Recommending books with low ratings on Goodreads

Have you ever finished a book, gone to Goodreads to find other people raving about it, and discovered that lots of people didn’t love it?

Goodreads is great for a lot of things, but I’ve found that I can’t rely on its average ratings of books. I’ve disliked a fair number of books with high average ratings, and enjoyed quite a few books with low average ratings, which is what today’s post is about. All six of the books I’m recommending today have low ratings on Goodreads, but I love them nonetheless. Hopefully I can prove to you that you shouldn’t rely merely on the average rating to decide whether or not to read a book!

My criteria for this is that the book has to have been out for at least a year (to allow for plenty of reviews) and my own rating has to be higher than the average (duh). Now let’s get into my recommendations!


Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore


Goodreads rating: 3.37 stars

my rating: 5 stars | my review

As sad as I am that this book has such a low rating, despite it making my top 10 books of 2018 list, I do understand why people wouldn’t like it. It’s such a weird book! Essentially, it follows a character named Jane who, while visiting a mysterious island mansion, is offered a choice. The book then splits into five parts, each one exploring a different choice that she could have made, with each of them linking together. It’s absolutely fantastic in my opinion, but it’s also strange and convoluted and impossible to describe, so it’s easy to see why it wouldn’t be enjoyable for some readers. (But you should still read it.)

Nothing Happened by Molly Booth


Goodreads rating: 3.45 stars

my rating: 4 stars | my review

I noticed that quite a few of the books with low ratings are retellings, and while I agree on some of them, this is one that I don’t. Nothing Happened is a YA retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing set at a summer camp and it is exactly as fun and ridiculous as you’d expect. Bee and Ben have been rivals as long as they’ve been camp councilors together. This year, though, everything turns upside down when Bee’s sister Hana falls for Ben’s friend Claudio, and drama and misunderstandings ensue. With retellings, it’s hard to please everyone, which is why this probably has a low rating overall, but for me it was just right.

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold


Goodreads rating: 3.45 stars

my rating: 4.5 stars | my review

I can certainly understand why this book has a low rating because it’s ugly and uncomfortable and horrifying…but in the best possible way. The book follows a girl who wakes up with no memory in the arms of a prince, who tells her that he’s rescued her from a dragon and will now marry her. Throughout the story, the girl has very little power or agency; she is forced into a position and told precisely who to be. I’ve described this as a horror story disguised as a fairy tale – it’s not pretty, but in my opinion it was done spectacularly. Be aware of trigger warnings before going into this book, though.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

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Goodreads rating: 3.51 stars

my rating: 4 stars

In this hilarious, weird sci-fi novel, humanity has to prove its sentience – and therefore prevent Earth from being destroyed – in the Metagalactic Grand Prix. Their representative, though, is washed-up London band Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes, which may not be up for the task. Space Opera is ridiculous and sparkly and fun and everything you could hope for from looking at that title and cover. It does get a little info-dumpy at times, but if that bothers you, then I highly recommend the audiobook. The narrator manages to make even the slow portions sound interesting!

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin


Goodreads rating: 3.52 stars

my rating: 4 stars | my review

Following two best friends who go to college far away from each other, this book is told through texts and emails that they send back and forth, chronicling the misadventures of their first semester apart. I found this book to be heartwarming and lovely, as it showed how friendships can be just as, if not more important than other relationships in your life. Both of these girls are messy and a little unlikeable at times, which is probably why this has a lower rating, but for me that just made them feel all the more real.

Austenland by Shannon Hale


Goodreads rating: 3.54 stars

my rating: 4 stars

Austenland follows Jane, a woman who’s obsessed with Jane Austen and, specifically, Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy. When she’s gifted a retreat to an immersive Austen-themed resort, she decides to give it one last go before leaving her obsession behind forever. This book is silly, lively, and a little bit cheesy, so I can understand why it’s not for everyone. But as a fellow Austen fan, I enjoyed this so much! Full of Austen references and great romance, I highly recommend this for anyone else who sometimes wishes they could visit the Regency era.


What low-rated books do you love? Have you read any of the books I listed? Do you agree or disagree with my opinions?

x Margaret 

goodreads | twitter | indiebound

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24 thoughts on “Recommending books with low ratings on Goodreads

  1. THIS SUCH A GREAT POST, Mogsy! ❤️ And I totally get what you mean! After I finished reading When God was a Rabbit, I went to see what other people were saying about it and was shocked to see a couple of not 3/4 but 1/2 stars ratings and their review was..damn! I couldn’t understand why they hated it, to be honest! 😱😱

    And Austenland is a fucking book!?? I only saw the movie and that was years ago! BUT NOW I HAVE TO READ THE BOOK AS WELL! 😍😍❤️❤️ And I Hate Everyone But You sounds really great too!

    Love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I DIDDD!! And now I am going to read the book as well! ALL THANKS TO YOU, Margaret, for making me aware of its existence! 🤣🤣❤️❤️


  2. This is a super interesting post! I think it can be helpful to see recommendations for books with a low rating because it just reassures you that not everybody feels the same way. It’s so easy to just see the first and loudest opinion, then be put off.

    I totally agree you shouldn’t go off the average rating on Goodreads. I’ve had quite a few occasions when I’ve gone to see some reviews on a book I liked and couldn’t understand why everyone felt so differently to me. The most disappointing instance of this was when I first joined Goodreads and went to add my favourite book, then found all the top reviews were people hating on it! (It’s Glass Houses and has an average rating of 3.92 but I’d give it 5 stars every time!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! I usually don’t give too much weight to the negative opinions I see on Goodreads, since I know that everyone’s reviews are so subjective, but it’s nice to remember that not everyone agrees about those. And ugh yeah that’s heartbreaking to find negative reviews of favorite books. Glad that your opinion on your fave hasn’t changed because of that! 😀 Thanks, Abi!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s such a great post! I sometimes take a chance on books with a low average rating on Goodreads (I have to admit that it does affect my willingness to pick up a book) and the best example has been The Star-Touched Queen. A lot of people didn’t like it, but I ended up loving it and now look forward to all of Roshani Chokshi’s books 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 😀 It’s always nice when a book defies expectations and is way better than you could’ve hoped. That’s awesome that you loved The Star-Touched Queen! I’ve only read one of Roshani Chokshi’s books so far but it was fantastic, so I’m definitely gonna have to checked out more of her work 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ahh this is such a lovely post, thank you for highlighting these little hidden gems, somehow! I feel like I’d be interested in that first book, Jane Unlimited, that concept sounds SO intriguing 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I usually only consult GR if I am on the fence about a book. I can see low average ratings, and still feel a book is for me. I have been a “black sheep” with plenty of books (99 Days, No Filter to name a few). I am sort of glad Nothing Happened was on your list, because it is a fence book for me, but I keep coming back to it, making me think it will work for me. Your thoughts pushed me towards taking the plunge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, I try not to let Goodreads influence my decisions too much, since there have been so many books that I have an “unpopular” opinion about. And I’m so glad that you’ve decided to try out Nothing Happened! I hope you love it 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is such a good idea! (I know I’m late but whatever)
    Everybody has such different opinions on books & I often hate ‘popular’ books but love underrated ones!

    Liked by 1 person

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