namely these three (one, two, three)
Do I think this is all the possible genres in the world? No. These are just the general categories I want to use for my rating system. If there are any you think I missed, let me know. Subcategories for the parent genres are as follows:
Exploration (Time or Space)
Alien (Mind or Being)
Creationism (Virtual Reality, Robots, or Creatures)
Monsters and Ghouls (Vampires, Were, etc)
Ghosts and Demons
Science Fiction Romance
Alternate History (Fantasy)
Alternate History (Sci-Fi)
READING LEVELS AND CONTENT RATINGS
So we know our general audience from genre? Who is your specific audience?
This is the primary question that both of these sections ask. Reading levels and content ratings go hand in hand. Not all books are the same, and not all readers are the same. Some want more intense content than others, while some just want feel good reads. While the reading levels and content ratings can not explain everything, they can explain who the book is meant for AGE wise and MATURITY wise.
I based reading levels off of current industry standards, and content ratings is based on video games and movies. Because both of these topics are a lot more nuanced in their combination, there is a full breakdown.
BR (Beginning Readers) – New born through 8
PB (Picture Books) – Age 6 through 12
C (Children’s Novels)- Through age 12
MG (Middle Grade) – Age 8 through age 14
YA (Young Adult)- Age 12 through age 20
NA (New Adult)- Age 18 – 24
A (Adult) – 25+
PW (Parental Warning or Personal Warning)
What is a theme? It is a core story question that the characters interact with. It is the big idea of the novel or an underlying message.
Examples: What is identity?
We often identify themes with large and grand sweeping questions and gestures: What is it to be evil? What is it to be human?
This is true, in the literary sense. However, I think all books touch on themes at least a little. It might not be trying to teach some grand gesture, but they do have themes. Which is why I break this down (for the rating system) into key words.
You can have things such as:
Coming of Age
Saving the World
Obviously above is not the end all be all for themes. I really don’t want to restrict this, but I would like to like to implore those using this system to stick to one word or two word general statements for themes. This is not supposed to be a second blurb.
Words and phrases that will reveal the theme without giving too much away are what we are looking for when labeling themes for the MBR. These should be positive in general, or more positive. I would not expect for all themes to be positive themes, but this is going to be the section that shows the positives of the book. We want the themes to invoke the concepts and intentions of the novel, as well as explain what sort of impact is intended.
These are the warnings that are essentially the triggers for the book. These are NOT necessarily why the book is rated how it is (content rating) for that is based on a scale, but rather things that the author should know are in the book before reading. Character Death in a YA-D is different than character death in a YA-PW, but they are both character deaths. Destruction in a YA-M is different than a YA-E but it is still destruction. As such it will still be listed, it just won’t be expected to be as violent.
Trigger warnings are warnings to protect people from having a reaction to the content. This is a protection measure, so that a person knows whether to pick up a book or not based on their own personal interests. The intensity of the content in the book does inform the rating in a way, but to say that death can only be in YA-D or higher, is not fair, because all people should have the chance to touch and explore mature topics, what matters is how they are handled in the book.
Anything and everything can be a content warning. But if Theme is all about intention, Content Warnings are all about sensitivity. Character death might be a content warning but “processing loss” might be a theme. The two can (and should in some cases) work hand in hand. Also use content warnings to explain other things in the novel that might need to be known that may not otherwise have a place. (Weapons, explicit content, etc.)
USING THE SYSTEM
When all is said and done, this system is intended to be simple. If you are spending more than five minutes filling out the parts, then I have done something wrong. I don’t want this to take too much time (unless there are a ton of content warnings). This does not mean it should not be accurate and consider the readers. Easy and simple to complete and elaborate for those who see it. Reading the system should tell you exactly what to expect.
I tend to fill out the system from the ends in. Genre first, then themes and content warnings. Once I have those in place, I consider the audience and pick what age its for and what maturity of that audience is expected.
For text based use I recommend the text based format.
Genre | Reading Level – Content Rating | Content warnings |ThemesText based format for the Marie System for Rating Books
I will be creating fill in PDF images (I hope) for all of the base genres. This will be color coded dependent on the parent genre (there will be colorless versions for accessibility too). I will hopefully add the link here at some point.
EXAMPLES will be in a separate page so that this one is not overwhelming.
If you have any other questions. Feel free to contact me.