Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Writing Wednesday: Why Didn't I Like This Book?
I'm not sure who may have noticed, but I skipped out on posting here last week, except for my previously scheduled book review. My son was home from college, my high school student finished up exams and started the summer job, and I was crazy busy slammed at my day job with projects - 4 of them have a due date of this coming Friday, so I'm still busy.
But I missed ranting with you all, so here I am.
This week I read and reviewed a (young) new adult book that the first of a 5-book series (so far.) This author's last series played out to 10 books, so maybe there are more coming. But I won't be reading them.
I read a few books by this author a while ago and when I saw her name pop up in my feed, I remembered it fondly. But having read this first book of the series, I have no intention of reading more. Don't get me wrong, the writing, the grammar, the editing... Those things were fine.
I don't often post reviews of books I don't enjoy, but I did on Monday. As I was writing the review it started getting rant-y, and I wondered why I was so annoyed. I decided it might be interesting to examine why I didn't like it, and why I agree with several of the thoughtfully laid out negative reviews of this book.
Oddly enough, there are over 300 reviews of this book on Amazon, and a pretty good all-around rating. And the author is a USA Today best selling author, a moniker I recently tried to achieve but ultimately fell short. (Next time, people, next time.) But the negative reviews of her book were the most thought provoking of them all. I read a bunch of the reviews, to see what other readers thought and felt, but the thoughts expressed here are my own.
The book is told exclusively from the point of view of the main girl, who despite being a smart sounding narrator, makes bad choices. Terrible, selfish, impulsive choices. Unlikeable choices. She keeps doing incredibly stupid things, and putting everyone in danger for no good reason. And then its not just one of the boys on her new team she flirts with and secretly kisses... It's each of them. But none of them know about the others. Each boy ends up under the impression that she wants him. Even the supposed bad guy, whom she actually seems the hottest for out of all of them.
How could this book be better? Lots of ways.
First and foremost, I have no problem with multiple boys vying for her attention. Some readers hate love triangles, let alone quadrangles or whatever mess this one is, but that's not my issue. I also have no problem where the heroine dates more than one guy... But being with a group of close knit friends and not telling any of them what's going on just seems underhanded and somehow dirty. And she knows its wrong but keeps doing it.
Romance -even new adult romantic suspense- should have better defined parameters to the relationships. There are rules. I know there are lots of popular love triangles and ménage stories... But these poor guys don't even get the chance to be jealous or lay down ultimatums, because no one knows what's going on. Definitely UN-satisfying.
Second, the heroine doesn't learn anything as the book progresses. In fact, she seems stronger and braver in the first chapter than she does in the last half of the book. Character arc is important not just as an abstract theory, but as a reason for readers to stick with your story. I kept waiting for her "a-ha" moment... except it never happened.
Third, if your main character is going to be weak, at least give me a kickass plot that holds up under scrutiny. A bad guy worthy of the title. There again, I kept waiting for the plot to resolve and explain itself, And I realize this is the start of a series but I need a standalone story arc to follow, for Pete's sake. There can be unresolved threads to make the reader want more, but a book needs it's own story.
I know I've ranted many a time about books in a series that just don't stand up or satisfy on their own. Even with the character issues, this could have been an okay read if there was a solid plot to cling to like a life preserver.
No such luck.
So, bad romance etiquette, lack of character arc, lack of clear storyline... Three big writing no nos make this a "no," as in no recommendation. And like I said, I hate to be negative. Really. We've all been there and suffered from reviewers who didn't understand or appreciate our writing.
As I was saying to another author friend at an event earlier this month, sometimes its good to read a book you DON'T like all the way through, and think about WHY you didn't like it. WHAT mistakes were made that rubbed you wrong? HOW can you avoid them in your own writing?
Reading books from authors we love and want to emulate is a great learning tool. On the flip side of the reading coin, you can learn just as much - maybe even more - by reading a book you don't necessarily like. Because you're learning how to focus your own writing to avoid those mistakes.
Time to share... What books have you read recently that were GOOD examples of romance? What books have you read that you didn't like, and why? You don't need to out anyone if you're uncomfortable, but what makes you want to either throw the book across the room, or recommend it?
Okay, enough rant for now. Until next time, Happy Reading - and Happy Writing!