Writing book reviews is a fun and simple way to practice your writing and get your writing published for people to read and engage with. Despite the simplicity of a book review, it’s only effective if you nail the perspective and tone.

Book reviews are not written in first person. Though some book reviews are written in the first person, this perspective is suited to a more casual and relaxed tone. A professional book review should be written in the third person and voice opinions in a straightforward and well-informed way.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about perspective and tone in book reviews to take you from novice to pro in no time.

Narrative Perspectives Used in Book Reviews

Before a writer types a single word, they’ve already made choices about their text. One of these choices is what narrative perspective they’re going to use. 

There are three main categories of perspective, namely:

  • First-person uses the pronouns “I,” “me,” “my,” and “we.” This perspective situates you, the narrator, as the “main character.” The first-person perspective is the most informal and is often used in novels, blog posts, and casual book reviews. 
  • The second person uses “you” and “your.” Picture this as the narrator talking to themselves in a mirror or giving instructions to a friend over the phone. This is the least commonly used narrative perspective. 
  • The third person uses pronouns like “they,” “them,” “she,” and “his,” as if talking about someone that isn’t included in the conversation. This is the most authoritative perspective. 

When assessing any piece of writing, context and a writer’s choice of narrative perspective is crucial. Every choice a writer makes is made intentionally to communicate something to their audience.

The third person is the ideal perspective to use when you’re writing a review for several reasons. While this isn’t a universal law that every reviewer abides by, it’s a highly prevalent pattern with its purposes. 

For practical examples of the differences between narrative perspectives, read through Grammarly Blog’s article. 

Why You Should Review Books in the Third Person

Sometimes, reviewers use the first-person perspective in their reviews, but the context is essential. This makes sense if someone is writing a book review for entertainment or just starting out writing casual reviews for their own enjoyment.

When it comes to professional reviews, they’re almost always in the third person, as this creates just enough distance between the writer’s opinion and the facts presented in the book and the review. 

At the end of the day, book reviews are opinion pieces, but how that opinion is presented is just as important as the opinion itself.

People aren’t reading a book to learn whether the reviewer thought the main character wasn’t relatable to them or that they didn’t like how long it was. People read reviews to know whether they should read the book and what to expect.

A book reviewer’s job is to analyze the book’s strengths and weaknesses and judge whether the author achieved what they wanted by writing the book. 

The New York Times has a page dedicated to the latest book reviews from the best reviewers in the game, so you know where to go if you need some inspiration. 

How To Write in the Third Person

There are a few ways to better understand and improve your use of third-person perspectives. The first is knowing that there are three kinds of third-person perspectives:

  • Third person limited is not the protagonist’s voice but speaks from their perspective and only sees and knows the things the protagonist does. 
  • Third-person omniscient uses information about every character and event at any given time, regardless of whether or not the protagonist is aware of what’s happening. 
  • The third-person objective is the perspective you should use in a book review. The writer is outside, looking in and presenting what they see. 

Even if you don’t use the other narrative perspectives for book reviews, it’s essential to know the relationships between them to distinguish which to use in what situations and, more importantly, why certain ones better fit specific conditions. 

Be Consistent With Your Third Person Perspective

Once you’ve landed the correct perspective for your review, you must remember it while writing. It’s easy to get carried away with writing and switch perspectives without even realizing it, and while this can be used to further a story, it doesn’t suit a book review.

Once you begin writing in the third person objective, stick to that throughout the article and only break into another perspective, such as the first person, in a way that makes sense. 

Write Confidently and Let Your Voice Show Through

Finally, writing in the third person comes with a greater sense of authority than the other perspectives, something you need to use to your advantage. Write confidently, and ensure that your unique voice comes through in your review while sticking to the facts. 

Ensure that you use firm and authoritative language throughout your review. 

This is more natural with third-person writing, as first-person reviews can end up with lines like “I think” or “I felt like.”

Third-person writing should avoid doubtful language and use lines like “this author succeeded in” or “the book fails to portray.” Remember, this review could be someone’s first impression of the book, so be unbiased and direct. 

Tips for Writing Book Reviews

Anyone can write a good book review with the right tools. Other than remaining consistent with a third-person perspective, there are several factors to consider while writing your review.

Some essential tools that will help you elevate your review-writing skills are:

  • Read book reviews: “Watch and learn” is a valuable moniker for writing book reviews. The more you read, the more you can pick up on patterns and conventions in tone, language use, and format. Reading makes better writing. 
  • Follow a format: Stick to a standard book review format, which will help you develop a unique voice and prepare you for the conventions you’ll need to follow when publishing a serious book review. 
  • Develop a voice: Despite following a format, you must ensure that your writing isn’t bland. Let your personality and style shine through in everything you write, amateur or professional. 
  • Remain firm and objective: The point of a book review is to determine if a book achieved what the author created it to, so that’s what you need to focus on. Discuss what you liked and disliked about it, based on the author’s intentions. 
  • Be fair and reasonable: Try to avoid becoming too opinionated, and remain professional and fair when passing judgment on someone’s writing, which will make your reviews more reputable.

Conclusion

While it’s possible to write book reviews in the first person, the third person narrative perspective innately has a more authoritative and professional tone, which is ideally what every reputable book reviewer should embody in their work.

Categories: Non Fiction

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.