Writing a critical book review can be an exciting task. While a book review basically just outlines the storyline of a book, a critical book review allows the reviewer to delve into all aspects of the text. Book reviews of this type are most often done either for the author or for a wider audience. Most book reviewers in this line of work follow a fairly basic formula.
Comment on how the title ties into the book’s text. Study the title of the book. Is the title catchy and interesting?
Identify the genre of the book. Does the text of the book fit the intended genre? If you can’t figure out what the genre is then most likely the reader won’t be able to either.
Comment on the length of the book. For instance, a novel should be 80,000 to 120,000 words. Does this book follow those guidelines? If the book is longer than the maximum, then the author of the book might consider breaking the novel into parts or doing a careful edit to remove excess.
If the novel is shorter than the suggested minimum, then the author may need to go back and add more detail.
Read the opening lines of the book. Comment on whether or not you found the opening lines engaging enough to hold your interest and make you want to keep turning the pages. A good novel quite frequently opens in media res (in the middle of the action).
The dialogue should follow normal speech patterns and not sound forced or clipped. On the other hand, authors should beware of using too much straight dialect or they will lose their readers. Analyze the dialogue.
What is the book trying to say and is it said effectively? Does the book have patterns that are carried out throughout? Discuss the overall plot and theme of the book. Comment on the use of symbolism, metaphor, and tone. Are the characters developed enough and do they contribute to the plot? You get the idea.
Check the mechanics. Finally, comment on the overall mechanics of the book – the grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Some final tips: Keep your tone conversational when writing a critical book review for the author. Be more formal and academic when writing a critical book review for a wider audience. Don’t be nasty. There is no need to crush a writer by telling him he should not be writing in the first place. Give constructive criticism only.