Writing book reviews – Fiction
A book review describes, analyzes and evaluates the quality, meaning and significance of a book. It doesn’t have to narrate, and it’s not a book report or summary. A review is a comment. While there is no “right” way to write a review, some essential information is needed in every one. Fiction and non-fiction books have differences not only in content, but also in the components that should be in a review. Let’s look at some suggestions to consider when writing a book review for a fiction book. I will use one of my books in the examples.
First of all, don’t give away the story, the climax, the end of the book. Use occasional quotes from the book to support or explain points made in the review.
The first paragraph should include the title of the book and the name of the author. Sometimes publication information such as ISBN, publisher, book type, and general subject is noted.
Sample first paragraph: The Basic Thieves Club, by V. Gilbert Zahel, follows the progress of a middle-aged baseball team as they fight their way to a championship. Part of the team also helps solve a mystery that is tormenting the community. Published by 4RV Publishers, ISBN: 978-1-84728-220-0, the book is for those interested in sport, mystery and adventure.
Other points to cover, in different paragraphs, are:
Characters: Are the figures flat or round? A round figure is multidimensional. Round characters make a story more interesting and believable; therefore, analysis of the author’s use of three-dimensional characters or flat characters is important.
Example of character representation: Ryan Scott is not only an excellent athlete, but he also cares about others. It helps find the thief in the story; then he wants to help the young man who stole money from the locker room. An example where he acted as a peacemaker in the team is shown in the following excerpt: Ryan stood next to Colby, slipping his arm around the little boy’s shoulders. “Hey, Colby, calm down. Josh is just repeating what he heard. I heard my dad say the same thing about some criminals.” With a slight smile, Ryan turned to Josh. “Josh, what does the preacher say about forgiveness? What have we learned in church about forgiving others?”
Theme: A book’s theme may not be written verbatim, but the review should note how the author reveals or develops the theme(s). Mention whether you, as the reviewer, agree or disagree with the author’s theme(s) and why.
Sample theme: The author provides support for moral values and actions through the book. Still, the message isn’t preachy or direct, but the theme flows throughout the story. The author’s opinions are solid and are ones that young readers should realize and learn to accept.
Plot: Are the different elements of the plot well managed? Plot elements include introduction, conflict, climax, and conclusion.
Example plot: The Basic Thieves Club introduces conflict, the problem in the first two chapters of the book, both the start of games leading to a successful season and the missing money in the locker room. The suspense builds as the team plays and tries to help find the thief. The climax is unique, as is the reaction of the team members.
Author Information: V. Gilbert Zabel, who also writes as Vivian Gilbert Zabel, for adult-level books, and Granny Zabel, for children’s books, played baseball and helped coach a baseball team. His interest and experience in sports, as well as with children, can be seen in the pages of this book.
Give a brief summary of the book: Give an overview, but don’t reveal the climax or conclusion of the plot.
Example of summary: The Jonesville Chargers, a baseball team made up of school-aged boys, pursue their championship dreams and solve a mystery that plagues their team.
Comment on the book: Tell how the book affected you. Say whether or not the book is interesting, entertaining or memorable. Would you recommend the book to readers? Why or why not?
Example of notice: I loved The Basic Thieves Club because I was carried away by the chronicle of the season, the games and the attempt to find a thief of a team. This book will appeal to readers aged ten to fifteen who love baseball. Young sports fans will be better off reading the book.
Important note: Having correct grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and other components of good writing is as important in a review as it is in writing a book. Reviews are a form of writing.
Suggestions can be arranged differently or combined, and others can be added. Some can be eliminated, but most of the information should be somewhere in the exam.