How to Interpret Our Rating System
To help our readers find the stories best suited for them, all of our books come with a rating on the very first page, just inside the front cover. Ratings are also included at the bottom of our product descriptions on Amazon and other online retailers. For a more detailed explanation of why we do this, see our blog post titled Content Rating.
Please keep the following in mind when using our rating system:
1. A content rating is not a measure of quality.
Great stories can be found for every audience. One book with many content warnings and another with none at all may be of equal depth and sophistication. Our ratings can work both ways: to avoid content or to find it.
2. Ratings are merely a tool.
For our young adult (YA) and children’s titles, age ratings are generalized suggestions. For parents, our descriptive ratings can help you make informed decisions, but at the end of the day, only you know what kinds of content are appropriate for your individual child. This is why we provide details in addition to the general age rating.
Much like the FCC ratings for television and streaming services, we use a two-part system. The first part is a general age rating. The second is the detailed rating that breaks down the components that earned the general age rating.
General Age Ratings
These ratings tell you the youngest age a book would be suited for, based on its amount of explicit or controversial content. Labels with a number suggest the lowest recommended age. While this usually aligns with a book’s target audience, it may not as especially “clean” reads may rate lower.
This is appropriate for very young children and generally contains no questionable content. May contain up to two culturally controversial themes in this rating if a story contains nothing from our standard rating categories. Chapter books and early readers generally fall in this category.
8+: Older Children
This is appropriate for most audiences but may contain mild violence or concepts which may frighten or confuse younger children. No sexual content, strong violence, drugs, or swearing. Most middle grade (MG) stories fall into this category.
This is appropriate for preteens. May contain moderate violence. Characters may notice their own bodies changing, experience budding attraction, or kiss briefly, but there is no other sexual content. Mild language may be used infrequently. May include mild alcohol or tobacco use. More intense MG stories fall into this category as well as the occasional YA book.
This is appropriate for most teens. Violence may be intense but is not gory. Sexual content is limited to intense kissing and suggestive language or situations. May contain moderate language. May contain moderate alcohol, tobacco or fantasy drug use or mild use of other drugs. Most YA stories fall into this category.
17+: Older Teens and Adults
This is intended for older teens and adults. Violence may be frequent or graphic. Sex may occur but is not intense. May contain strong language. May contain frequent alcohol, tobacco or fantasy drug use or moderate use of other drugs. Some YA and many adult books fall into this category.
S: Strong Content
This is for adults only. Violence may be frequent and graphic. Sexual content may be graphic but mainstream. May contain extreme language. May contain frequent drug use. Many adult books fall into this category.
XS: Extra Strong Content
This is for adults only. Violence may be gory, frequent, and disturbing. Sexual content may be frequent, graphic, and fetishistic. May contain frequent extreme language. Most erotica and extreme horror fall in this category.
Additional details are added to each rating based on content in five possible categories. Milder levels of some categories are used only for lower age ratings. Otherwise, an absence of a category means a story is free that particular content.
This includes both swearing and crude language and is rated on a scale of mild, moderate, strong, or extreme. May additionally be noted as frequent when applicable. Mild language is not noted for ratings of 17+ or higher.
This includes all forms of violence and is rated on a scale of mild, moderate, intense, graphic, and/or gory. May additionally be noted as frequent when applicable. Mild violence is not noted for ratings of 14+ or higher. Moderate violence is not noted for ratings of 17+ or higher.
This includes all sexual or romantic physical expression. It is described by type, intensity, and frequency. Type is kissing, implied sex, or sex. Intensity is brief, moderate, intense, or graphic. Kissing is not noted for ratings of 17+ or higher. Implied sex in not noted for ratings of S or higher. For XS rated titles, any applicable kinks or fetishes are listed.
This includes alcohol, tobacco, recreational marijuana, and illicit drug use. Use is described by type of drug; whether it’s mild, moderate, or frequent; and if applicable, whether the portrayal is overtly positive or negative. Fantasy drug use includes any substances that do not exist in the real world but alter the body or mind in recreational usage. Mild alcohol and tobacco use are not noted for ratings of 17+ or higher.
The categories are included in the detailed rating but do not change the general age rating on their own, with the exception of upgrading a C rating to 8+ for Traumatic Themes.
This includes things like abuse or sexual assault, for which the nature of the content will be provided in addition to other categories, such as language, violence, and sexuality. For the 8+ rating, this includes frightening elements which may be otherwise inoffensive.
This category is only used for ratings of 14+ or lower. This includes overt controversial elements which parents may want to discuss with their children. If it isn’t otherwise included in our ratings but is guaranteed to start a flame war online, it fits this category. Just like Traumatic Themes, these are described according to the nature of the content. Examples include but are not limited to: racism, religion, the occult, political ideology, historical reinterpretation, or LGBTQ elements. Please note that only overt instances are included, and that this category does not raise a book’s general age rating.