Writing Negative Book Reviews
How to craft a review when you didn't like the book
Have you ever finished a book and felt dissatisfied? It's really no surprise, because even the most enthusiastic book lovers don't enjoy everything they read.
If you're asked to write a review on a book you didn't like, it's important not to feel guilty or intimidated. Instead, think of book reviews as a way to come to terms with what you've read. You'll find there's still a lot to write about, even if you wouldn't recommend the book to other readers.
There's plenty of advice on how to write book reviews, but there are a few extra points to consider when your opinion of a book is mostly negative. Whether you disliked the plot or disagreed with the thesis, it can be harder to remain objective in your analysis. Here are four tips to keep in mind.
1) Be specific and provide examples
A book review is all about self-expression, so you should be open and honest in your writing. It's important, however, to justify any claims you make with solid evidence. For example, if you thought the characterization was weak, be prepared to explain why. Book reviews can be quite short, but you'll have room to discuss at least a few passages that illustrate your arguments. When you have a negative reaction to a book, it's sometimes hard to articulate your feelings, but it's always important to be precise.
2) Consider the author's perspective
Whether you liked a book or not, book reviews are an excellent way to get inside the author's mind. When crafting your arguments, try to consider the author's motivations for writing the way he or she did. Sometimes, this can help you understand or even appreciate his or her perspective on a deeper level. Even if you come away with a negative impression, at least you'll have some insight into the author's creative process, which can inform or even inspire your own work.
3) Balance weaknesses with strengths (when possible)
In any good review, balance is essential because it lends the reviewer more credibility. Even if you strongly disliked the book, a review should touch on both its strengths and weaknesses. If you feel stumped, try creating a list of the book's pros and cons. For every negative quality, jot down a positive one, even if it's only something small. For example, you may have disliked a book's ending but thought the introduction was imaginative and compelling. Or maybe you enjoyed a section of dialogue, even if you didn't appreciate the overall plot. Balanced book reviews are important because they show you can see both sides of the coin.
4) Don't let emotions get the best of you
Books can affect us on a very deep, emotional level. If you feel disappointed or angry after reading something, it can be difficult to remain levelheaded in your analysis. Before you let emotions get the best of you, consider who might end up reading your review. Although you may feel like spilling all your thoughts out onto the page (or screen), the fact is that not everyone will understand your negativity. Book reviews are naturally critical, but just as in a complaint letter, your arguments should always be polite and tasteful. Most importantly, you should never attack the author—or another reader, for that matter—on a level that's too personal.
In book reviews, your voice goes a long way
Book reviews are important to the literary world, so don't shy away! As a book reviewer, you'll be helping other readers understand and appreciate the written word. You may not always love what you read, but that doesn't mean you can't entertain and inspire through your writing.