There’s a certain type of book, the one that suddenly all the cool kids are reading. Even before it’s published, it generates lots of buzz as an ARC. Then enough stars are heaped upon it to form a major constellation. Maybe it’ll win an award or two. By the time you actually get a copy from the library (and there are 349 requests on the first returned copy and only five copies in circulation), you’re so excited you start reading it on the spot. And you know what, now that you actually have your hands on it, you can’t see what all the fuss is about.
Most recently, I experienced this with Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I was all set to like it. A tale of two high school misfits and their down-to-earth progression from dislike to friendship to first love? A shared obsession of comic books? Not a single head-scratching ominous prophecy of epic proportions in sight? A big fat stamp of approval from John Green and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards? And not to be superficial, but a stylized book jacket as sleek as an Apple product? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes!
But it was not to be. Even though I was told quite often, thanks to the alternating POV format of the book, that they liked each other–for example, Eleanor constantly wants to eat Park’s face–it was less clear why they liked each other. Young love usually doesn’t require a very deep reason, but with so many obstacles in their path, Eleanor and Park needed a solid reason why they were so committed to each other and it wasn’t there. Also, I found it weird that whenever they thought of each other romantically, their POVs became so uncannily similar, they felt like the same person. Finally, I just wasn’t invested in the titular characters, and found Park’s parents much more interesting and amusing.
Just another reason why we need as much diversity as possible, because there’s an audience for every book, and in this case, it wasn’t me. Still, E&P is a book where I can see why people like it, but also why it wasn’t to my liking. Which led me to brainstorm with Lisa some other books that everyone else adored, but didn’t work for either one or both of us. Please feel free to chime in with your experiences!
Books everyone else adored that we were “meh” about
-Chime by Franny Billingsley
-Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
-Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
And a book we adored that everyone else was “meh” about
-What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmid