Book | Review | Write | 13th June 2022 | Virtual Wire
After I finished my copy of Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh I immediately went to my Goodreads account to check the reviews.
I was quite surprised at how much my fellow reader’s opinions differed from my perception of the comic. Books are truly an object of power that propels the repository of imagination in our minds to spin different points of view based on one singular piece of writing. Before the age of digitization, book reviews used to be printed mainly in newspapers and journals. Nowadays, you’ll find them everywhere, be it on the book covers themselves, blogs, social media sites like Instagram and Goodreads and even in video format (YouTube). The art of reviewing books has become fluid in form and style. However, there are a few key points you need to keep in mind If you want to write a structured review.
Spoilers are rampant in the world of books and manage to annoy and appease hungry readers equally. Since the spoiler warning exists at the beginning of a formal review, it's natural to place it as the first point. You may find yourself overwhelmed after finishing your latest read, so much that you immediately commence writing down your thoughts, ready to spill and dissect everything. Stop! You need to remember that not everyone might be on the same page as you or even got to pick up the book in question yet. While some intentionally search for spoilers, most don’t and may get turned off by indiscriminate revelation of plot twists and information (I fall in both categories so I'm forever in a state of conflict).
However, constructing a review without potentially leaking something might get frustrating for readers who checked off their TBRs early. That's where the ‘Spoiler Alert!’ come in review spoiler proof You can simply write at the beginning of your review so readers can decide for themselves . Some sites like Goodreads have an option of making the review-spoiler-proof, so it's a win-win situation.
It's important to put a short overview of what the subject matter is about so establish the idea of the theme and genre. Jumping straight to the review portion might confuse the new reader who's looking for recommendations. The summary is usually kept spoiler-free ( although that changes depending on what you want to write ) Popular classics like Frankenstein, Dracula , Pride and Prejudice and others are tales as old as time so they don’t really need an introduction. Because, in Cyndi Lauper’s smooth croon, ‘Time after Time’ we all have drooled over Mr. Darcy, snuck under our covers in fear because of a certain vampire bursting through the windows and knew that Frankenstein is the name of the creator and not his creation (I'm still not sure why everyone thought the creation was Frankenstein in the first place). For new readers who are yet to be introduced to the above masterpieces, A summary is always welcome.
Every author has a distinct writing style which may be agreeable to some readers and disagreeable to others. The writing is the star of the show - the actual point of the review. Word usage, tone or personality, understanding level and the feelings a piece of writing inspires in us are what drive the case on whether the particular book is worthy of a read. The appeal of the writing also depends on whether it falls in your preferred cup of tea. For instance, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is an explicit example of having the most polarizing reactions ever.
The ending of the review decides the overall verdict: is this book good enough to read? In some cases where the book gets less than three stars on the standard rating of five, the evaluation is a hard ‘NO’; on five-star ratings, the over-excited bibliophile will scream from the top of the bookshelf to read it ASAP. The third kind is the neutral conclusion: the reader explains their personal thoughts but doesn’t discourage their fellow bookworms to take a bite of the book. Usually, the neutral option is better because it allows room for an open discussion.
At the end of the day, a book review gives you an idea of what to expect but it cannot shape your reading experience because that is yours alone and can’t be replicated. So it does not matter if I liked Cigars of the Pharaoh compared to other readers who didn’t because, as said by author IIona Andrews “ if a book isn’t at least somewhat polarizing, it didn’t say anything of value“.
Disclaimer: This is not a definitive guide on how to write the perfect book review and is mostly based on personal observation. Every reader has different forms of expression and thereby has individual styles of reviewing. Unless you’re sitting in an exam hall. Then you need to follow the guidelines or it's a huge red zero on your answer sheet. Just kidding! (not really).