Telling Tales

Whether you enjoy a book or not, reviewing it from a personal perspective is a great way to see a story afresh. Amber from Teen Breathe tells us about the joys of being a book-reviewer, while sharing opinions and making friends with like-minded readers around the world.

Hands up who thinks the Harry Potter books aren’t as great as they’re made out to be. Brave people. Now, hands up anyone who considers them stupendous classics that will stand the test of time. That’s most of the population with their hands in the air, then.

It may, of course, be that you find some aspects of the series excellent, the characterisation, perhaps, but feel other elements could be sharper. Imagine having that discussion with JK Rowling – you’d have to be ready to back up your opinions.

In other words, you’d need to read and review the book (or books) thoroughly, but not necessarily in a homework-y, academic way. There’s no tick sheet or questions to work through – no ‘compare and contrast’. You’d be doing it from a personal viewpoint, looking at which characters you relate to, those you dislike or find disagreeable, and those who, well, you might find a tad dull.

Similarly, you’d be able to explore the settings and plot lines, and the relationships between characters, questioning whether or not they feel real and their conversations and language ring true. The idea is not to be mean or unkind, but to offer a personal view. If you enjoy doing it, you could, in the future, become a book reviewer, contributing articles to magazines and newspapers.

Before you get started, you will, of course, need some books.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a local library and be able to borrow the ones you wish to review. If you’d like to buy them, however, check out charity shops and second-hand bookshops. Swaps with family and friends are also a great way for everyone to save money.

Another option is to start a book blog (you might need an older family member to assist you in setting up a website), where you can share your own book-related articles, photos and items of interest. There are free templates and photo editors online that will help you get the look and logo you desire (check with a parent or guardian before signing up). If you’re interested in coding, creating a blog is also a fun way to brush up on your skills.

The best thing is that you’ll be joining a worldwide community of bookworms, which means it’s a great way to connect with lots of like-minded people. You might even find that publishers start sending you books for free, in return for reviews. I posted to my book blog, which I started when I was seven, for 12 years. During this time, I received thousands of books (some of my reviews were even quoted on book jackets), interviewed authors and celebrities, and even attended film premieres. If you’re interested in a career in publishing, it’s really useful experience, too.

If you’d prefer not to go online, you could submit your book reviews to your school newspaper, if there is one (or launch a title if there isn’t), or invite friends to write some and then share each other’s views. Most importantly, though, just have fun with it. Don’t overthink it and try not to take it too seriously. It’s a way to make new friends and read books you might not have discovered otherwise.

GET REVIEWING

When you’ve read your book, you might consider exploring some of the following areas:

  • How did the book make you feel? Happy, sad, emotional, understood as a person?
  • Which characters did you like/dislike? Why?
  • Did any of them have flaws? Did it make them more relatable to you?
  • What did you think of the book cover?
  • You could include a short quote from the book that you particularly liked.
  • Have you read anything from this author before? Would you like to in the future?
  • What is the pacing like? Is it slow and calm or fast and frantic, with loads going on? Would you have preferred this to be different?
  • Did it make you think about bigger topics? Maybe the book focused heavily on bullying, or school, or families.
  • Did the book end in a satisfying way, or did it leave you wanting more?
  • Who would you recommend this book to?

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