How to Write a Book Review

The five basic steps to writing an informative, curiosity-invoking and spoiler-free book review.

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Have you just finished a book that was so fantastic you’d like to honour it with a book review? Or perhaps you felt the story had some failings and want to share your thoughts with other readers? Here are my guidelines on how to write a review that is full of substantial and helpful information for potential future readers of a book.

1. No Spoilers

The golden rule of writing book reviews is not to write any spoilers! Don’t give so much of the story away in your review that we no longer need to read the actual book once we’ve finished. It is a good idea to only write about the first third of the book, and then only about information that does not reshape our idea of the narrative. Do not ruin any twists, nor give away any major plot points, beyond what is outlined on the blurb on the back of the book.

2. Start Strong

Authors endeavour to start their books with a strong opening line and it helps a book review stand out if it also starts off with a bold statement. What was it in the story that struck you? Because this will likely also resonate in others and draw their attention. It might have been a line of speech from a character or a descriptive narrative line that you feel sums up the opening mood perfectly – if this is the case there is no rule against using an extract from the book as the opening of your review, just be sure to make this clear by using quotation marks and a reference.

3. Introduce the Story

Now you need to give us a little bit of information about the story – again, not enough to make us feel as though we no longer need to read it but enough to leave us curious. Let us know the genre and general theme, the opening setting and, if you feel it necessary, the name and opening personality of the main character(s). This has usually been done on the back cover of the book already and you can use this blurb as a guide. You can also explain the format of the chapters – do they stick with the view of just one character or does the perspective switch between multiple characters? Is it written in first, second or third-person perspective, or a mixture of a few of these perspectives? Is it written in present tense, past tense, or perhaps in future tense, and does it stay on the same time-line? I am currently reading a book which switches from the first-person perspective of a character when she is 17 and then when she is 34, with these perspectives alternating between chapters. This format detail is something that could be including in a review as some readers, such as myself, enjoy it when the format of a book is a little abstract.

4. Share Your Opinion

Now that you have given general, unbiased details of the book you can let us in on your personal feelings and opinions of the story. To do this you can ask yourself questions such as: Would you recommend the book and why? Did the text flow well and was the speech of characters easy to follow? Were the details rich enough to allow you to form vivid images in your head of certain scenes or was it overpowering, unnecessary and boring? Were the characters relatable and believable? Who was your favourite character and why (without giving any of the important parts of the plot away)? What was it that you generally enjoyed the most about the story (again, without giving any parts of the plot away that would spoil the book for future readers)? If you are writing a review of a book that you particularly loathed try not to keep everything absolutely negative – there must be one small aspect of the story which you liked, or plot elements and characters that you feel had some potential at the start. Explain what you disliked and why other readers may not have the same opinion as yours. This could be because it was a book from a different genre than what you usually enjoy reading, or because the pace of the story was just too quick for your personal taste. Try not to completely write off a book.

5. Closing Thoughts

Finally, what type of reader would you recommend this book to? You could do this by looking at existing books, TV shows and films with similar themes, such as:

‘If you’re a fan of shows such as The Walking Dead, you enjoy apocalyptic scenarios and aren’t fazed by a little gore, blood and bone marrow, then you should put this book on the top of your reading list.’

Next time you finish reading a book, do it justice by finding a spare 15 minutes to write a clear review filled with helpful information and no spoilers. These reviews can be submitted to sites like Thanet Writers (as long as they publish book reviews), put on sales sites like Amazon, or uploaded to reading and review sites such as Goodreads. Some authors even have websites and email addresses to send them to directly. A genuinely honest and thorough review is always appreciated by authors.

Rebecca Delphine is an aspiring Young Adult author from Thanet.

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