Decoding Book Reviews


Book reviewers, myself included, often use the same old phrases/clichés to describe books.  But what do we really mean when we use them?  Here’s a look at decoding book reviews and the people writing them.  (Note that these are just generalizations intended for comedic purposes.  The styles of individual book reviewers vary.)

Phrase #1: “This book is amazing!”

Interpretation: I do not own a thesaurus and I’m on a deadline.

Phrase #2: “A literary masterpiece…”

Interpretation: This is a book that will make you look smart and sound smart when you talk about it but will bore the hell out of you and anyone unfortunate enough to listen to you talk about it.

Phrase #3: “For fans of Harry Potter…”

Interpretation: This book may or may not contain magic and will be nothing like Harry Potter in plot, world-building or general literary quality.  Conversely, it will shamelessly rip off Harry Potter and will make fans fizzle with rage.

Phrase#4: “A classic fantasy world.”

Interpretation: A bunch of white people (with occasional people of colour who are mystics or slaves) in a world that obviously rips off Medieval Europe/Tolkein.

Phrase # 5: “Twilight-esque”

Interpretation: This novel was complete crap, in a family-friendly way.  This is very common in paranormal romances, especially in the YA genre.

Phrase #6: “Epic romance”

Interpretation: A forced romance designed to target teenage hormones.  Kissing and other such things will be described in nauseating detail that teens will somehow find sexy.

Phrase #7: “For fans of The Hunger Games.”

Interpretation: This book has a ridiculous love triangle and is set sometime in a dystopian future.  It may or may not rip off the Roman Empire.

Phrase #8: “Controversial”

Interpretation: Sex and violence filled garbage.

Phrase #9: “Provides thoughtful commentary on today’s society”

Interpretation: I agree with this author’s political/moral views.

These are just some of the more frequently used/annoying clichés we book reviewers use.  I am guilty of a lot of these and I know many of my colleagues are as well.  So from now on, I’m going to try to follow my own advice and stay away from these.  Because apparently being a hypocrite is a bad thing.  Who knew?

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