Reviewing School

A few months ago, I reviewed the novel School over at The Absolute, and the book is now out, with a quote on the back from my review!

school backFor some reason, they went with my summary and not with my snark about North Carolina for the pullquote.

A little while ago, I applied for a freelance fiction reviewing position with Kirkus. As part of the application process, I was asked to review a book using Kirkus’ review standards, and as I read over the guidelines, I knew in my heart I wasn’t going to get hired.

Some of the guidelines were standard practice — reviews are different from PR, a positive critical review should not read like a press release, the most negative review is still not a personal attack — but some of it showed real artistry in book reviewing. It was great to see critique as an actual craft.  For language lovers, the guidelines themselves are a delight to read, especially the note that a solid critique is “nearly as formulaic—though as expressive—as a sonnet.” I often struggle to describe the style and feel of a novel without giving away the plot,  or find myself using meaninglessly positive words like “readable” and “engaging”, and it’s been a helpful challenge to apply these guidelines and suggestions to improve my work.

The Kirkus review guidelines have been really great in helping me find a voice that is critical, professional, and authentic, and if the format lends itself well to shareable pullquotes, I won’t complain at all.


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