Rated Reads

Ratings guide

This is Rated Reads’ guide to what is hoped to be a fairly straightforward, simple ratings system for books.

Each book on the website is reviewed and assigned a rating, and a detailed explanation is given for why the book received that rating.

The four ratings are None, Mild, Moderate, and High. There is also a fifth category called DIRT, explained more below. Note that the ratings all have handy color-coded graphics so you can identify the ratings with just a quick glance: green for none, yellow for mild, orange for moderate, red for high, and black for DIRT. Last, you’ll find information about our “tighter” system for young adult book reviews.


Here at Rated Reads, NONE means the reviewed book contains no offensive language (or virtually none — maybe one or two uses of very mild language), no sexual references, and no violence.


MILD means that you will see some occurrences of the tamest expletives, plus perhaps a few of the slightly stronger ones, like “sh” or “a.” None of the “f” word, however, or similar vulgarities. Sexual references might occur but nothing explicit. No descriptions of the act or detailed delineating of body parts! Violence might be a part of the plot, but there won’t be many gory details.


MODERATE: Language might include some of the stronger expletives and perhaps up to four or five occurrences of the “f” word (referred to usually as “strong language”). Sexual references might include some details at several points throughout the book, even, but still nothing you’d read in a bodice-ripper. Violence could be fairly detailed, with some blood and guts or some harshness as to topic.


A HIGH rating is for books that contain more than five or so uses of strong language, explicit sexual details (pages devoted to specifics of the act), shocking violence, or any other strongly vulgar content; sometimes the books we’ve rated have some harsh themes that alone require at least the moderate or the high rating (again, we will try to explain why and in as much detail as possible without making the review itself unreadable).


There’s also a fifth category into which we occasionally (really, only very rarely) assign books: DIRT, for Don’t Invest Reading Time. Don’t get all worked up: this rating is not a comment on the quality of the writing. This is simply a note that the reviewer chose not to finish the book because it was already clear in the early pages that it would easily earn a HIGH rating. So the reviewer chose not to invest any more reading time, and if you’re using this site to find clean books, you would most likely not want to invest reading time either.

Now for that note on young adult books: The ratings for books written for younger readers (young adult and middle-grade) are a bit “tighter” than the general ratings for books written for adults. For an adult book, if there’s only two or three mild bits of language, it can get a “none” rating; in a book for younger readers, it will get a “mild.” Sexual content will make a real difference as well as language; any references to teen sex or alcohol or drug use will earn at least a mild, even if there are no details or no real language. So if you find a book on this site that’s written for young readers and it has a “moderate” rating, that book may very well be a “mild” for adult readers (and we all know that young adult books these days are being devoured just as much by adult readers as by teens). Those things will be noted in the rating details.

If you’re still not completely sure how this works, here’s a quick analogy to a system with which many of us are already familiar: Our ratings for books largely correspond to what we all are used to expecting from movie or television ratings (although we hope it can be more straightforward — we also all know that sometimes the movie ratings can be head-scratchers), so if you can picture your child watching a perfectly clean movie with the rating for all audiences, our “none” rating will work the same way, for instance. Movie ratings nowadays include a box with some very basic details as to why the movie was assigned that particular letter rating, and we try to provide at least that much information and, in many cases, more.