The Words Are Mightier Than The GIF

FACT #1: Using GIFs is way more fun that writing out an actual review.
FACT #2: GIFs can only say so much.

GIFs are great devices for pre-publication buzz since you want to ignite positive – or negative (yikes) – reactions without spoiling the book’s contents for your fellow readers. And while GIFs are entertaining, they’ve never propelled me into purchasing a book the same way a good solid review with WORDS will.

For instance:

This GIF shows me that Chris Evans can really take a laser to his six-pack, but it doesn’t actually brace me for the crazy emotional journey ahead for the protagonist.

This GIF properly expresses how agonized you are knowing you’ll have to wait 10-12 months for the next installment in a series that just had a crazy cliffhanger, but really, now I just sort of want to go rewatch The Office.

And this is just a GIF of Jennifer Lawrence I watch endlessly.

You get the point. The lesson here goes back to when we were kids and our parents would ask us to “use our words” instead of pounding our fists on the floor.

Before I launch into what you may want to keep in mind when writing a word-y, GIF-less review, it’s important that I put the obvious reminder out there: there isn’t one right way to write a review, just different advantages to each approach. Some reviewers love sharing their personal feelings while others prefer reviewing the book objectively.

I’m on Team Objective. Even if I didn’t personally enjoy the material, I’ll leave my feelings out of it if I believe the author did a solid job with plot, structure, characterizations, wrapping things up, etc. But the first and foremost thing I keep in mind is that I am REVIEWING the work in front of me, not REWRITING it.

Let’s use the recent J.K. Rowling take-backsies on the Hermione/Ron pairing for example.

If you were reviewing the Harry Potter series and were disappointed Harry and Hermione weren’t snuggling against one another in the epilogue, that’s fine because the heart wants what the heart wants and all that, but the evidence for Rowling’s romantic foundation between Ron and Hermione is planted throughout the series so a critical review wouldn’t reflect wish fulfillment. Instead, you would focus more on themes, character growth and/or derailment, fluidity, loose threads, etc.

And sometimes when you spend so much time with characters, it can be hard to review something impartially if things didn’t go as you hoped they would. Characters die. Ron and Hermione end up together. Unhappy endings happen. It can all be pretty give-me-a-tissue sad.

If you hate how an author ends their novel/series, that’s your feeling to own, but maybe take a few days to consider the ending critically before throwing any “I HATED THIS BOOK!” reviews out into the world: Did it make sense with the author’s trajectory for that particular character’s arc? If it’s open-ended, were the central plot points resolved? Does the end fall on the unconventional side so that it maybe takes a little longer to process your thoughts? Consider these things and more!

(Yup, I whipped out a Kristen Stewart GIF. Come at me, bro.)

And when in doubt about putting your words out there or simply feeling speechless, there’s thankfully a really cool alternative:

How do YOU approach writing a book review? Do you observe the book objectively or is your critique reflective of your expectations? Do you keep it simple with words or do you bust out your arsenal of GIFs whenever you can?


15 Responses to The Words Are Mightier Than The GIF

  1. JoSVolpe Feb 21 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Love your words and your GIFs, my friend. Well said/showed!

  2. Annie Feb 21 2014 at 7:56 am #

    I am horrible at GIFs so I love when other people do it well. I love GIF reviews, especially for books I haven’t read. Because I only read reviews for books I *have* read. Because I don’t want to go into a book with any expectations, even the most subtle or benign, but my own. So a fun GIF review of an unread book is like the perfect way to have fun and interact but not really learn anything about the book 🙂

    • Adam Silvera Feb 21 2014 at 12:17 pm #

      This was my first time GIF-ing! So thank you, Annie.

      And I’m with you. I rarely read reviews for books I’m really excited about because it’s just all so subjective and many reviewers can be very influential in turning me off (and on!) to a book.

  3. Jen Feb 21 2014 at 8:53 am #

    I’m the only person in the world that doesn’t like gifs. I stare at them too long and feel like they are going to give me seizures. I don’t know if it’s because I used to be an video editor and I stare at the mouths too much to see if the lips are sync or syncing my brain to the lips. I don’t know!! See this is why gifs give me a headache. Everyone can throw their angry gifs at me now.

    • Adam Silvera Feb 21 2014 at 12:19 pm #

      “I stare at them too long.” That’s how I feel about Vine! Like, how many times can I rewatch a clip before it’s enough?

      I won’t throw angry GIFs at you. 🙂

  4. Nadia @ Nadia Reads Feb 21 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Loved this post! I very seldom use a GIF in my reviews, mostly when I really don’t like a book. I don’t mind seeing maybe one GIF in a review,, but I hate it when it’s full of gifs!

    • Adam Silvera Feb 21 2014 at 12:21 pm #

      Thanks, Nadia!

      I’ve seen bloggers who’ve mastered the hybrid GIF/word review. So I don’t mind seeing GIFs in a review. Heck, I even welcome it. I just want to learn about the book itself too.

  5. thejordache Feb 21 2014 at 10:56 am #

    LOVE this post, Adam!

  6. Susan Dennard Feb 21 2014 at 11:27 am #

    This is both HILARIOUS and incredibly insightful. You’re so right that GIFs–while amusing–don’t actually help a reader decide whether or not to read a book. Or offer any critical/thoughtful feedback. (But they ARE fun to look at–you’re right there too!)

    • Adam Silvera Feb 21 2014 at 12:22 pm #

      Thanks, Sooz! *insert super fun fist-bump explosion GIF here*

  7. Kelly Feb 21 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    I will probably get hate for this but I am so sick of reading reviews that resemble a short story and a picture book. When I want actual reviews, I don’t want to scroll through a long, long review of slow loading GIFs and the reviewer complaining of the bad ending, complaining by using too much curses. Basically, I don’t enjoy reading reviews that may or may not be written by children or immature people.
    I’m not great at reviewing books at the moment so I usually just give stars at Goodreads. However, I did give one review and I basically gave a one paragraph review in which I discussed what the pros and cons were.

  8. Jo K Feb 22 2014 at 6:30 am #

    You’re right, there is no right way of reviewing. However, I prefer word-y reviews to those with a bunch of GIFs, I usually just scroll down with those… I think GIFs distract me from reading even what little there is written. So wordy reviews are definitely more helpful for me when deciding whether to read a book or not. As for writing reviews, I combine both approaches, objective and subjective. And also with other people’s reviews, I tend to find subjective (or combined) reviews more helpful.

  9. Alexa S. Feb 27 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    These GIFs seriously make me laugh! But they’re pretty darn awesome. I don’t use GIFs in my reviews (mostly because I have no idea if I can use them properly or find the right ones), but I can appreciate them in other reviews. I still prefer words, like you, as it really helps me to read something objective from my favorite reviewers 🙂

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