Hello, and welcome back! Before I get into it, I want to pass along two notices: one, that starting next week and through November, I’ll be posting Tuesday and Friday. Why the schedule change? Because I’m doing Nanowrimo through November! Which is cool (and terrifying), but also means I’ll be leaning on doing some Top Ten Tuesday-inspired posts since I won’t be able to do a lot of weekly reading as per usual. (Don’t worry—I’m sure I’ll be back to form by December.)
The second order of business is that I’m now an affiliate at the Book Depository and
Indigo (for my Canadian comrades)! So if you want to help me keep the lights on at this blog, it’d mean a lot to me if you use those links to shop the next time you have some books you want to pick up, and I’ll be including (hopefully helpful) affiliate links to books I’m talking about in posts.
So! Today I wanted to write sort of the opposite of the post about authors and why we love the first book we read most than the rest. I wanted to write about giving authors who we’ve had a not-great first experience with another try.
I think a lot of the time, people (myself included) are hesitant to do this. But as critical as I get around here (and I am a really critical person), in a lot of the books I review less positively, I see a lot of potential for great stuff. If not, I probably wouldn’t have bothered getting them (or finishing them, which I do 99% of the time). My intention in being critical about books is not to be critical of authors. I mean, clearly they did the writing that I think is flawed—but they had good ideas, and they’re evolving just like anyone else who has a skill. And as a writer myself, I can sympathize.
Plus some writing issues feel like editors either weren’t hired, weren’t given any time/authority, or just faceplanted. And as an editor way more often than I am a writer, I am liable to think, “Where was your editor on this one?” (Not to take an excuse to slag on Twilight, because I’m not blaming Stephenie Meyer here, but where was her editor on the misuse of words like “bemused” and “chagrin”?)
All of that said: I want not to hesitate when I decide to give an author another go. Because I recognize that a lot of factors go into making a book and it might not turn out to be all you want it to be, because writers grow, and because if I wrote a first book people weren’t super into, I would still hope for another shot. So I want to talk about a few of the authors I have tried again or intend to try again soon.
Sarah J. Maas
What brought this to mind? Well, I think this post has been brewing for a while, but the most obvious example is Sarah J. Maas. As I mentioned in my Five Disappointing Young Adult Books post, I wanted to love Throne of Glass. A lot of people are really into that series! But I could not get invested in the love triangle, the amount of telling-not-showing storytelling, the obvious forecasting of things that would happen, and Celaena being good at freaking everything.
But. But! I have been informed by more than one book-savvy human who I trust that Throne of Glass is actually the weakest point in the series, and that it gets much more engaging. I’ve also read a lot of great reviews of A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first book in another series of hers. And it’s really hard not to want to be on board with everyone—I’ll read young adult fiction of any genre, but fantasy is one of my favourite niches. So although I’m not ready to try to continue with the Throne of Glass series, I’m going to check out A Court of Thorns and Roses and see if I can fall in love with some of Maas’ work after all.
So I have to admit something about Patrick Ness: I gave a pretty solidly positive review to his book A Monster Calls, which I’m (cautiously) excited to see as a movie.
But I didn’t start out in a committed relationship with Ness’ work. In fact, I was assigned to read The Knife of Never Letting Go in a young adult literature class I had in grad school and I didn’t finish it. Not to get too spoilery, but I wasn’t 100% into the book other than a particular character, and when they died, I hurled the book across the room. Which is a pretty melodramatic reaction for me!
Obviously, though, I gave Ness another chance and enjoyed A Monster Calls, and now I’ve already picked up (and am looking forward to reading) More Than This. So second chances can definitely have happy endings!
I actually enjoyed the first book I read by David Levithan. It was either Will Grayson, Will Grayson (if you count co-authoring with John Green), a Babysitter’s Club book when I was nine (if you count stuff I’ve read before 2016 that he wrote under another name), or Two Boys Kissing, depending on how you spin it. I’m going to go with Two Boys Kissing, which I loved.
So maybe I fell into a little bit of first-(and second)-book-favourite phenomenon with this one (I also really enjoyed The Lover’s Dictionary). Because I was pretty meh on Naomi and Ely’s No-Kiss List (co-authored with Rachel Cohn) and Every Day, and I was actually pretty bored with Are We There Yet? I had initially set out to read all of Levithan’s books and rank them (as with my posts for Rainbow Rowell and John Green, but with way more reading), but I gave up after that experience.
Which is kind of unfair, really. Because I’ve loved some of Levithan’s other books, and I haven’t read two of his most iconic ones (Boy Meets Boy and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, co-authored with Rachel Cohn). So I’ll be looking for this one the next time I buy up my wishlist.
So there’s hope for that (almost infinite) list post yet.
In conclusion: obviously, if I find an author who just always lets me down or writes a lot of books that seem exactly the same, I’m not going to stick with them. I don’t think I advocate literally beating your head repeatedly against a wall. (I mean that both in the literal as in written word and literal as in actual sense, probably.)
But I don’t want to judge a book by its cover (even though I do, a little bit—pretty covers are life) or an author by one book (even though I do, a little bit—but I’m trying not to).
A few other examples I didn’t get into but they’re on my list: not stoked about the Grisha trilogy but soon to give Leigh Bardugo another try with Six of Crows; couldn’t hack Anna Dressed in Blood, but I might give Kendare Blake another crack with Three Dark Crowns; overall mixed feelings about the Divergent trilogy (liked the first book and the ending, it got messy in between), but I’m intrigued to pick up Carve the Mark.
Have you ever given an author another try? How did it turn out?
* Please note that links to bookstores in the post are affiliate links, and a small commission will go to supporting this blog. Also: I’m thrifty myself since I buy my own books, so I link to the cheapest option I can find at the time, FYI. (Feel free to get hardcovers if you’re into that.) Thanks!