There IS a Wrong Way to Write a Book Review!

What not to do when writing a book review – and what to do instead.

This week I read a blog post that asserted there is no right or wrong way to write a book review. The writer made some good points, particularly about reviews needing to be individual and personal responses to a book, but I disagree with the basic premise of the article.

I am writing this post from the perspective of a reader, not an author, and I realise that some people won’t agree with me, so let me explain my reasons.

A book review should never recount the story of the book. It shouldn’t give spoilers. Yet time after time, I see reviews that do exactly that. My issue is that if I already know what is going to happen, I feel as though I no longer need to read the book. The joy of the journey has been neutralised. That review has effectively cost the author a sale. 

In all honesty, I hate blurbs that do this, too. As a reader, that’s one of the quickest turnoffs when I’m looking at a book. 

Don’t give me a summary. Give me teasers, give me feelings, give me thoughts and observations. Pique my interest. Make me want to read it for myself, instead of making me feel as though I already have. 

A good review doesn’t have to be long or complicated.  It does needs to be at least 20 words in length, which gives you room to say whether you enjoyed the book and why. One or two sentences will do the trick.  There is no obligation to write any more than that if you don’t want to. 

  • If you do want to write more, you can consider including the following ideas: 
  • Why you liked or disliked it. Remember that others may like what you disliked, and vice versa, so try to be kind. 
  • What important ideas the story made you think about – love, anger, justice, revenge, pain, fear, overcoming… anything that is relevant to you is a valid point for comment.
  • What the characters are like as people, and what we learn from them Did the writer’s style impress you in any particular way?
  • Was it easy to read and understand, or did you have to really work at it?
  • Who else might like to read it? Think about interests, age group, and genres here. 

This will help you to write a review that is interesting in itself, and which will encourage the right readers to choose that particular book. In that way, you’ll help both the author and prospective readers at the same time. 

23 thoughts on “There IS a Wrong Way to Write a Book Review!

  1. I agree with what you’re saying. Too many times, someone has gone on about the plot, and the characters, to the point I just move on. I could have missed out on a great book, but, like you said, it feels as though I’ve already read it. Great post. Thanks! 🙂

  2. It’s a balance. I like reviews where I can tell the reviewer’s actually read the book, but that can be done through a discussion of themes rather than specific plot points. I love that Goodreads has a “spoiler” feature, so you can mark that you’ve included them (that way I can avoid those reviews).

  3. I agree, so because of this I rarely read book reviews. Also, if I’m reading a series that I like then when the next book comes out I avoid the blurb as well so I don’t find anything out that’s going to happen in the book. 😴🤫

    1. Absolutely! Most people just can’t be bothered, or don’t think it’s important.
      I also think that people remember what their teacher told them when they had to write a review of a book they read at school. All those points you had to include!
      I did a post on my blog about writing reviews, too.

  4. I so agree. Why bother writing a summary of the book. It is in the blurb already. What you liked, or didn’t and why is all that is required. I don’t read long reviews either. If I did that I wouldn’t have time to read books! Saying that, I do appreciate every single review of my books as I know it takes time and effort.

  5. I am a reviewer on one main site and it must be 250 words minimum and the first half is a description of the story, the second half my opinions. However I am as careful as possible to avoid giving too much info so as to spoil the story, but that can be tricky sometimes. I’m one of those who would seldom read a book or watch a film a second time. I like to be surprised and challenged as to ‘what is going to happen’.

  6. Very useful, especially for people who feel intimidated at the very thought of writing a review. We forget that this used to be the prerogative of paid, professional literary reviewers until quite recently. I liked your list of options, because it gives specific ideas to enrich the review if one wishes to do so. But best of all, I like your saying a review needs to be “at least 20 words in length, which gives you room to say whether you enjoyed the book and why”. Sometimes, that’s all a reader wants to say.

  7. You can give a description of a book without giving away the story…and, as a reader, I wish that some reviewers would summarise with a bit more care for future readers. On the other hand… as a writer, I am just grateful for reviews.

  8. My sentiments! Modern reviews are going downhill due to the reasons you have listed. Most of them repeat what has been said! A review should talk about the craft and the style of the author, the characters and why they seem appealing. Thanks for the shout out.

  9. I agree, I like to write short reviews and read them too. A summary of the whole book is more like literature homework at school! What drew someone to the book and did it live up to their expectations is fine.

  10. I post game reviews on my site, but I think the same general ideas apply to those as to book reviews. Good advice for pretty much everyone.

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