Like a lot of readers, I fall prey to the hype machine every now and then. A few of these books – hyped by publicists, readers, critics, or all three – have become some of my favorite reads: Cinder, Code Name Verity, Grave Mercy.
But some of them will leave me scratching my head, wondering what I missed that everyone else saw. Below are a few semi-recent reads with a lot of buzz that just didn’t work for me. What hyped books didn’t work for you?
Half Bad by Sally Green
This was a Cybils nominee and I listened to it because it had been getting great reviews from trade journals and lots of praise from places like Time Magazine and the New York Times. It was also highly praised in England, where it was first published. It’s about a magical culture that has white witches and black witches – the white witches are good and the black witches are bad. The protagonist is half-code, meaning one of his parents was white one of his parents was black. Reviews praise the voice, and I agree that it’s good, but the story was so nonsensical to me. I never got a full understanding of why white witches were good and black witches were bad. Their behavior didn’t indicate anything of the sort, either subtly or cut-and-dry (aside from the Big Bad, Marcus). And I don’t think that was intentional; it reads more like a sloppy oversimplification for the sake of story, one that doesn’t work. As a result I wasn’t able to buy into the premise at all. I’m still flummoxed by this one many weeks after finishing it, and bemused that so many people seem to love it.
Angelfall by Susan Ee
This was a Cybils finalist and a huge self-publishing success (it got picked up by Amazon publishing, along with its sequels). I thought the story – about killer angels and the girl who gets caught up in their war – was a winner, but the writing was so poor. It was pretty painful to read and I wouldn’t have finished it if it weren’t a requirement for me to do so.
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
This Printz winner is divisive, but I honestly don’t know what the judges see in it. This was also one that I listened to on audio. It was rambling, extremely long, mostly incoherent, and bereft of meaning or depth. Deliberate confusion does not equal literary merit. Here’s my original Goodreads review from 2010 and I stand by it: Pretty
terrible. I can think of only two possible things that might have made
me enjoy this book: a narrator who was able to infuse some spirit into
all the wackiness instead of just sounding sarcastic all the time; or me
having read Don Quixote, because clearly I have missed something. I
thought the book would never end.