Literature class is not only about reading. Sometimes a teacher can assign you to write a book review to check how much progress you have made with your reading list. So, if this is your next home task, make yourself comfortable at the table now and imagine your review as a tree. We are going to analyze the book!
The trunk is an essential part of a tree, and so is your first paragraph. In this part, you should mention the title of the chosen book and the name of its author as well as to briefly retell the story or the main idea in question. The strong trunk supports the branches, so the basis of your book review will not differ greatly from that of the assignments of the rest of the group.
The branches, on the other hand, would represent which themes you want to develop in your book review. They can vary, curve and take you in all possible directions. In your first “branch” you might concentrate on describing the characters of the book: how they look like, their deeds, what they like and dislike or what they mean personally to you. Are they realistic? What else is so special about them? What are the relationships between them?
Or you might follow another branch – the branch of themes, for example. Explore what exactly the author describes in the book. What is his attitude towards the good and the evil, love and death, nature, food, people, marriage, robots, cities? Consider the reasons behind his train of thought: why did he spend his time on writing this very book? Write what you think the author wanted to convey to the readers of the work, and whether you agree with his message or not. Deep analysis of the themes and the moral of the book will not leave your teacher bored.
It can be dedicated to the means of expression used by the author. How exactly does the writer describe the events? Is the text full of dramatic dialogues, long descriptions, deep thoughts of the characters or sparkling metaphors? Why do you think the author chooses these means in the work? This branch may be the most difficult to develop, but it will lead you straight to the sky!
The tree would look mournful without its foliage. The leaves are the examples from the book to which you can and should refer to support your opinions and considerations. Do not overwhelm your reader by covering the branches up completely, but provide enough quotations and references to the book: prove that you have read every word. The leaves should be small but so reliable, that they cannot be blown off by the strong wind of criticism.
The background check on the book and the author may help you understand the book better. What lurks under the trunk of your tree? Find more about the age when the book was created and what the society was like at that time. The author’s origins and identity, his/her education, interests, worldview: everything can be handy and support your tree to make it grow strong and unique.
Your Book Review Sample (with Comments)
Now we are going to throw out to you a 500-word example of an original and well-structured book review as well as to provide some comments concerning the most significant features of such paper. The book our review here is dedicated to is one of the recent best-sellers, famous for its deep idea and the creative approach the author used to present it. So, we have chosen Daniel Keyes’s work – “Flowers for Algernon”. Let us see how we can review it.
Starting with the Trunk: A Brief Summary of the Story
When retelling the plot of the book concisely, you prepare a reliable basis for your further work. In order to provide such basis for the above-mentioned novel by Daniel Keyes, we need to concentrate on the main character of the story, his (because we have a man here) place in it and on the most essential connections between him and the other characters or the most crucial events. Besides, we should pay attention to the format the author applied, as it is also important for understanding the author’s original conception.
Have you ever thought about the life of mentally disabled people? What do they feel? How do they entertain themselves when left alone? What can they dream of? Daniel Keyes, a famous American writer, made a successful effort to answer these and many other questions in his novel “Flowers for Algernon”, which first saw the light of the day in 1966.
The dream of 32-year-old mentally retarded Charlie Gordon comes true: he becomes smart and can understand what other people say after he has undergone a revolutionary operation for artificial intelligence. What is more, he turns into a real genius who tries to comprehend the human nature. But gradually Charlie realizes that he will finish just like his “fellow-sufferer”, the mouse called Algernon. This mouse underwent the same operation as Charlie, and the animal’s intellect increased significantly. However, after it reaches its peak, Algernon gets weaker and weaker. Charlie understands that he has little time too, so he must hurry up to do bring all his plans into life.
Referring to the Roots: Who Is Daniel Keyes
Although it may seem that we have mentioned the “roots” of our tree as the last element needed to build the review, you should take into account that the brief book summary cannot be torn away from the author’s initial ideas and motives. In their turn, they are mostly based on the writer’s (in our case, that is Daniel Keyes) unique life experience and the time he lived in. So, in this part of our review we are going to shed some light on Keyes’s personality, lifestyle and worldview which were influencing him directly while he was working on the book “Flowers for Algernon”.
Daniel Keyes nurtured the idea for his outstanding novel within 14 years. Probably, one of the most significant factors that fed the writer’s inspiration was his experience of teaching English to mentally retarded children. One boy asked Daniel whether he could attend a normal school if he was diligent enough. Also, Daniel Keyes studied psychoanalysis, so he was perfectly aware of very complicated processes and their consequences after such kind of operation even though it was invented by him and is still impossible actually. If speaking about creation of the intelligent mouse Algernon, however strange it may sound, the writer was inspired by his university classes in dissection. All the other characters and most of the events also appear to be somehow connected with Keyes’s life.
Following the Branches and Decorating Them with the Foliage
Right, we have decided to join these two aspects. You see, the thing is that you can hardly speak about the original senses, symbols or figures of speech coined by the author of the book without providing the respective examples, extracted from the text. No tree could survive if it did not have leaves, so none of your statements regarding the writer’s style or the book’s idea will survive if you do not support them with the right evidence.
In our review, we are going to analyze the main themes and motifs put in the chosen novel.
As a person whose intellect is lower than that of a normal adult, in the beginning of the story Charlie is treated really cruelly by his coworkers at the bakery. Although some of the people he meets do try to be kind with him, this fact cannot eliminate our understanding that those like Charlie are never accepted by the society. However, after he turns into a genius and his IQ increases amazingly, he is still alone with all his knowledge, thoughts and feelings. What is more, he seems to try to bury his emotions as deeply as possible and listen only to his highly-developed mind. Yet, he gradually comes to the conclusion that emotion and intellect should be integrated for the sake of life harmony.
Putting the Final Touch
Your review conclusion would have significant specific weight in the general impression of your work. That is why your last but very important task is to synthesize and sum up all your considerations about the book in order to let your reader understand its main idea and value. You should avoid giving any new information on or descriptions of the story and its characters. This will not surprise your readers, but, on the contrary, may confuse them. So, try to think as analytically as possible and provide the filtered but vivid conclusion for your review.
Here is how we have approached this task when reviewing “Flowers for Algernon”.
“Flowers for Algernon” is a very though-provoking and touching story. Daniel Keyes makes us all, his readers, pay their attention to the role of love and sympathy in our world and teaches us to look for bright sides of a personality, regardless of its physical or mental abilities. At the same time, the writer raises the question whether science can and should change our minds so much that we forgot about our feelings. However, the answer remains open until today.