What is a review?

Not so long ago, while checking an author’s website (I won’t give names because it truly doesn’t matter) I stumbled onto a blog post in which said author was complaining that people, especially on Goodreads, don’t write objective, professional, critical reviews. The author then went on writing that there is a difference between a review that contains the thoughts and opinions of the reviewer and a critical review. 

This really made me think what “professional, critical review” meant for that author. First of all, let’s see what the word “review” means.

re·view    [ri-vyoo]  noun

1. a critical article or report, as in a periodical, on a book, play,recital, or the like; critique; evaluation.

Taken from an online dictionary. I won’t bother posting the other meanings as they’re not relevant in this case.

Further on, what does “critical” mean in the above context? Let’s see.

What is meant by critical?

[…] to be critical does not mean to criticise in a negative manner. Rather it requires you to question the information and opinions in a text and present your evaluation or judgement of the text. To do this well, you should attempt to understand the topic from different perspectives (i.e. read related texts) and in relation to the theories, approaches and frameworks in your course.

Taken from the article “Writing a Critical Review”, from The University of New South Wales’s website, here.

And here’s the definition for “objective”, taken from the same online dictionary:

5. not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.

With all that established, I do agree that a book review shouldn’t read like a hs book report (It was nice, I liked it. The End), but there is no such thing as on objective review, if you ask me. That’s because of two obvious reasons.

The first, no reviewer is 100% objective. I’ll discuss the arguments of the book, the plot if you will, the manner in which the author delivers the storyline, his success in doing so, the writing, the pacing, the characterization, I will. In the end, I will base my judgement on the book as a whole and how it made me feel. And, yes, if I liked it or not.

The second reason is that a review can’t be void of opinions. You can write it as critical and/or technical and/or professional  as you wish, but if that’s all, you’ve given me nothing. I need to see a glimpse of the reviewer in his review, an opinion, an impression, a perspective – albeit an articulate and fairly intelligent one. If I want to know the narrative manner and the number of pages, I will check Goodreads. What I want is a hint of whether I’ll enjoy the book or not.

Complete objectivity = a description, not a review.

Also, why would anyone write a review devoid of any personal thought and impression, what would the use of that be?

lion king confused gif




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