Have you ever read a book review and feel like you just re-read the book summary? What about written one. I know I have.
I have read some “reviews” that are almost word for word what I can find on the back of the book. And I always end up with a dramatic eye roll and a “Well that was helpful”scoff bouncing through my mind. And yet I started no better myself. I had to learn the differences between a book report and a book review.
Throughout school, I grew up writing book reports and some teachers called them reviews but expected the same thing (shame on these teachers now that I know better). So when I first started reviewing books, I found myself just creating a summary. Yes, it was different that the original summary, but still, that is all it was. Maybe one sentence about the content or how I felt toward it.
Yet that is what is needed in a review. Our reactions! A summary can give me an idea of whether I want to read the book or not, but reading reviews from like-minded readers is what informs me what to expect on a deeper level. It tells me about story depth, character growth, if it made them laugh or cry. Did the reader believe what they read, did it seem well researched, or was in bland and one dimensional? These are just some of the qualities we look for in reviews yet so many are missed.
I still often find myself somewhere between the two. I often still tell about the story but I also interject my personal thoughts. Partly to better explain the story, partly because I do not know if the person reading my review read the summary. I know a few readers who ignore summaries. They decide off reviews, title, cover etc. Not many, but a few all the same. After years upon years of reports, it is not always easy to break this but I do still try. Now after blogging, the more I think about this, the more I want to go back through my reviews and see how they come across.
Have you ever found yourself in this trap? What do you find most important in a book review?