How To Write a Good Review

Today I’m going to be writing a post about how to write good reviews!! Again, these are all just my opinions and my thoughts on how to write reviews. Other users might disagree, but I hope these will help.

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Say your basic opinion before you start the review. Don’t summarize the entire plot first – I’ll be scrolling or closing out of your review. The first sentences should be to sum up the book in some meaningful way. You have to make your reader want to continue with the review, or at least to click on it.

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For five star reviews, don’t pretend the entire book is flawless – tell me the one or two elements that formed your deep emotional connection to this book. Find a main theme. For me, five star reads are usually that way due to characters. So I’ll spend a lot of time emphasizing “these characters are built fantastically.”

For one star reviews, emphasize what about the book was so terrible. Rant about everything, but stick to some kind of main theme of What Sucked About This – was it the absurdity of the plot? The annoying characters? The tropes? Pick one of those things to make the focus, or possibly two if you really feel you have to. Again, stick to a theme. If all the flaws fall into one category, as if often true, make that one category of flaws your theme.

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As an extension, cut your plot summary short. I usually read synopsis before I even read reviews, anyway, but either way, you’re not trying to summarize the book – you’re trying to tell me why you feel the way you feel and why I should agree.

A lot of readers won’t really care about much beyond the basic concept. Two sentences is enough for lots of books. For example, if I’m summarizing The Abyss Surrounds Us, I’m not going to use that whole blurb – I’m simply going to start off with “this book is about pirates, sea monsters, f/f enemies to lovers, and environmentalism.” If you’re talking about a creepy or weird book, just don’t summarize much at all. Just mentions the parts of the blurb you think will interest readers. Skip irrelevant detail.

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Mention who the main characters are somewhere so your review will be comprehensible to people who haven’t read the book. Please don’t just assume your reader knows!! They might not. Your review needs to appeal to people who haven’t read the book and people who have read the book. Write for the non-readers.

If you’re looking for more information to put in your review, mentally break it down into characters, plot, setting, worldbuilding, etc. If one of those elements seems fairly irrelevant, either skip it or mention it as something the book failed on.

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Here’s something that’s super important – Be unapologetic. If you dislike a book, you don’t have to say “I’m sorry I didn’t like this don’t kill me :/ you might like it!!” every time. If you didn’t like it, there’s probably a reason for your dislike. Don’t be wishy-washy. If you truly do have mixed feelings, say that, but don’t pretend sympathy when it’s not what you feel.

A big thing is simply allowing yourself to hate books. People won’t hate you if you post unpopular opinions sometimes – in fact, they’ll give your opinion more credit. Ranting about your fave books is trusted a lot more if you hated a book last week.

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Use the return button. No one wants to read a wall of text. I guarantee this is not an unpopular opinion.

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Vary how you do sections!! If you’re writing a super long review with three paragraphs about character development, three paragraphs about worldbuilding, three about writing – use sections. Also feel free to skip a section if you don’t need it – if the writing is basically mediocre, dedicate one sentence to it in your “miscellaneous section” – don’t try to stretch it out.

But here’s the thing – if it’s a short book, don’t feel the need to write sections. Just write a full review if you feel like you need one!!

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Comparing a book to super popular books can be both a blessing and a curse. Want to make a comparison to ACoTaR? Fine, but know that a lot of people are going to be turned off by that comparison. I’d recommend comparing to multiple books and making it clear you don’t have to like that to like this.

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On a related topic – market to the right people. Don’t market a swoony NA romance as a great fantasy read – make it clear that this is for fans of romance, not fans of fantasy.

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Sometimes, it can help to think about why something stands out from its genre. Dystopia? Emphasize how it subverts tropes or has a very different main character than usual. Suspense? Emphasize the depth of psychology. Romance? Maybe the healthiness of the relationship. Contemporary? Maybe the lack of slutshaming.

And if something was a lot of fun, but doesn’t quite stand out from its genre: admit that. It will give you far more credibility as a reader and as a reviewer.

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On the topic of ratings – use a system that works for you. I think rating most things in the two-four range is the best bet, personally.

Probably the most important tip is to use five stars sparingly. Someone who rates 98% of books five is not going to be trusted when they’re writing their reviews. That doesn’t mean pretend you didn’t love it – just rate things four stars occasionally.

And on a related topic, don’t be afraid to rate down if it just wasn’t for you. Anything that I appreciated but never personally enjoyed gets a two, or a three on a good day. Be honest. And also don’t be afraid to change your ratings – we change as people, our rating systems change, our review style changes, and it’s completely fine.

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Anyway, guys, these are my feelings on the how to review. Feel free to comment below any thoughts or feelings on reviewing!!


39 thoughts on “How To Write a Good Review

  1. Thank you! I’m not too good of a reviewer but I HAVE got better and this was helpful! I would also note that DO NOT rate hyped books higher if you actually didn’t enjoy them that much. People actually enjoy unpopular opinions…WELL, I DO. It’s great to see different views on a book

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a really useful post. I definitely needed to read something like this when I started writing reviews, but that’s not to say there wasn’t anything that is useful to me now.

    “And also don’t be afraid to change your ratings – we change as people, our rating systems change, our review style changes, and it’s completely fine.”
    I do this a lot. I mean, I rated City of Bones four or five stars when I first joined goodreads. I tried to reread it this year and… no. Just no.

    One thing I really don’t get about some reviewers is how they use the same rating system for everything. You can’t judge a graphic novel and a poetry collection the same way, just like a YA fantasy book is bad at being adult litfic and adult litfic is bad at being YA fantasy.
    And I still see way too many people rating short stories two or one stars just because “they were too short” (as in, they weren’t novels). Sometimes a writer chooses a format that is not suitable to tell the story, that happens, but that’s not usually what they mean.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! I mostly was just thinking “what would me two years ago have found helpful” and these are what I would’ve said 🙂

      As to within-genre rating: I get that and I agree… mostly? I do think you should rate everything on personal enjoyment to some degree. I think, for me personally, being too short and underdeveloped / unresolved is a short story genre problem, tropes are a YA fantasy genre problem, always being about married couples is a mystery genre problem, focusing too much on worldbuilding is an adult fantasy problem, having too much fucking symbolism and too little on the page is a litfic genre problem. But I’d still rate lower for all those issues because some short stories don’t do that, some YA fantasy doesn’t do that, some adult fantasy doesn’t do that – it’s a thing I consistently hate within the genre, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore it because of the genre, you know?

      I also think some people get weird about rating high outside of their genres, the main examples being people who are incredibly condescending about YA fantasy and talk c o n s t a n t l y about “oh I’ve never rated a YA fantasy five stars before bc I’M SO SPECIAL” and also people who are incredibly hateful of all classics because they think it’s edgy to hate classics. But then again, there are also the people who will never admit to disliking a classic because classics are Sacred :/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you both have some great points! I have a problem (is it really?) of rating so many things 5 stars because I love so many books I read. Maybe I am sticking to a very small genre/author/type of book. Also, I feel guilty about reviewing something poorly – something I just need to get over.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Honestly, rating everything a five is… kind of just a sign of having reviewed for far less time?? I used to do that too, but as I’ve improved at reviewing, I’ve gotten far more critical and been able to find the difference between fours and fives.

        I actually rate a lot of books I ADORE fours nowadays – it’s not a diss on the book, just an acknowledgment that it didn’t reach THAT level of adoration for me. Five means all-time favorite book; four means book you love. I think a lot of reviewers think of four as being average, when really four means “I loved this.” Both ratings are compliments to the book, not insults 🙂

        And definitely don’t feel guilty about rating down!! I think what helped me most is realizing that if it didn’t work for me, I needed to trust that there was a reason behind it. It probably isn’t just you; every book has genuine flaws, and even if you feel bad, there’s nothing wrong with identifying them.

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      3. Great advice! And you’re right – I have been treating 4 stars as average and 3 is more ick I didn’t really like. Some of the 5s I have definitely stay the same with your definition but some would change. Thanks 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ok. It kinda conflicts for me if review tours say 3 or up can post and I look at my 3 star book and think “wow, that’s not a very flattering review” if that makes any sense. This simplifies whether I post with the tour or not 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I recommend skipping the blurb and just going with a brief rundown 🙂 if you do put the blurb, definitely don’t have it as the first thing – start with an intro, then go into “this book follows…”

      and thank you so much for reading!!

      Like

  3. This was really helpful! I feel like my reviews tend to be a bit messy: I say something here and then again later and it goes on like that. Your post made me realise that I need a little bit more structure to improve my reviews and make them more comprehensible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! And yes, I think sometimes it’s helpful to create sections and then see what the trends are – if you’re saying “underdeveloped” for all, generalize, or if you have nothing to say about anything but the characters, make the point that the book relies on characterization.

      Glad this helped!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a lovelyy post, thank you so much for writing it – super helpful and great reminders here, things I’ll have to keep in mind for my next reviews… I tend to write too much and too big paragraphs, I think ahah. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. School must have missed the memo – book reviews need not have a summary of the book -while teaching us. I am often entirely too long or too short; other times I forget all that I had to say by the next morning. These tips are certainly going to help. Oh, also, I agree. Unpopular opinions, so long as restricted to the book itself, are pretty fun to read. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

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