Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Worst Book I've Ever Read

Lately I've had a question burning a hole in my brain:

What's the worst book you've ever read?

I hate negative publicity. Usually, if I don't have something nice to say about a book, I don't say anything at all, for reasons that I've talked about before. I would rather use my influence to promote good books, not to shoot down bad ones. One man's trash is another man's treasure. It's not for me to decide which is which for everyone.

However. Lately I read a book that was just awful. I mean, I was filled with rage every time I turned the page, it was that bad. Then I looked it up on Goodreads to find that it had really good ratings! Lots of five-star reviews.

That got me thinking about what exactly I hated so much about it.

It didn't take me long.

Let's call the book "The Travesty." The author is branching out after finishing a pretty popular series on a trendy topic. The Travesty is a departure from that topic and her first high fantasy novel. She doesn't pull it off. Her characters are straight out of a modern high school, her dialogue is all wrong, and the pacing skips over everything that is usually given precedence in a fantasy novel: the world, the magic, and the Bad Guy. Instead, we are given a love triangle that seems to be just for show. One of the guys is clearly The One, while the other is flat and colorless.

What's worse is that the writing is similar to something that I would consider a first draft in my own writing--whole scenes are glossed over and made completely boring when they could have been so good. There are all kinds of loose ends and contradictions. Now, granted, I read an ARC of this book, so there was still some editing left to be done. I will be reading the finished copy, despite my utter revulsion, to make sure that I'm giving this book a fair chance. But I don't expect much.

My main complaint about The Travesty is that it is a perfect illustration of the Quantity Over Quality mantra that seems to be circulating through YA publishing houses. Rather than buying quality manuscripts, publishers are looking for a fast buck: anything about vampires, anything dystopian, anything with a love triangle. Publishers don't buy a book any more--they read your manuscript and decide that it's a trilogy, because trilogies are really "in" right now.

The Travesty isn't ready to go to print. It's not good enough yet. But it's hitting shelves now because it has all of the necessary bullet points, regardless of the finer details.

There are plenty of people who are going to love this book. It's got a really promising plot--in fact, the plot is the only reason I read all the way to the end. But even a five-star plot isn't enough to cover up the fact that The Travesty is not a novel that would have been published if the author had written it before her vampire series.

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