On Second Chances

While liking a book pretty much guarantees that I will at least consider reading the author’s future work – and I often end up reading it, if its premise doesn’t sound completely uninteresting – me not liking a book usually doesn’t influence whether I’ll pick up another novel by that author.

There are, of course, exceptions, as there are some bookish grudges I hold (I will never read another book by Katharine McGee), but overall, not liking one book doesn’t have consequences: if the author’s next book sounds interesting to me, I’ll try it.

I want to see how often this works in my favor.

Note: for this post, I will only count novels – liking a short story by an author but not another is the rule and not the exception (even thought there are short fiction authors I’ve failed to get into and will probably avoid in the future). I won’t count non-companion sequels as second chances – it has to be something unrelated.

It Worked

These are authors who wrote a book I disliked/didn’t feel strongly about and then wrote one that I really liked. I love when that happens.

Becky Albertalli

I gave one star to the first book I read by Becky Albertalli, The Upside of Unrequited, but decided to try Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda a year later and really liked it. I also liked her collaboration with Adam Silvera, What If It’s Us, though not as much as Simon vs (or even as They Both Die at the End).

This probably had to do with the fact that I started with her only straight book (which also gave me so much secondhand embarrassment and to this day it’s still the most aro-unfriendly book I’ve ever read). I mean to read Leah on the Offbeat this summer and see how I feel about it, as f/f is the pairing I’m most likely to like.

Amy Rose Capetta

She actually inspired this post.

I read Echo After Echo two years ago, and while it had an amazing premise and some really good ideas in it, the execution fell flat and I found it really forgettable overall. Then The Brilliant Death came out, and… that’s a book I’m never going to try, as I’m uncomfortable with its existence (the mafia is a real thing that hurts real people today – the news talking about them/the damage they’re doing/the people they have murdered/their role in human trafficking is at least a weekly occurrence here – and writing a book with a mafiosa as a main character strikes me as really bad taste).

However, I believe in giving second chances to queer authors writing queer stories, so I decided to read her new novel The Lost Coast, and it was amazing – just the kind of queer witch-y story with forest magic I needed. Now I’ll definitely consider reading everything she writes and has written outside the TBD universe, including Once & Future, which she co-wrote with Cori McCarthy.

S.K. Ali

This isn’t really about giving a second chance to an author whose previous book I disliked, since I actually quite liked Saints and Misfits – it’s just that while some aspects of it really stuck with me, most of the book didn’t (the fact that I couldn’t visualize the setting at all didn’t help), and it was overall a three star read: good, but not something I felt so strongly about.

So, I didn’t know whether I wanted to read her next book Love From A to Z, but I’m so glad I decided to try it – it’s one of the best contemporary novels I have ever read, and everything I didn’t like about the first book wasn’t an issue here, setting included. I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.

Heidi Heilig

I didn’t like Heidi Heilig’s debut duology The Girl From Everywhere. Or, I really liked the first book’s setting, but didn’t feel strongly about the characters or the plot. When the setting changed with the second book, I realized I didn’t care about anything, and ended up skim-reading most of The Ship Beyond Time (I hated it at the time, but I can’t tell you why, as I remember nothing).

However, For a Muse of Fire? I loved the main character Jetta, I loved her family, I loved some of the side characters (Cheeky!), and I can’t wait for the sequel. Heidi Heilig still hasn’t written a romance I care about, but who knows, maybe in this series it will grow on me.

It Didn’t Work

Sometimes, the second chance has even worse results. (I don’t think I will try another book by these authors in the future.)

Emily Skrutskie

I was surprised when I read The Abyss Surrounds Us and thought it was mostly mediocre, as at the time there was basically no f/f content outside of contemporary YA – I would have read anything. And this was still… nothing surprising or that memorable.

Then I tried her sci-fi novel Hullmetal Girls, and it was even blander – it straight up felt like a 2012-era YA dystopian, in space. More diverse, yes, but as a good part of it felt tokenistic, I can’t say I cared that much.

Claudia Gray

She always writes novels that have a very interesting concept in theory and end up being a poor excuse for a very bland m/f romance instead. Also, she portrays scientists as if they were weird, incomprehensible, almost alien creatures who are not like normal relatable humans (who are artists or fighters, of course) and talk almost only about science, and this annoys me a lot.

I gave her a second chance with Defy the Stars, but it had the same problems as A Thousand Pieces of You and also had the worst example of single-purpose planet worldbduilding I’ve ever read.

Kristin Cashore

Graceling might have felt like something new when it was published ten years ago. Today, it’s not really worth reading – and not even that well-written. But Kristin Cashore had written another book, Jane Unlimited, one that had also a main bisexual character and other queer characters in it! I had to read it!

Well. What is about Americans not being able to write about Italians without talking about the mafia? I don’t know. I just know that this book seemed endlessly fascinated by its own cleverness and humor while putting together lackluster plotlines sprinkled with xenophobia.

Authors I’m Considering

These are authors I really want to read another book from, even though I didn’t love the first one I read by them.

Zen Cho

I don’t know if I have talked about it on this blog before, but Sorcerer to the Crown is the book I struggled the most to read in all of my time spent reading books in English. People complain about adult sci-fi novels like Ancillary Justice or Ninefox Gambit being too complicated, but this is what was unreadable to me. I know, it sounds weird, but: keep in mind that English isn’t my first language, and when it comes to a more “antiquated” vocabulary, I struggle a lot, because where should I have learned those words – it’s not like you find them on the internet, and they won’t come up in Italian English classes.

However, it was a good book, and since then, I’ve really liked Zen Cho’s novelette If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again, so I want to try her novel The True Queen, which should also be f/f.

E.K. Johnston

So, That Inevitable Victorian Thing was a mess. I wonder whether I misinterpreted it entirely, because there were so many things about the worldbuilding that made me uncomfortable that… I want to believe it was on purpose? I don’t know.

Anyway, it seems to be the popular opinion that it’s her worst novel, so I want to try another one, The Afterward, which is f/f and also seems to have a worldbuilding with less unfortunate implications.

Are there any authors you’re considering giving a second chance to?

6 thoughts on “On Second Chances

  1. This was such an interesting post! I’m glad there’s someone else out there who didn’t love upside of unrequited. I’m also happy to hear love from A to Z was so good; I’ve been very excited for that book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post is so interesting! I was just about to ask you what else you’d read by Amy Rose Capetta, cause for some reason I thought The Lost Coast was her debut, and now I know!
    I’m definitley into giving second chances too, but only if a books sounds really interesting to me. I found Simon vs. so bland and since it’s her most beloved one, I don’t see the point in trying any more of Becky Albertalli’s books.
    I might give Heidi Heilig a second chance though. Knowing you were as underwhelmed by her firsts series as I was, makes me think this one really must be better if you enjoyed it. So if I read it it’ll be entirely thanks to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For a Muse of Fire had a few of the same problems of Heilig’s first series – mostly, the uninteresting romance, but at least this time there aren’t two uninteresting romances, and the writing hasn’t changed much if that was what didn’t work for you – but the mixed media format and the themes really made it far more memorable to me.
      I don’t think Albertalli’s other books are worth it if you didn’t like Simon vs either – if anything, Upside is blander and What If It’s Us speaks even more in pop culture references.


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