Monday, August 1, 2011

Unfinished and Abandoned books [1]

What do you do with books you haven't quite finished yet?
I'd been flip-flopping on that until I saw Enna at Squeaky Books' feature called Unfinished Friday. This post is inspired by that.

Over the last year, I've changed my reading views a bit. Used to be that I was absolutely determined to finish a book, even if I didn't like it (or whatever reason)...just to be finished with it.
Now, too many books and not enough time have resulted in way more DNFs and (temporary) DNFs. And really, I read for fun, pure and simple.
But just because I abandon or set aside a book doesn't necessarily mean I don't like it. It just for whatever reason, that book didn't hold my interest. Other books, though, I definitely did not like.

Matched (Matched, #1) - Ally Condie
Unfinished since: January 2011
Commentary: The number one gripe I have with these "I'm-the-next-Hunger Games!" dystopians is that their storyworld is 1) underdeveloped, 2) implausible, 3) boring.
With Matched, I found the whole setup rather boring. Actually, the society seems to run perfectly fine with everybody getting matched together. Authors, please understand: you cannot have revolution if there's nothing to revolt against. And why is it, after _____ years of running successfully, does it take 1 teen girl for everyone to start 'seeing the light'? That's a bit implausible.
That, and I just found the characters very tepid. There's nothing really wrong with this book, and I do plan on finishing it, since I have the second installment, but it was just hard to keep focused.
Positive: There's nothing really wrong with Matched. In fact, I love Ally Condie's writing and I completely respect her for writing a clean story, one that I can still recommend to friends and young adults.

Firelight (Firelight, #1) - Sophie Jordan
Unfinished since: April, 2011
Commentary: It's been harder and harder for me to get through a paranormal book, and I think it's because the formula is getting old. Somebody's some sort of paranormal creature, but we mere mortals are unaware of said creatures' existence. Somebody is "inexplicably drawn to" somebody else. There's a kissy scene before a fight scene (boo). Somebody is a paranormal creature who has any number of abilities/powers, whatever, and yet they're bested by this fearsome institution known as high school. The main character is supposedly some sort of dragon-shifting princess or whatever, and yet she can't seem to handle prissy teenage girls.
All the love interests are all the same - modern day Adonises who are nice but neeever pushy, because we can't have an attentive guy cramping the heroine's style! Oh, the horror, someone who actually has an opinion and isn't afraid to stand up to you! We can't have that in a love interest. Guys are supposed to stand around, be pretty, and let the heroine save the day. (Where have we seen that formula, roles reversed, before?)
Oh, and there's a love triangle. 'nuff said.
Positive: At least Wesley, the love interest, wasn't one of those 'bad boys.' I feel like an '80s made-for-TV-movie just typing that phrase. :S

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1) - Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Unfinished since: November 2010
: It's more than a little intimidating to be unable to finish a book that so many people love, that's for sure. For one thing, this book is just long. I mean, it ambles along and truly fascinating things like magic and spell-casters and curses and so on are bogged down by day-by-day reports made by the narrator, Ethan. A day-by-day commentary of high school is not a good way to write a paranormal book about witches. It's unnecessary. But what I just could not get over was the unreliable voice of the narrator. I've seen many reviews accuse Ethan of sounding like a middle-aged woman. And guess who wrote Beautiful Creatures...?
For example, it's normal for a teen boy to be bored to death living in a small town and want to leave in pursuit of other, more exciting things. But Ethan's constantly whining about how horrible, backwards, and bigoted his South Carolina town is, and I find it hard to believe that any teen boy would be that concerned or aware. And really, as someone who lives in the South, it seemed to me like the authors were trying to make some kind of statement, which I most certainly did not appreciate. This, coupled with the authors' insistence on reminding us how mean everyone is to Lena just because she's different was, to say the very least, over-the-top.
I do not like agendas in the books that I read, and Beautiful Creatures turned out to be one of the most heavy-handed books I've ever read. Screaming about tolerance to the reader is not classy, in my opinion.
Positives: The take on magic in this book is fascinating, when it's actually the focus of the story.
Also, this book is pretty clean, so I could still recommend it.

And last and least -
the first and only BEA book on the list,
All These Things I've Done - Gabrielle Zevin
Abandoned since: July 2011
Commentary: I'm only 100 pages away from the ending, but it's highly likely I will never reach those final pages. If you look this book up on Goodreads, you'll see that there's already a sea of 4-and-5 star reviews. And nestled in there, somewhere, is a 2-star rating from myself.
You see, quite a few books have, over the years, bored me or annoyed me, but only a very few have offended me on a personal level, as this one has. This book is a prime example of why I don't like religion (or religious characters) in young adult novels - because I don't really trust authors to not misrepresent it. The only religious character in this book is also one who simply abandons her previously-held beliefs soon after she starts dating for the first time, because, you know, moral beliefs are just a cramp on a girl's style.
Besides what you may or may not believe about religion specifically, do we as readers really want to get happy-clappy over a girl who just drops her beliefs or principles (whatever they are) because some guy comes along? That it's okay to change who you are and what you believe just because somebody pays attention to you? I certainly don't think so.
So that's my soapbox-problem with this book. But this book started out so well! I absolutely loved the main character in the beginning, as the daughter of a deceased crime boss who tries to live on the outskirts of her family's illegal chocolate trade, because chocolate and caffeine have been banned. There really weren't any major reasons given as to why these substances were banned, which made it hard to really get on board with the futuristic society presented.
This is more of a small-time dystopian, because as of now, the focus is primarily on the girl, Anya Balanchine (*love* that name) and her average life, instead of society as a whole.
It's just a futuristic New York City that's barren and dry (for some reason), with limited electronic technology and a mysterious ban on caffeine products.
Positive: I'm predicting that most people won't have an issue with what I mentioned here, or will overlook it, so that's a positive, I guess.
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