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I am writing a book review about the book My name is number 4 by Ting-Xing Ye. The book review is going to have a thesis statement, with 3 supporting arguments. I was wondering including those elements, how would a typical book review structure be? I was thinking it'd be something like so:

  • [1] Introduction (explain plot, basic summary of the book)
  • [2] Thesis statement (my main argument)
  • [3] Directional statement (introduce my 3 main arguments)

  • [4] Argument 1 + Example + Explanation

  • [5] Argument 2 + Example + Explanation
  • [6] Argument 3 + Example + Explanation

  • [7] Conclusion (summary of my arguments + my thoughts about the book)

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Introduce your work primarily, not just its subject

When writing persuasive work—which is what a book review for academia is—your introduction should always:

  1. Focus on your thesis, including your thesis statement,
  2. Introduce the elements of the book that are relevant to your thesis.

Don’t leave your thesis to be introduced later! A reader of an academic review is not interested in a superficial summary of the book—they are likely already familiar with it, and even if not, the point of your first paragraph is to introduce your paper. You will introduce the book, but only insofar as it’s the subject of your paper. You want to laser-focus on highlighting the parts of the book that are important for what you want to say.

To focus on your thesis, touch on the elements of the book that show how your thesis connects to it. If your thesis is about humanity’s relationship to nature, mention the elements of the themes and plot that are directly relevant to that, which you’ll be connecting and analyzing in detail later. You don’t want to try to support your thesis here; you do want to leave your reader with a clear sense that your thesis is plausible, and an idea of the outline of the rest of your paper.

Remember: your introduction exists to orient your reader towards what the rest of your paper will say. You will be supporting it in detail later, but the overall angle of your paper should not be a surprise after the introduction.

Your introduction should include items 1–3 from your question. Keep the detail low, and the statements of thesis and direction clear and readily grasped by a busy reader. Detail comes later. Here, give your reader an easy overview map of the territory ahead, and a crystal-clear understanding of what your thesis is.

The body

The structure you have in your body (items 4–6) is worklike and will do the job. If it’s a short paper, say 4 pages double-spaced, you won’t be able to fit much more than that.

Being formulaic, it won’t win any awards, but getting the paper done in a respectable way is usually better than perfecting it, since you undoubtedly have multiple time pressures besides this paper’s deadline. There are better ways to support your arguments than “argument + 1 example”, but it will get the job done.

To kick it up a notch, rather than “argument #1 + example #1”, you would make your argument in multiple sentences, supporting each assertion with references to the text as you go. Weaving argument and support together like this allows you to say more about what you think the text says and why you think so, and lets you build the total argument of that section up more organically. It’s more persuasive to unfold a good argument as the reader follows you, than it is to plop down the whole argument and then a big quote, and hope your reader will see the same connections you did.

For a longer paper (8 or more pages), you will want less of a formula for each argument. Instead you’ll write each as its own mini-essay, with the main argument broken into supporting arguments, each of those supported by reference to the text. In a longer paper it’s proportionately more effective to use the style of weaving together your arguments and textual support, since the blockiness of the argument + example style is much more obvious, and becomes less convincing when your reader had to wade through many repetitions of “argument + example, argument + example…”.

The conclusion

The conclusion is the simplest and easiest part of a persuasive paper. Its main purpose is to restate the thesis in new words and remind the reader of how the overall set of arguments add up to fully supporting the thesis. It’s very easy to overdo a conclusion or make it too long. Once you have summarized the body and wrapped it up with your thesis, the conclusion has done its job.

Depending on the style of paper, there is room for editorial comment on the book—personal thoughts, etc.—but usually these aren’t the point of an academic book review. If your instructor has said to do so, then do! But usually, any opinion about the book should already be in your thesis and arguments, and are only mentioned in the conclusion as part of summarizing the paper. A more personal writing style can work for this summarizing, but I’ve found a light touch is best. Too much florid prose will stand out against the tighter persuasive writing in the rest of the paper, and it will just feel like padding or rambling by the person assigning your marks.

One nice touch, sometimes, can be to include a brief thought or two on what future work could be done based on the insights of this paper. You’re not likely to ever actually write more on most assigned papers’ topic, but having a brief comment a little past the immediate paper shows that it has been a productive thought process, which some instructors will appreciate. Don’t force it though: if you don’t have any real thoughts springboarding off your finished paper, inventing some just to “look good” will only end up sounding thin and inauthentic to the reader.

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