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.
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?