How to Critique a Book for High School Students

Select a book about a topic that interests you to make the critique writing easier.
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You recommend movies, clothing stores and restaurants you like to your friends, and a high-school book critique allows you to recommend a book or suggest your teacher and other students avoid it. A well-written critique shows you have a clear view of the book's strengths and weaknesses. Unlike a casual recommendation about a new website, your formal book critique must convince the critique reader that you not only read the book with an eye to the details, but that you have a valuable opinion about the content.

1 Critique vs. Report

A critique gives detailed information to help others decide whether to read the book. A basic report summarizes the information from the book, but a critique builds on the summary by giving an opinion about the overall effectiveness of the novel or nonfiction work. The critique presents your opinion without emotions and uses examples from the book to support your positions, according to the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

2 Outline

Effective critiques use a basic outline to organize the content. An outline helps your critique stay focused on the key issues. Integrate the traditional elements of a book report, including the plot summary, character identification and setting, into the critique to help the reader understand the context for your ideas. Critiques combine these basic elements with the reviewer's opinions about the book's strengths and weaknesses. The most effective nonfiction critiques outline the author's main idea and supporting materials and methodically evaluate the effectiveness of both.

3 Narrative

Use the outline as the foundation for writing the critique. Write a sentence for each main point of the outline to keep your narrative on track, and then select examples and quotations from the book to support the sentences. Persuasive critiques use quotes to show where the book fails or excels in presenting the basic fiction or nonfiction elements. Jot down a few quotes while reading to use in your critique. Look for key turning points in fiction works, and search for the author's support for the main idea in nonfiction books.

4 Professional Critiques

One way to prepare to write the critique includes reading other critiques of your book written by professionals for magazines, journals or newspapers. This, however, doesn't mean borrowing these ideas for your review. Read critiques by others only after brainstorming and outlining your ideas to compare how closely your ideas match the professional reviews. The outside critiques help you evaluate your approach for the review. For instance, when all of the professional reviewers mention points not included in your critique, you may want to take a second look at the book to ensure you didn't miss important points made by the nonfiction author or plot points in a fiction book.

5 Context

Critique assignments sometimes ask you to place your book in the context of other books in the same genre. Assignments also ask you to compare your book to the author's other works. This means online or library research to understand how your author approaches the topic and a quick search to find your writer's other published books. Locate professional book critiques from newspapers with special book review sections, such as "The New York Times," and use high school library databases and online sources, including the "Library Journal," to find this information.

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.