Hello friends, I hope you are all having a fabulous day and are reading some lovely books!
Now that I’m in the thick of university, one of my biggest challenges when it comes to blogging is writing a review under pressure. Usually, it takes me two hours (two hours!) to write a review, but I’ve been aiming to write them in under an hour. One of the biggest problems I encounter when writing a review is simply not knowing what to write or how to approach a review.
To help myself – and you! – out, I’ve put together a little collection of book review writing prompts to help facilitate the writing process. This is not a how-to, but a way to help get the writing process started. Under each header will be a bunch of questions that you can answer. I have provided a variety of questions, so choose what suits the purpose of your book review or your argument!
In the post’s title, I’ve used the term ‘positive’. The term ‘positive’ is a little simplistic, so instead, this post is for book reviews where you want the reader to read the book. Next month, I’ll be publishing the second post, which will have prompts to help you write book reviews where you don’t think the reader should read the book. And, hopefully, I’ll write a third post that will help you write a book review where the book was problematic.
Things you can talk about: sell the book, what makes the book unique, why you picked it up and why others should too.
In a few sentences, what is the book about?
- [Book name] + [protagonist + conflict + development/obstacle they must overcome].
If you had to sell this book to someone in a few sentences, what would you say?
- Who is your target audience? e.g. its diversity and representation; important theme/s; something you are interested in; unique; fun, etc.
What were your feelings when you just finished the book?
- Some people like to read books that make them feel emotionally engaged. e.g. I am an absolute, snotty mess.
What really stands out to you about the book?
- What positive thing do you want the reader to associate the book with? Writing, characters, plot, themes, conflict, development, subject matter, relationships, etc.
What is the general consensus of this book? Is it true?
- This is a good way to connect to a reader who hasn’t read the book but has heard the same things and may be curious.
Why did you pick up this book? Did it meet your expectations?
- e.g. I read this book because Friend told me about it / hype / saw it around, etc.
What is the genre of the book?
- Goodreads is your friend if you aren’t sure!
Things you can talk about: style, pace, ease of reading
What was the writing style like?
What senses did the writing appeal to?
- Did the writer appeal to your senses of smell, sight/imagery, sound, taste, or touch/feel?
What was the pace of the writing? Did it work with the story?
- People have pace preferences, but why should they be patient/let themselves enjoy the ride?
Was the writing easy to read?
- Was the writing style more ‘simple’ or was it more ‘flowery’ or used complex diction?
Things you can talk about: gist of book, what you liked, memorable things, conflict, climate, resolution
What is the general gist of the book?
- [Book name] is about a [protagonist] who [conflict + development].
Why did you like the story? Why should others be interested in the story?
- Relate to feelings, things learned, different perspectives, enjoyment, fun, relatable to personal experience, thought-provoking, etc.
What was a scene/moment that was memorable to you, and why?
- Best if spoiler-free; memorable things give the reader something to look forward to, and connecting it to something you liked helps them build an idea of what they can expect from the book.
What makes this plot unique to other stories?
- Why is this book worth reading? What makes this different/better than a book with a similar story?
Address the plot’s three components: conflict, climax, and resolution.
- Was the execution of the conflict, climax, and resolution effective? What did you think of them? Why were they done well?
Things you can talk about: portrayal of themes, importance of themes, challenges an idea, execution of themes, effect of themes
What are the themes of the book? What ideas does the book explore?
- Think about how it relates to a wider idea and/or can inform or enrich someone’s understanding of an idea. e.g. identity, relationships, life-changing events, goodness, political ideas, interpersonal strengths, etc.
How were the themes portrayed in the book?
- Connect the idea to the book itself – talk about scenes, character development, story development, conflict, resolution, etc.
Why do the themes matter? Why are they important?
- If you have a lot of knowledge or a passion for the theme, talk about it! Relate it to personal experiences, opinions, academic expertise, etc.
Do the themes in the book challenge an idea?
- Themes can challenge ideas or institutions, ranging from things like racism, sexism, and ableism, to false beliefs, myths, stereotypes, etc.
Did the author articulate or portray the themes well? Why, and how?
- Talk about how the themes were portrayed – what was the author trying to convey? What did it make you think about?
If the theme is contested/controversial, what side or perspective/s does the book take? Why is this important?
- In other words, what argument or perspective does the book offer?
How did the theme, or portrayal of the theme, make you feel?
- How you feel about a theme is valid! What feelings did the themes evoke while reading and after reading?
Things you can talk about: main character, side characters, identities, development, favourites, relationships
Who was the main protagonist?
Describe the main protagonist (or other important characters).
- Talk about their identity/identities and/or their personality.
NOTE: If you don’t know their identity, research! Describing a bisexual character as a ‘LGBTQIA character’ or a Chinese character a ‘diverse character’ is not acceptable and contributes to erasure.
What makes the main protagonist so interesting or such a good character?
- What makes Character X uniquely Character X? What differentiates them from the other characters?
Why should we care about the main protagonist?
- Talk about the protagonist’s good qualities, their goal, their development, how they represent something, etc. Or, the protagonist is meaningful to you for your own reasons.
What sort of character development can readers expect to see in the book?
- Talk about how the character grows, develops, or even regresses, and why this meaningful to the story itself.
Was the character development interesting, and why?
- Did the character go through interesting growth or regression? What made it so interesting? Did they change in ways you didn’t expect?
Who was your favourite character/s, and why?
- Favourite characters can give the story momentum and be something we connect to — but all of you are probably experts in this question!
How were the relationships between characters in the book portrayed? What were the relationships that stood out to you, and why?
- Think: romantic, platonic/friends, familial, or intimate, and ships (if any).
Constructive Criticism/Addressing Problematic Parts
Things you can talk about: improvements needed, parts underdeveloped, weaknesses, problematic elements
What didn’t work or could have been better in the book?
- Were some characters underdeveloped? Was there a weakness in the story? Was the delivery of the themes weak?
What was undeveloped, and why should it have been more developed?
- Was there an element in the story, a character, or a theme that you would have liked to be developed more?
What was the book’s weakness?
- Don’t include a weakness just for the sake of including one; consider whether it affected your overall opinion of the story.
What was problematic element/s about the book?
- Address what the author did / about what might be harmful to some readers.
NOTE: If you know of someone or a review that was hurt by the problematic part (because they belong to the group that it affects), consider including a link to their book review.
Things you can talk about: main take away, convince reader to read the book
What do you want the reader to take away from your book review?
- Highlight your favourite thing about the book or what makes this book awesome, or summarize what you have talked about in your review.
Why should the reader read the book?
- But seriously, why?
Ways to end your review (a.k.a. the hardest sentence):
- Reiterate how much you liked / enjoyed it
- Reiterate the best thing about the book
- Tell people they MUST read it
- Answer the question: is it worth reading?
- “This book will make you [feelings].”
- If it was one of your favourites of the year, say so!
I hope these prompts are helpful, and can help cut down your review writing time! I hope to publish the second installment of these prompts sometime next month. 😃
If you have any suggestions on how this can be improved, please leave a comment and I may add it in. Happy reviewing! ❤