Alternately titled: How to Write the BEST Book Review, Like, the Best Best Review, You Know, a Really Good Book Review.
Ok, lean in everyone, I’m about to spill the beans on how to write not only a good book review but the best book review.
Are you ready?
There is no secret!
I’ve been deadscrolling through Pinterest on my self-imposed social media exile (Pinterest doesn’t count, okay?) and a lot of blog posts about writing “the best book review” have been popping up on my feed. It’s been driving me a little bit nuts. And what’s worse? I click on them.
I’m desperate to know! I write book reviews; why wouldn’t I want my reviews to be good? Or even better: the best? I am champing at the bit to know what the secret is, what formula to employ, the notes to hit on, the pitfalls to avoid.
And what I can surmise is there is simply no way to write the best book review.
Why? Honestly, I don’t know. I have no real answer to the question I’m asking. But what I can explain is this: everyone is searching for something different in a review. Some people are looking for topics or tropes to avoid; some are hoping to see if the ending is worthwhile; others want to know if characters die. And there is just no way you can cover all of that in one book review. Some people do just want a summary of events and whether or not you liked it! There is no one right answer to book reviews.
My best advice is to write what is meaningful to you. What do you want to know when reading a review? Put that in yours! If you don’t like the way the author writes and if knowing that would have made you avoid reading it, write about it. If the twist ending wasn’t satisfying and you wished something else had happened, sure, write that too. Anything that you find important, anything you focused in on while reading—that is valuable.
The things you think or say about one book may contradict with what someone else writes, and that’s fine! Reading is a unique and personal experience to the reader. And your review should reflect that. (Or, could reflect that. I’m trying not to work in absolutes here.)
Struggling to think of what to include in your review? Here are some places you can start:
Language, Tone, and Flow
- the way the narrator spoke, the language employed, and the general pace of the story
- overly complex/simple language, too wordy/not enough explanation
Characters and Setting
- did it feel real? was the image constructed too flat? did it have a developed sense of place and purpose?
- were the characters relatable? did you feel strongly for them?
Action, Plot, and Conflict
- was the story convincing? did it feel rushed towards one conclusion or another?
- were you left wanting more? did it resolve itself in a meaningful way?
- did you understand the path the author was taking?
- did you like the book? would you recommend it to others?
- why did you start reading it? did you finish it?
- was it what you expected?
- your favourite part? least favourite?
- something that surprised you?
Shockingly, if you approach the start of a review like a fourth-grade teacher asking their class comprehension questions, you’ll be able to pull a lot out of it. Your general “who-what-when-where-why” questions tend to tackle that pretty well, but if you need more to go off of, dig a little deeper.
I’ll follow this up with writing reviews on books you loved versus books you didn’t. It can be hard to be clear and concise when you feel strongly about a book, and there may be things you’ll want to avoid when writing a review. I myself have fallen victim to being overly abusive when writing a review for a book I disliked*.
The long and short of writing reviews is to just write them. They’re helpful to you and to other readers who may be considering taking a read. Whether you focus on the language or the characters or prefer to give a broad review, just write it. Reviews are incredibly helpful to other readers and even to writers and authors.
Take care, and happy reading!
*see my review of Kill the Farm Boy on Goodreads here.