It occurred to me this morning that, while I’ve been asking all of my wonderful fans and readers to write a critical review of my book, I never considered that this might be difficult for some people for a variety of reasons. Expressing your opinion could mean a lot of things, the least of which isn’t discomfort in writing, knowing how to write a book review, having the time, and possibly offending the recipient of the critique.
This post is designed to put all of those trepidations to rest. I want to help you in writing a simple book review so that you can bless those authors whose books you read–like me 🙂
Writing a Simple Book Review
The coolest part of a review is that it’s mostly your opinion. Think of it as a conversation that started with a friend asking you the most common two-parted question in the history of book reviewing:
“Did you like it, what’s it about?”
We can all answer that question, right? A book review is little more than giving a direct answer to that very question. When you sit down at your computer to put your answer into words, just remember this simple formula: ISOR
Information, Summary, Opinion, Recommendation
This is the simple part. Start by telling the readers of your review what book you read, who wrote it, and the genre of the book. Here’s an example:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is a young adult drama set in the 1960’s.
That’s it! Pretty simple for an opening line, am I right?
The summary is probably the trickiest part of the whole review because you want to tell the reader what happens in the story but you DON’T want to give away the ending or any conclusions. The summary can be as brief or as detailed as you want it to be, just don’t give away the ending. For Example:
The story of The Outsiders deals primarily with the social differences between the rich “socs” and the poor “greasers” of a small Oklahoma town. The story is told through the voice of Ponyboy Curtis, a 14 year old boy who lives with his two brothers Darrell and Sodapop (that’s his real name). In the recent past, the boys’ parents were killed in an auto accident and the three brothers were allowed to live together so long as they don’t cause trouble. Trouble is exactly what comes knocking when a band of soc boys drunkenly attack Ponyboy and his skittish friend Johnny. In the scuffle and while the socs try to drown Ponyboy, Johnny stabs and kills one of them. Ponyboy and Johnny are forced to seek out the help of ex-convict Dallas Winston. Confused and scared, the two boys are directed to hide out in an abandoned church in nearby town until the dust settles. The boys soon discover that the dust may be thicker than they want it to be.
You can even go more brief than that; summarize it in one or two sentences:
The Outsiders is the story of the rich kids and poor kids of a small Oklahoma town. When one of the poor “Greasers” kills a rich “soc,” the characters are thrown into a whirlwind of fear and confusion.
I would personally stay away from being too brief, like this:
Poor kid kills a rich kid and deals with the troubles of trying to hide out waiting for the dust to settle.
This portion of the review should be easy for you; it’s what YOU thought of the book. This could be your general opinion: “I liked it because…” “I didn’t like it because…” It could also be a deep, critical, dissection of the book (unless you’re a pro or being paid, I’d stay away from this one–I don’t even like writing those kinds of reviews). Be sure to give a few reason why you did or did not like the book. Talk about the story, the writing style, the characters, the tone, voice, or cover art. Talk about anything, but MAKE IT CONSTRUCTIVE. Don’t say it sucked without a valid reason. Here’s an example of a simple opinion:
I truly enjoyed The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton because I related to the boys on both sides of the poverty line. The characters had personality and individual identity that often made me think of my own friends growing up. The story of The Outsiders is very real. There is nothing unbelievable about anything that Hinton writes. From the town to the events to the names of her Characters, the story is pulled right out of the American Midwest of the 1960’s. The Outsiders is concise. Hinton doesn’t waste her words on overstating her story. This is the story of kids and is kept simple in its telling, yet it is deep in its philosophy of human nature. While it is a human story, it is told so that all humans will understand it and relate to it.
While you may wish to go into a much more eloquent and detailed description, I say keep it simple if you aren’t a pro. Tell us what you thought in clear points.
This is what people really want to know about the book. Did you like it enough to recommend it to others? This is where you may talk about the type of reader you are and why you would or wouldn’t recommend it to others. For example:
If you are like me and love stories that delve into the real and emotional side of humanity while telling a completely relateable story, you will love The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to all teenagers and people struggling to understand teenagers.
So, now that we’ve gone over everything, it’s your turn to try it. You could start with my book Immortal Light: Wide Awake. 🙂 Remember: this is your opinion. BE HONEST! You’re only doing the author a favor when you’re honest. Don’t pad their ego, tell it like it is. BE CLEAR. Your points should be clear and concise so there is no confusion about how you feel. Finally, BE YOURSELF. When you focus on how you felt about the book, you will be more honest and clear. It also helps to try and BE POSITIVE, though it is difficult for some books. If you find yourself being too negative about a book, maybe it isn’t worth your time to review.
That’s it. Now get out there and help an author out with a review.
Good luck and thanks for sticking with me!