How to Write a Book Review

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How to Write a Book Review

  1. 1. Sam Tanenhaus- Editor, NY Times Book ReviewA book review is a description, critical analysis, and an evaluation on thequality, meaning, and significance of a book- not a retelling. Do not tellus the plot. The idea is if you are effective at critiquing and analyzing thebook, then you will influence your audience to read the story forthemselves (or not). You can agree or disagree with a book and pinpoint I write bookelements that are well done and other aspects that are deficient. reviews for a living • Mention the genre (you have already done this on the book page of your independent reading wiki) and be very sure to state whether this is fiction or non-fiction. • Identify the narrative (point of view). • Who is the author and does he/she have any particular insight towards the subject matter (does something about their background make sense that they would write this book)? • Provide a (very) concise summary of the book. *** Do not be a spoiler. Simply provide basic background information about: - Setting - protagonist & principal characters - conflict (not the resolution) • What is the author’s style? Is it written informally (I.e. trying to sound like a teenager)? What is the author’s tone (does he/she try to make a greater statement about a universal concept)? • Does the book have a specific theme? • What is the mood? LINK to an extensive list of mood and tone words. • Does the author effectively employ specific literary devices/structural elements- characterization, word choice, dialogue, imagery, metaphor, motif? • On what levels, if any, have you connected with the book? • Does the book achieve its goal? If it’s meant to be humorous and light, or compelling and accusatory, or an exposé, is it successful? • Would you recommend this book for reading and if so, to whom?Have a look at the following book reviews (you will read all three of these from grades8-10). Compare our guidelines from above and identify how they have implementedthese basic components. 8- The Outsiders – by an anonymous middle school student 9- Of Mice and Men- review by Linda Linguvic 10- To Kill a Mockingbird- Alix Wilber
  2. 2. 8- The Outsiders – by an anonymous middle school studentThe Outsiders was a fascinating novel depicting the life of a boy struggling to survive inpoverty without parents. Having only two brothers to look up to, Ponyboy had to oftenfend for himself. While trying to stay out of trouble with the Socs, boys from thewealthier side of town, Ponyboy learned to depend on himself and keep his eyes closeon his goals even with the many distractions he faced. Many times during this story,Ponyboy got into situations that ended up in fights. While being either strangled,threatened with a knife, or plainly just beaten up, Ponyboy learned to live a hard life.He was rescued in the nick of time, by his brothers, many times. Being the smartest andmost focused Greaser of the gang, he set his sights beyond what the average Greasercould imagine. His goal was not to be the best street fighter in the gang but to get aneducation. He imagined a life free of the hatred between the Greasers and Socs, alife without fear and violence. Many Greasers could not live like that, but Ponyboycould. Ponyboy was different. This story takes us though the winding journey of conflictand heartache in not only Ponyboys life, but in the lives of those closest to him.I recommend this book to people who would like to know what life in an inner cityenvironment is like. This book will be exciting for all young adults for it addresses topicsinteresting for this age group. The action and fast paced tempo in the fights,hideaways, and rescues will bring excitement to any reader. This novel will teach anyof its readers to be grateful for what they have and due to the many suspensefulmoments throughout this novel, it will captivate the reader. I give this book an A+.Of Mice and Men - review by Linda LinguvicJohn Steinbeck wrote this classic gem in 1937. Its been a Broadway play and therehave been several adaptations of it in movies and TV. I was generally familiar with thestory but this was the first time I actually read the book. Wow! I was completely blownaway! This is the story of a two lonely and alienated men who work as farm laborers,drifting from job to job in California. Lennie is gentle giant, physically strong butmentally retarded. George guides and protects Lennie but also depends on him forcompanionship. Together, they have a dream to someday buy a little farm where theycan grow crops and raise rabbits and live happily ever after. This, of course, is not tobe as the title suggests. "The best laid plans of mice and men" is a line in a poem byRobert Burns, which describes how a field mouses world is destroyed by a plow.Steinbecks narrative voice is seemingly simple in his descriptions of nature of as well asthe details of the bunkhouse. His characterizations of the people are magnificent. Wemeet the other workers, all loners, and appreciate the beauty of the unique friendshipbetween Lennie and George. We meet Candy, the old man who is outliving hisusefulness. We meet Crooks, the black stable hand, shunned by the men and
  3. 3. therefore turning to books for companionship. We meet the cruel Curley who tauntsLennie into a fight. And we meet Curleys wife, another lonely soul who uses herfemininity to get the wrong kind of attention.Theres tension in every word and I found myself holding my breath, knowing thatsomething awful would happen, my eyes glued to the page, the world of Lennie andGeorge deeply etched into my consciousness. I was pulled right into the story, wantingto shout warnings as I saw the inevitable consequences. The ending was incrediblysad, but yet satisfying. It couldnt have ended any other way. Its a small book, only 118pages long. But it is a masterpiece and I will never forget it. I give it my highestrecommendation.10- To Kill a Mockingbird – review by Alix Wilber"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at theelbow.... When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, wesometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewellsstarted it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. Hesaid it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of makingBoo Radley come out."Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill aMockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem,and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of ayoung black man accused of raping a white woman. Though her story explores bigthemes, Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child. The result is a toughand tender novel of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up.Like the slow-moving occupants of her fictional town, Lee takes her time getting to theheart of her tale; we first meet the Finches the summer before Scouts first year atschool. She, her brother, and Dill Harris, a boy who spends the summers with his aunt inMaycomb, while away the hours reenacting scenes from Dracula and plotting ways toget a peek at the town bogeyman, Boo Radley. At first the circumstances surroundingthe alleged rape of Mayella Ewell, the daughter of a drunk and violent white farmer,barely penetrate the childrens consciousness. Then Atticus is called on to defend theaccused, Tom Robinson, and soon Scout and Jem find themselves caught up in eventsbeyond their understanding. During the trial, the town exhibits its ugly side, but Leeoffers plenty of counterbalance as well--in the struggle of an elderly woman toovercome her morphine habit before she dies; in the heroism of Atticus Finch, standingup for what he knows is right; and finally in Scouts hard-won understanding that mostpeople are essentially kind "when you really see them." By turns funny, wise, and
  4. 4. heartbreaking, To Kill a Mockingbird is one classic that continues to speak to newgenerations, and deserves to be reread often. --Alix Wilber

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