Critical Review

How to write a critical review

Most classes only need to do one or two of these below.

  1. The writing style (Include an example(s) of nice descriptions, similes, metaphors, alliteration, etc; and describe why you like the examples you found in the book)
  2. The story development
  3. The characters and their actions
  4. Anything else about what the author has done.

Usually, you would use this structure with two or three examples:

  1. State the point
  2. Give an example (quote with page number)
  3. Explain the relevance of example.

Note, the book title is always written in italics, and the author’s surname is used.

1. Writing style

Can be descriptions, use of metaphors, interesting language, and interesting collocations you’ve not seen before.

Example of the writing style:

In Chemical Secret, Vicary includes some very clear and realistic descriptions. For instance on page 22 John and his boss were discussing options for environmental compliance, John’s boss had refused. The description is, “The two men stared at each other for a moment, and John felt cold and sick in his stomach. Wilson smiled, but it wasn’t the kind of smile that John liked”. In this description, the reader can feel the fear that John felt, and sense the twisted mind of his boss.

There are some key parts to this example:

  1. State the type of writing style you will focus on.
  2. The page number and situation
  3. The quote
  4. Why you like it.

* Collocation: see Wikipedia in English & Japanese.

2. Story Development

This is how the story is designed by the author. Consider these questions:

  1. Hook. Does the story ‘hook’ you in? (Are you intrigued and makes you want to read more?)
  2. The Scene. Does the story quickly create an image in your head?
  3. Plot. Does the story quickly introduce the problem that the hero must overcome? Is it fast moving or slow? Real or unbelievable? Interesting or not? Why?
  4. Characters. Do the characters (people in the story) seem real? Do they have their own unique personalities?
  5. Authenticity. Does the story seem real or possible? Why / why not?
  6. Suspense. Is the story exciting? Why / why not?
  7. Ending. Does the end of the story seem good? Does it wrap up the story nicely? Does it make you want to read the next book in the series? Why / why not?

Example

The book Earrings from Frankfurt has a good story development. From the outset, the story is fascinating. It starts with a brother in trouble, and his depressed girlfriend. It does not tell you why they are in this situation at first, which makes you want to read more. The characters seem a little flat, as they do not have much personality. However, the story moves fast, and quickly takes you to an exciting conclusion. Overall, despite the flat characters, the story is a great read.

Story development structure

This paragraph uses this structure:

  1. Introduce the topic of the paragraph
  2. Gives the most interesting answers to the story development questions. It does not list questions, just the answers. Not all answers are given, just the most interesting ones.
  3. A conclusion sentence, which says the quality of the story.

Teaching & researching EFL listening in Japan