No matter whom you are, chances are that you've had to write a book review at some time in your life. Maybe you had to write a review for a school assignment, or maybe you like to post reviews of books you've read online in your spare time. Whether you want to explore the themes of a classic work of literature or you want to know if your favorite author's latest novel is worth a read, you've probably read at least a few reviews somewhere.
As much as people like to read or write book reviews, we've all come across at least a few reviews of books that kind of miss the point. You may have started reading a book summary only to find that what you are looking at is a detailed description of the book's plot. Little to no mention of the book's major themes or the author's intention is made. The writer of the review might not even say whether or not the book is worth a read. All you get is a short yet detailed synopsis of the book itself. It can be really frustrating for a number of different reasons. If someone is just looking for basic details on a book and didn't want to know how it ends, it spoils the book for them. If someone is trying to do research on a book for a school project and wants to get a professional opinion on its themes and what they mean, they've just wasted their time reading what they already learned from the book itself.
One would think that professional writers know the difference between a book review and a book synopsis, and for the most part they do. Sadly, what people read online isn't always written by a professional. A lot of people don't know the difference between a review and a synopsis. This continually frustrates everybody from curious readers who just want someone's opinion, to teachers who want their students to write an in-depth analysis. Whether you like to read reviews of books or write them yourself, it's important to know the difference between a review and a synopsis.
The biggest difference between a book review and a book synopsis is what is being described. A review should explore the basic themes of a book, while a synopsis is concerned only with describing the plot. Both reviews and synopses will describe what happened in a book, but a review is more likely to describe why it happens and what it means. It might talk about the motivations of the characters, how certain events of the plot affect them, what the author was trying to say with the story, and what the reader can take away from it. It's meant to incite intellectual discussion of a work, or at least curiosity on the part of a potential reader. At the same time, a review doesn't have to retell the story in the same way that a synopsis does. In fact, the best book reviews won't reveal everything about a book's story.
When a Synopsis is Appropriate
There are times when a book synopsis is appropriate. Some people really do want to know what happens in a book without having to read it, and aspiring writers trying to get their work published often have to write synopses of their books for publishers. Many of these authors take the time to turn a synopsis into an entertaining work in itself. After all, the goal of such a synopsis is to convince someone that a book would be worth publishing, and if it's fun to read a page or two about a book, it might be fun to read the whole book.
There is nothing wrong with writing a book synopsis when it's appropriate or when people genuinely want to know what happens in a book, but it's important that people know that a synopsis isn't the same thing as a review. There are plenty of people who are aware of this fact, but there are just as many who are not.