So You Want to Write a Book Review…
It has come to my attention that there are some reviewers out there who don’t know how to write a book review. By that I mean they are slamming books and the author and just being mean. Seriously, you can write a review without the vitriol. If your day has been that bad, go for a walk, have some herbal tea (you don’t need the caffeine), wrap yourself like a burrito and pet your cat/dog. Translated: chill out and then come back to the review. Don’t take your anger out someone you don’t know and insult their work just because you can. Also, if you are the sort of person who has to insult others to make yourself feel good, seek therapy and don’t do book reviews. Writing as an authors job, and a bad review is the same as telling someone they are doing a crap job at their job. Would you like it if someone did that to you?
Here’s the thing. There are millions of books out there. Probably more than millions (I am not a math major, do not ask me number things). You are not going to like everything you read. That does not mean it is “bad”. It means that book just is not your thing. Find another and go on with your life.
Now that I have said my peace, on to how to write a book review.
- Introduction – This seems obvious, but introduce the book and the author. At the very least mention the authors name. Talk about why you read this book. Mention the genre.
- Summary – Take a paragraph or two and summarize the book. This is different than the book reports you gave in school. You do not need to go everything that happened in the book. This is a good place to talk about themes in the book. DO NOT give away spoilers unless you mention before hand there are going to be spoilers. If you are worried you might give away spoilers, use the blurb from the back of the book.
- What you liked about the book – This is usually easy to do. Everyone knows what they like about the book. Even if you hated the book with the passion of a thousand suns, there is at least one small thing you liked. Talk about it. This is key to doing a critical book review.
- What you didn’t like – If you didn’t like the book, this is going to be easy. If you loved everything about the book, say that. Do not insult the book and especially the author. You can talk about what you didn’t like without coming across as a member of the Mean Girls Club. Talk about why you didn’t like something.
In my Literary Journal class I had to read 50+ short stories that were submitted to the Rappahannock Review literary journal and help decide what was going in and what wasn’t. We received a lot of good stuff but there were those few submissions that were bad. I mean really bad. We had to be able to back up why we thought something was bad. In a book review, you have to do the same thing.
- Conclusion – Wrap everything up. This is where you share your overall thoughts and why you rated the book as you did. Explain why you would or would not recommend the book.
One of the first books I was asked to review I really didn’t like. You can read that review here. I still gave it 3 stars. Why? Because there was really nothing wrong with it, other than I am not the target audience for this book. Also, because the word ‘copious’ was used at the wrong time making things unrealistic, even in the suspension of reality that goes with the genre. I also thought there were too many genres smashed together in the book. I stated all of this. I did not insult the writer or the book. I did state that the book was not for me but there were people out there who loved this kind of thing and they would appreciate the book.
Finally, this is not the only way to write a review. Just remember to explain why you liked or didn’t like something about the book. Do NOT insult the author or the book. If you are an ARC reader, this is a good way to get yourself blacklisted from receiving advanced reader copies. To use the words of indie author, Donna Fisher, don’t be a ballsack.