Once in a while we read books that don’t work for us. It just doesn’t click with what we want to be reading, and we can’t get into a good groove with the story the author wants to tell (because reading is a conversation between the reader and the writer). And the thing is, that is okay. Not everything will work for us, and we don’t need to apologize for not liking something. Key, though, is understanding and appreciating who the book will work for — who will get something out of this and hit that great stride with the writer? Here are two books I’ve read recently that just didn’t connect with me and some thoughts on exactly who they will work for.
Jenna and Jonah’s Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin: This romantic comedy is about Charlie and Fielding, a girl and a boy, who star in a hit television show for tweens. The book follows their adventures in keeping up appearances as fools in love with one another, and it’s told through each of their voices. It’s completely light-hearted and full of humor, especially pointed at television dramas reminiscent of those you’d see on ABC Family or the Disney Channel. But for me, I didn’t see enough distinction between their voices nor did I feel the pull to care about what happened to either character to continue reading past page 100. The writing is fine, if not a bit corny, but the voices get a little lost in the story line. I feel like this book, had it been written five years ago at the height of shows like iCarly and Hannah Montana, would have been a lot more relevant than it is today. But this is me speaking as a twenty-something with little connection to television for tweens.
That said, this book will work for tween readers and younger teen readers. They will understand the humor completely, and it will be easy for them to connect the Jenna and Jonah show to their experiencing watching similar shows on tv. Readers looking for something mindless and funny will find a lot to enjoy here. GalleySmith, while she points out some of the same challenges I had, liked this book quite a bit and can offer much more insight into what really worked.
XVI by Julia Karr: I really love Kim’s review of this title and hope people pop over there to read it in entirety. She really hit up the highlights of what works in XVI and I agree with them entirely. But as a reader, I had a hard time falling into Nina’s world. In those moments I felt I was there, something new would pop up and prevent me from really understanding what was going on. But you know, this is what works for many readers; for me, it was challenging. I had more questions than answers, and though I made it most of the way through this one (250 pages), I didn’t feel connected enough to Nina to want to know if they were ever answered. This book, though, did surprise me in a good way: by the description and the cover, I really thought it would focus on the idea of becoming a sexteen, but it didn’t. It was a lot heavier in themes and ideas than that, which I appreciated. So even though I didn’t finish it, I did like this and felt it hit on some issues that are important and relevant.
As far as appeal, I direct you again to Kim’s review. This is a great read for dystopian fans, as well as those who enjoy books like Scott Westerfeld’s The Uglies or M. T. Anderson’s Feed. Part of me wonders if this is the kind of book I would adore on audio — it has all of the right elements and perhaps by hearing, rather than seeing them, I would fall more easily into this world. I will say this much, though: I might revisit this book in a few months. I’m still thinking about it, which itself says something about the content.
Kelly Jensen is a former librarian turned editor for Book Riot. She's the author of IT HAPPENS: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader and the forthcoming Feminism For The Real World (Algonquin Young Readers, Spring 2017).