So, in the wake of yesterday's post about how I don't want to upset authors with my reviews, but I want to say if I liked or didn't like a book, or even just "discuss" it in a one-sided way with myself here on my blog, I went into my Kindle archives and found a few books I haven't read yet. These books were on the cheap side, all under five bucks, but the descriptions intriugued me and they all had good reviews, so I purchased and dug in.
The last book I read, The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen was pretty much the sort of book I like when I read fantasy. It was a little more "young" than "adult", but it was well written, had enough castle intrigue to be intriguing, and though I knew what the plot "twist" would eventually reveal, I still enjoyed the ride. It was great.
This current book I'm reading, though...I won't say the name or the author, but it's bad. I mean, it's bad. And it's not bad in a Twilight kind of way where you enjoy it even though it's bad for you (see Cleolinda's Twinkie analogy), it's bad in a "Didn't this author ever take a creative writing class?" kind of way. I am five or six chapters in, and I have yet to find a plot, and I know absolutely nothing about the heroine other than she reads books (duh), she goes to college (good for her), she has a best friend (you don't say?), a bad relationship with her mother (it's the prerequisite for being a heroine nowadays), and her best friend's brother likes her a lot, though the feeling is not exactly mutual (good job, though, dating your best friend's brother is always a bad idea). But as for who the heroine is, what she's about, her personal philosophies, any of that, it's all blank. One of my favorite parts of reading a book is to read about the world the characters live in.
In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one of my favorite parts of reading was hearing all about Prague and the streets and how much the heroine loved her world. I knew right away what her interests were, who she was, and what she was about. I think Forever Young Adult said that they'd give Karou a BFF charm, and it's true. You like this girl. She has moxie and she's made mistakes, she's wrong about some things, but she's right too, and you just like her. She seems real. This new book, the main character, who we'll just call Bella in order to save ourselves trouble, has been very good about detailing the minutia of her day without actually making me connect with her. That's what I want. In The False Prince, I liked Sage from the beginning. The very first description of him is him running from a butcher after having stolen a loin of meat for the orphanage he lives in. Our first description of "Bella" is her whining about how she hates flying, and then how some guy who is perfect, and yes, she uses the "adonis" word on some pasty white guy, comes and sits next to her after we spend a few sentences on her looking at herself in a mirror.
It's hard to write. It is really, really hard to write. The difference between a good book and a bad book is almost always in the tiny details. The way you describe someone without stopping the story in order to do it. How you explain why the character is going to one restaurant, but not the other. Making life-long childhood friends have a reason to be so.
My biggest issue with this new book is the way the author writes her characters as though she has a litmus test of what every YA novel must have in it and is incorporating everything without actually trying to inject her soul into it. So far, the main character has met two arrestingly handsome men, one of whom seems interested in her. She has managed to pull out angry stares from all of the girls around her because there is no way that these guys can not be attractive to everyone else in the world. She has reduced all of these other women to slavering beasts without self control as they trip over themselves in order to get the attention of these two guys. And worst of all, Bella asks her best friend if she talked to Adonis #2, and Best Friend said "no", and then two paragraphs later, Bella asks what Adonis #2 and Best Friend talked about, and we get a rundown of what they talked about. So far, she hasn't used "prone" to describe someone lying on their back, but I figure it's only a matter of time. The author is also fixated on the different types of cars everyone drives. I think that naming cars in books is now the new pron for everyone.
You know, Fifty Shades is a pretty awful book. Christian is abusive and controlling, and Ana spends the first book being pushed around by him, and then the other two books begging him to not be angry with her for doing little things like running out to get lunch or sunbathing topless on the French Riviera or having drinks with her friends. But the book is compelling. The writing is great (although, James, I need to tell you: prone=laying on the face. Supine=laying on the back. Christian cannot be prone and staring at the ceiling unless he needs an exorcist or an undertaker.) and there are very few grammatical/syntax/continuity flaws. I can read a book that I find infuriating if the writing is good, and I can enjoy it. I have a very hard time reading a book where there is nothing holding me to it.
I don't care about Bella or her Adonises. Her best friend is nothing, and her mom seems to be the only one who knows that Bella is a total twat.
So, authors, let's start working on this. I need my characters to internalize more, too. Let's do it together! (gag)