There are books I DNF because I genuinely think they’re bad and wouldn’t want to recommend them just as much as I didn’t want to continue reading, and then there are books that I DNFed for other reasons, from personal ones to other circumstances.
The thing is, when the books in the second DNF category are ARCs, I always feel bad about it, because I was given them by a publisher for a honest review, and giving my honest opinion of something when I didn’t even manage to get halfway through is… difficult.
So I am going to talk about these, but it won’t be a full review and/or have a rating, as I don’t feel comfortable with rating books I DNFed early.
The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos
About this one, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that I really liked what it was trying to do, and that I didn’t find anything really wrong with the execution either. This is the story of Verdad, a 15-year-old Puerto Rican girl, as she tries to understand her place in the world, comes to terms with the death of her best friend, falls in love, questions her sexuality and also her views on queerness and race.
Reason I DNFed: this was a case of me greatly overestimating my capability of reading books about queer/questioning teenagers with queerphobic parents.
Now, let’s talk about the things I liked:
- this is a story about a young teen, which is sadly uncommon in YA novels, especially when it comes to YA novels about teens of color;
- this is a story about a young teen raised by a somewhat bigoted parent that lets her be like young teens raised in bigoted environments are: bigoted themselves, and really confused. While I couldn’t deal with her mother’s overt transphobia and homophobia, I didn’t have a problem with Verdad messing up all the time. She starts having feeling for a trans boy at her school, and so her internal monologue turns into a worried “am I a lesbian? does this make me a lesbian?” Of course, this isn’t how things work, but raised-in-Italian-catholic-school-hell 15-year-old me wouldn’t have known that either.
- This is also a story about anti-blackness in Puerto Rican communities. At the beginning of the book, Verdad is anti-black, though she doesn’t really realize that until later. The main character also struggles with not feeling “Puerto Rican enough” because Spanish isn’t easy to learn for her, and I always love when stories explore the link between culture and language while talking about bilingualism.
- Verdad is also dealing with PTSD after losing her best friend in a shooting, and I really liked the way this aspect was written.
- Also: there’s a lot of Spanish in this book that the author never translates, which is honestly the right choice (and if I had to learn English and be good enough at it to even read the book, monolinguals shouldn’t complain and use the internet a little), and the fun thing is, being Italian means that I understood most of it while not actually knowing a word of Spanish.
Things I didn’t like:
- sometimes this did feel like it was written by someone trying to speak like a 15-year-old. I’m not 15 anymore and soon my age won’t end in -teen anymore either, so I might be wrong, but I don’t think anyone actually refers to other people by their twitter or other social media handle in real life;
- something I’m more sure about: some parts really stood out as written by someone who, instead of going to school in the 2010s, has taught in school in the 2010s. Yes, teens are always on their phones, but what the author thinks they do while they’re on their phone… that’s what a teacher would say. We’re not texting, most of the time. Verdad went from sounding like a young teen to sounding like my aunt, a teacher.
- there was a lot of unintentional arophobia – I’m 15, so soon I will fall in love, and my mom knows that, because it’s biology!, and things like that. I might be wrong about this, but knowing what authors usually do with arophobia (they don’t even realize it was there), I don’t have high hopes about it being challenged later.
Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe
I DNFed this one earlier than The Truth Is, so I can’t say if I liked what it was trying to do or not; but it is about a sergeant reawakening from a space battle in which she was injured… 230 years later. On an enemy ship.
Reason I DNFed: I really couldn’t get into this. While Sanda’s storyline was – as far as I read – straightforward enough and easy to follow, the book is made of really short chapters, and between two Sanda chapters you always get one or more set “before”, following other characters. I understood nothing of what happened in those. My threshold for putting up with initially confusing worldbuilding and fictional societies in adult sci-fi isn’t usually this low, but nothing about this book made me think the effort would be worth it. (Which is also probably due to the fact that it really doesn’t seem to be my kind of sci-fi.)
But let’s talk about what I liked:
- While I don’t know if there are any queer main characters, I did like that from the first chapter we get to know that the main character has two fathers, and that (I think) queerness isn’t in any way an issue in this future;
- Sanda is an amputee, which should be far more common when it comes to stories about war and characters surviving improbable disastrous situations.
- Tension and stakes were definitely there, in Sanda’s storyline. Mysterious enemy ship, and the enemies really might have designed a planet-destroying weapon they aren’t fully able to control… it’s a lot (and I wish the other chapters were as interesting and less of a “I have no idea what this means or how anyone and anything looks like, and most of all, why I should care” mess)
- If you, like me, care about this sort of thing: the enemy spaceship has an AI, and it talks to the main character. I didn’t get far enough to really understand Bero’s (the AI’s) personality, but this part had the potential to be interesting.
What I didn’t like:
- apart from the confusion, multi-PoV books with really short chapters tend to take me out of the story continuously, so I paradoxically end up reading them more slowly.
Have you ever DNFed books you didn’t think were bad?