Some books we disliked or they were just okay, but they still have a lot of discussion points to sink your teeth into.
Oh I love this. A discussion of unpopular opinions? Of course I’m here for it. I mean, five short discussion posts in one!
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Watch me defend a book I didn’t even like.
Well – an aspect of it. There are reasons I didn’t like this – they range from the bland characters and the nonexistent worldbuilding to the cartoonish abusive villains and the suicide-as-a-plot device thing. And let’s not talk about the terribly executed deus ex machina plot twists at the end.
What I want to “discuss” today is an aspect of the writing. One thing that often gets criticized is Scarlett’s narration: she describes colors like emotions, or tastes, and she does that almost every page. Many readers were annoyed by that (“what a bad attempt at purple prose!”). Some reviewers love to make fun of it – “is she on drugs?”
She isn’t. She’s synesthetic. It’s a thing that happens. Maybe stating that she was synesthetic would have cleared some confusion, and it could have been described in a less repetitive, more consistent way (the writing here was just… not good), but it’s a real thing. Not all brains work the same way.
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen Six of Crows and The Grisha “called out” for portraying Russia wrong. Which they do! But it’s interesting that some books that do the exact same thing with other cultures never get any of this.
This author decided to write a fantasy world inspired by “Renaissance Italy”, failing to notice that Italy didn’t exist in the Renaissance, and throwing together things from places that were different countries at the time in only one city does not work. Just choose a place and stick to it, next time.
Also, I wouldn’t call an Italian character “Magiano”. It sounds like our word for “pheasant”. And that “mi Adelinetta” thing doesn’t make any sense – “mi” isn’t a word that exists in Italian. I mean, it does, as the musical note or a short form for “minchia”, which is Sicilian for “dick” and a common curse word. She probably didn’t mean that. The right word was “mia”, and even then, it’s awkward.
But this book was trash (that’s what you call “morally gray”? Really?) anyway, so…
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
A lie is not a twist.
Unreliable narrator? No, this book was lying to the reader, and its “shocking ending” I guessed during the first chapter was basically the narration going “lol I lied”, destroying everything I liked about the novel (I knew it was going in that direction, but I hoped).
You can’t do that with a first person narration. It’s cheating.
SPOILERY discussion: one thing I liked about the book was that it showed that people who process grief in a different way are often villainized. But then we discover that she did it, which ruined everything. And it’s implied that she did it because she was attracted to her best friend/her best friend was attracted to her. Way to say that bi girls are evil without actually having any bi rep! I still don’t know how this got published or why it’s so well-loved.
The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee
This book has so much problematic content I still don’t know if it was intentional or if the author put together a racism+mysoginy+queerphobia+ableism bingo card by accident.
I mean. We live in a future were the most beautiful person in the world is a blonde white thin girl, because of course the beauty standards we have now will also be the beauty standards in the future, just reinforced with casual eugenics. Which would be fine if it was ever challenged or explored but… it’s just not.
All characters of color here are evil. One is a murderer and a drug addict (and remember! All addicts and mentally ill people are evil), the other is a thief involved in drug trafficking and then in a romantic relationship with a super rich privileged dude who never acknowledges his privilege (nice power imbalance here! And 100% romanticized).
Also, incest! I don’t know whether the book truly wanted to show it as a messed up situation and failed or it really thinks a brother/sister romantic relationship is a great idea for a forbidden ship.
SPOILERS: But the worst part? The bisexual rep. The bisexual character is a cheater who has slept with most of her friends and doesn’t like relationships. She wants to settle down at some point, but don’t worry! She gets killed off, and so does her girlfriend in book two.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Can we stop recommending this as an f/f book? I can understand why someone would like this or recommend it (I didn’t), but if someone asks you for f/f recommendations, maybe don’t? Or spoil the ending, give some trigger warnings, because that was really upsetting, and I know I’m not the only one who felt this way. I mean, if you’ve read the first book first (and not everyone has, not necessarily) you know something… not good is going to happen because this is a prequel, but still.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones was also manipulative writing at its finest, but that’s not the point, today.
Have you red any of these? What are some books you disliked but love to discuss?