As soon as I finished this book, I knew I wanted to give it 5 stars- the first 5 star rating I have actually given in quite a while. I know that some reviewers hand out those 5 stars like they are Halloween candy, but they’re precious to me. That feeling of knowing about a perfect rating made me think about my personal scoring method, and how random it is, and how I often feel that I’ve rated some books completely wrong when I go back and compare them to other books. So I did a very English teacher-y thing (even though it has been a LOT of years since I’ve been a teacher). I made a rubric!
I’ve given each category a number of points, and the total points available are 600, so each star rating has a hundred point range. That way I could also let you know if it is 4.5 stars if the book got 450 points. I gave heavier weight to the categories I think are most important: Plot/Story and Characters (150 each), then Emotional Reaction and Voice (100 each) and finally Connections and Other (50 each). This is just how I read & react to books, so I made it very personal to me, and that other category is in there so that I could have some extra points for books I just loved or hated for some reason I just couldn’t put my finger on.
Characters: 150 pts- Did you like the characters? Were they fully realized & fleshed out? Were their reactions realistic? Were they relatable. Did you have any emotional connection to them?
Plot/Story: 150 pts- Was the basic storyline good? Did it catch your interest & make you want to finish the book? How did it flow? Did it continue well throughout, or was one part better than another?
Emotional Reaction: 100 pts- Did the book make you feel what it meant to make you feel? Angry, sad, happy, scared, whatever? Were you emotionally connected at all?
Voice: 100 pts- Did you like the way the story was told? Did that type of POV make sense for that story? Was the narrator reliable and if not, did that work?
Connections: 50 pts- Consider the genre & the specific story- is it trying to make connections with past stories or authors in style or content? How well is that done? (even if the PR is pushing that connection, it affects the reader)
Other: 50 pts- Other things like cover art & gut reaction that might affect you. Personal connections.
Here’s how I rated The Twisted Ones:
I gave it 125 points for Plot. This is essentially the story of a young woman who goes to help clear out her dead (hoarder) grandmother’s house, and she discovers some dark secrets. When Mouse takes her dog on a walk in the woods behind the house, she finds herself on a hill that is geographically impossible covered in strangely carved stones. It all feels wrong. It’s not really a super-original plot, but it’s not meant to be. It’s a retelling, and a very good one, at that. It’s well- paced & I was hooked in fairly quickly. It is a retelling of Arthur Machen’s The White People, which I hadn’t read when I first read this, but I have since. It doesn’t matter if you have read it, but it is a fascinating connection. I think it also helps if you’re a dog person!
Next it got 100 points for Characters. Honestly, the character I connected with the most was the dog, Bongo! I spent most of the story reading as fast as possible just to see if he would live. (if you need to know before you read- DM me & I will spoil it for you) What a great dog! And Mouse loves him, so I cared about her too. But I was even more interested in the quirky side characters like the goth barista, and the strange punk/hippie woman across the street.
For Emotional Reaction, it got a solid 100. It was full of creepy stuff & slow moving discomfort as well as outright scares. I was spooked.
It got 75 points for Voice. I enjoyed Mouse’s narration, and she had a snarky sense of humor that would break up the tension sometimes, which was good. Her descriptions of her walks through the woods were very atmospheric, and I was drawn in. It was a little repetitive here & there. Her grandfather’s journal is a direct reworking of the journal in The White People, so it makes more sense if you’ve read that.
I gave it 50 points each for Connections and Other, because of the way it connects back to Machen’s story and because of the way I just can’t resist a little backwoods faerie spook.
And that is how we get to 500 points and 5 stars for this fabulous book!