The book community generally has a very positive outlook and energy when talking about books, which is fantastic! However, if, like me, you were part of the early Booktube-era you can remember a time when negative reviews or critiques weren’t really a thing, or if they were they were pretty rare. I think though we can all agree, critique and critical thinking about the works we consume does matter and can expand our ideas in how we reflect on literature.
As time has passed, naturally with the more I blog, read, review books, or talk about them, I’m finding particular patterns or styles, expressions, elements of storytelling and engaging with those ideas in a more analytical fashion.
This will probably be a post I expand on in some later date, but I thought it was about time I discussed the idea of “critical reading” on my blog because its something that’s been on my mind for a couple years now.
Now “Reading Critically” isn’t exactly equated to ratings, but that can go hand-in-hand in cases. However, for me I choose to look at it as actively reflecting on the execution of many elements the book presents: the author’s writing style or use of language, the themes being presented, my own interpretations and how it’s being lent to the reading experience, character construction, effective use of page-time, plotting, among many other factors that likely be their own separate post.
For readers who are new to the book community or reading for general enjoyment looking to make entertaining content (like some of booktok right now) a trend I’ve noticed on my fyp is that people rate their a lot of books pretty highly which makes sense, it’s more accessible to people who want to get into reading, that’s great ― however, it’s also a platform in which the more popular, quick content needs to be broken down much faster which means…not too much time to delve into a lot of thoughts.
Even though I’m still the kind of reader who reads for enjoyment because these stories are pure escapism, joy and overall fun to read, there are moments that the critical thinking light goes on and I can’t escape it. This leads to me flying through the book with a more in-depth look at the author’s use of prose, worldbuilding, dialogue, or character voice, etc. examining if it’s effective in telling the story, from my perspective. And you know what, I find it incredibly rewarding!
When analyzing a book of course we come into it with different perspectives or ideas on what we hope the book will be or achieve. However, I think there’s many questions we can consider when trying to read more critically, but here’s a few to get started: is the world or atmosphere effectively built in the story? does the dialogue feel realistic or make sense with the character? Does the plot progress in a realistic fashion with what the author has established?
My reading experience honestly becomes more memorable because I’m engaging with the author’s work more seriously and taking the ideas they are presenting with more construction, like with my recent review of This Poison Heart for instance. The atmosphere and character journey of Bri was my favorite part, however the rating was less than I expected & yet the reading experience itself was fun for me not only because it was my first book I’d read by Kalynn Bayron, but also taking away from the story this element of self-discovery that was effectively explored through Bri’s inheritance of her birth family’s estate. Another one of my favorite examples is my critical essay on Heartstopper (do give it a read, if you’d like a more detailed look at how I present my analysis 💕)
For me I also approach reading critically as absorbing the ideas, themes and concepts the author has presented and taking them seriously. Even if the review may not be “glowing,” I find joy in the fact I’m taking what they say very thoughtfully, challenging me to see how effective they are presenting these elements in the story.
While this discussion can probably go on for thousands of words more, I’ll leave it here saying that in the process of writing this discussion, I’ve also thought about revisiting more “popular” YA Books like Six Of Crows for example and delving into more criticism, from a new angle or perspective. If there’s any other popular or well-known Young Adult books you’d like me to consider for more in-depth analysis please, let me know below!
Are you a Critical Reader? What do you look for or pay attention to when reviewing? If you’ve been reading or blogging for a while, have you seen you ratings or reviewing perspective change?