by Michael D. Barker
Okay. I’m not saying this is the only way to write a review, that would be silly. But if you are fretting about what to put in a review, here’s some ideas about how to tackle it.
First of all, think about what you want to see in a review. That’s what you want to put in your review.
Second, what would you tell a friend about this book? That’s a good place to start.
All right? So basically, you are going to put down your opinion about the book. Some of the things you might like to include? How about:
1. Who would like this book? Who wouldn’t like it? And why, naturally.
2. What’s it about? Main character, plot, setting, genre, all that stuff. But avoid spoilers, just tell us enough to get us interested and give us a taste of the book.
3. What’s it like? Be cautious with this — I find it unlikely how many books are just like famous books, but it is a quick way to indicate what sort of book this is.
4. Warnings. Seriously, if there’s something that may bother people, explicit sex, overdone violence of the bloodsplatter type, or whatever, warn people.
One caution on the plot summary. I know some Amazon reviewers seem to think that giving a complete plot summary is a great way to do it. But too often, they include the final reveal or climax as part of that school book summary. Don’t do it! You’re just teasing us to read the book, not giving a book report for the teacher.
Incidentally, you might consider Orson Scott Card’s MICE: milieu, idea, character, event. Or setting, idea, character, and plot, if you will. The key notion here for reviewers is that books often have something outstanding in one of these four areas. You may want to pick out which one is most important for this book — great characters? Fascinating plot? Mind boggling ideas? Or maybe the setting is wild and wooly? Tell us what makes this book outstanding!
I suggest that you go ahead and list your ideas and comments, any which way. Then go back and think about the right way to present it. Consider that everyone is not going to read all the way through your treatise, so you want the most important points right up front. Organize it somewhat in journalistic style, most important stuff first, then trailing off.
You may also want to take a look at various writers’ advice columns about writing the premise or pitch. There’s a lot of advice around about how to take a book and put together a short pitch. That’s the kind of thing you should be doing for your review — give us a taste of the book, and leave us wanting to read it!
You may want to put a hook at the beginning, something to get the reader’s attention and interest. What happens when Martians land in a Kindergarten?
Oh, and consider ending with a nice, snappy statement of the whole thing. If you haven’t laughed in a while, buy this book. And enjoy a good belly laugh!
What about negative reviews? Personally, I suggest that if you don’t like the book, don’t review it. Yes, if the book has a flaw, something that nags you, you can include that. But as my grandmother used to advise, if you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. You don’t have to review every book you read. Worry about the good ones, and help guide other people to those.
So. Tell us who would want this book, and give us a good solid hint as to why. Don’t worry about it being perfect. As the saying goes, any review is better than none!
So now go ahead and write that review.