Friday, August 10, 2018

What's Required for a Five Star Review?

I review scores of Christian novels each year. I am very stingy with five star reviews, giving only a couple out annually to novels. What does it take to earn five stars? Sarah Arthur has served as a preliminary fiction judge for Christianity Today magazine's annual book awards. Here are her criteria for a novel to be sent on to the final judges, as listed in A Light So Lovely.

  • Excellent writing
  • Complex characters
  • Compelling plotlines and reveals
  • Questions of ultimate meaning (or was this just a cute, entertaining love story?)
  • Theological depth (or did the author fail to reckon with the problem of evil? of suffering?)
  • A strong sense of faith communities as a vital presence in the world (or were churches only depicted as irrelevant, at best; or, at worst, dangerous?)
  • And finally, a global/cultural awareness (or did the author assume that his or her nationality, race, and class were normative for how the rest of the world should function?)

Her task as a fiction judge, she writes, “is to discern which books have the best chance of being on the shelves … in a hundred years.”

Well said, Sarah. Those requirements paint a pretty clear picture of what kind of Christian fiction will receive a five star review from me.

Sarah Arthur, A Light So Lovely (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018), 120 and 141.

I received a complimentary copy of A Light So Lovely through Handlebar for the purpose of review. You can read my review of the book here.
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