All book lovers know that a good book review can be exactly what sells you on picking something up. If a positive review has 4,000 upvotes, it’s pretty likely that you’ll enjoy it too. But what makes a good book review? Today, we’ll go into a few things that can make your book review clearer and get more interaction from other readers.
Separate your review into sections
Nobody wants to read a giant wall of text, not unless they’re reading the book itself. It is more than likely that if you have a rather long paragraph, readers will scroll to an easier review. But if you break it up into sections, it will be easier to skim; it will also give the reader more satisfaction as they finish each section, giving them the feeling that they are finishing more.
It sounds silly, but breaking up your review into smaller sections garners more clicks.
2. Be specific
“I loved it!” Great, why?
Obviously it’s important to tell readers the general idea, but not without breaking it down later. Why did you love it? Was it the characters? The writing? The intensity? Something you love might not attract all types of readers, so be specific when addressing your favorite parts of the story. Even a comment like “the writing style was mystifying, and I found the perspective very unique,” is much more helpful than a blanket “it was great!”
3. Include the good, the bad, and the ugly
Unless the book is topping your all time favorites, there are probably good and bad aspects to most stories. If you rated a book four stars instead of five, why?
Take The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a book that was received in many different ways from fans and critics. Part of what made the book bearable was its careful attention to the craft of fiction; though I personally found Snow’s narration (and ego) insufferable, understanding his backstory and watching Suzanne Collins’s weaving in of major ideas like human nature vs. nurture, the metaphor of birds and freedom, etc., made the book at least worth it to long time fans.
What if I had simply stated, “the book was good, but sometimes boring.” That’s certainly important for an overview, but a clear breakdown of the good and bad will help readers of your review understand your points, therefore giving you more credibility.
4. Be clear with how spoiler-y you’re going to be.
Some readers prefer the extremely vague reviews, ones that reveal almost nothing about the plot. That’s okay, too! You can still be clear in your likes and dislikes and not be spoiler-y.
On the other hand, readers who’ve already read the book may be coming back to see what others thought. For example, on Goodreads, many readers will review the book themselves and then interact with other reviews. This would be a good platform to include a spoiler section–but be sure to clearly label it! One main style of reviews now is to start with an overview, break it down, and then go into spoilers. This seems to be a good format, just make sure to be clear so your readers know where you’re headed.
5. You’re not a critic — have fun
Sure, it’s important to be clear and well written in your book reviews, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be honest. In fact, this is something that readers have over critics; professionalism is great, but sometimes plain honesty goes a long way. Some of the best Goodreads reviews include fun gifs or readers going completely off the handle when they’re annoyed at a book. Take this quote from a review of A Little Life, another book that has mixed critical reception for its extremely intense and dark themes.
“I feel like someone shoved their hand in my torso and started stroking my organs while a therapist sits there observing and then asks me, “now, how does that make you feel?”
It’s a pretty clear (and hilarious) picture of how this reader felt reading the story. If you have moments like these, include them!
What do you think makes a good book review? Let us know!
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