Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Thoughts: When you feel like you miss the boat on a book...

I imagine this has happened to most of us at some point or another: you hear about a book that has received rave reviews from everyone you know. You pick up the book, eager to devour this instant classic. But by the end...you discover that not only did you not love the book, you actively disliked it. This isn't a case of a book not living up to the hype; rather, you're pretty sure all of the other readers are insane!

I've had this happen to me a couple of times, sometimes with books where I can see the appeal but the book just really wasn't for me (such as Terry Pratchett's Nation), and sometimes I begin to question people's taste in books - mine or other people's!

For me, it's a rather unnerving experience to come across reviews of books that I actively disliked, especially when the dislike stems from something more serious than disliking a writing style. For example, there's been a lot of love for Perfect Chemistry, which I absolutely can't understand because Alex creeped me out a la Edward Cullen - he sexually harasses Brittany, psychologically abuses her, and then there's the bet to sleep with her. How is this an endearing character, let alone an awesome romance?!

Seeing so many other people rave about a book can also make me question my own judgement - was I too harsh? Did I misread something? Am I actually getting too old for YA books? I want to chime in on super-positive reviews with my own thoughts, but I also don't want to be seen as crashing someone else's party with my downer thoughts!

I doubt I'm the only one who's been in this conundrum - like I said earlier, I'm sure we've all disagreed with other reviewers, and I doubt I'm the only one who doesn't like to seem negative in other people's space! So I want to open the comments here to anyone and everyone: what book does everyone else love that you just don't get? Are you able to just walk away from positive reviews of books you find atrocious? Has someone's positive review convinced you to give a book a second chance? And did that second chance change your opinion or reinforce it? Oh, and I've got thick skin people and love a good debate - let me know if you think I've been way out of touch on a book! Let loose people!

8 comments:

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Great topic! Lol, since I'm one of those people that raved about Perfect Chemistry, all I can give is my point of view. I didn't really see it as harassment and the bet as anything unusual maybe because I'm a high school student, and it's really not that surprising. Not saying my school is always like that, but you'd be surprised at what happens. Definitely not anything out of the usual here.
As for you not liking it, I think that's just part of how things happen. Books aren't designed for every single person to like, and opinions are often based on a variety of things; yes, maybe your age, but also your upbringing, etc. When I see a rave review of a book I didn't like, I try to see things from the other's point of view and say I didn't like it but I can see where you're coming from. It's easy for me to understand that people have different tastes, and it doesn't really work me up. Some of my favorite bloggers have entirely different opinions than me on certain books, but that doesn't make me trust them any less. I hope everything I said makes sense, and, again, I loved your topic! :D

Tia said...

This is something I come up against a lot, although perhaps less so in YA (I think I'm relatively picky in self-selecting things I'll likely enjoy). But, it does come for me with popular award winners (say "A Thousand Years of Solitude" or "Gilead"--a recent Pulitzer winner). I think of myself as someone who appreciates "heavy" literature, but I detested both books. It made me feel like I was missing something, or wasn't a sophisticated enough reader.

One YA book that I seemed to have "missed the boat" on was "The House of the Scorpion." I'd heard it recommended for awhile from very trusted sources, but I found the book boring and unconvincing.

P.S. I didn't like Nation either!

Sami said...

Angela do you mind if I repost what you had to say on Graceling in my blog in a new blog? I find you made a really excellent point and I'd like to file it under the Kristin Cashore tag as an entry.

Thanks!

Angela Craft said...

Sami - Go ahead and re-post! Leave me a link when it's up so I'll be sure not to miss it.

Tia - It's been years since I read House of the Scorpion, but I do remember that I loved it back when it first came out. Do you think the book was just overhyped for your? Or was it simply not your sort of book?

Jenn - It hasn't been *that* long since I was in high school, I remember a little bit of what went on back in the day ;-) However, my problem with Perfect Chemistry isn't that it's presenting actions that happen every day in high schools, but rather that the harassment is presented as romantic and has been received by the blogging community without comment. The bet really isn't the most egregious part, since we do get to see Alex's change of heart throughout the book, but that doesn't negate his atrocious behavior at the beginning of the novel, and it's that sort of behavior that Brittany decides is attractive in some way.

Sami said...

Angela,

Posted it. It was short, but I really wanted to highlight what you'd said.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I think I was the only kid in America not to like A WRINKLE IN TIME.

Tia said...

"The House of the Scorpion" was right up my genre alley (dystopian YA), but I just didn't connect with the main character, which was probably my main problem. I also thought the world Farmer had created didn't seem cohesive and consistent, so I had a hard time "entering" the world. I didn't like either of the two books by Farmer I've read, so maybe I just don't gel with her style.

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