Hello everyone, and welcome back!
I’m used to the idea of being the Blog of Unpopular Opinions, since more or less what I do is look for books that are getting super hyped and have good reviews, find those with a premise that interests me, order them, and then…critique them thoroughly. I’m hard on books. I get it.
That said, there are times when I find myself adrift in rave reviews and I am hunting down kindred spirits who also felt like the book I read wasn’t just TOTALLY AMAZING so that I can feel like I’m not alone, and these books were those that put me in that situation. (At least at the time I read them. I feel like enough people have read Caraval now that they don’t all think it was a gift.)
(And yeah, this is a part 2. This isn’t the first time I’ve exposed myself to the fan hate.)
(Also, buckle up, friends. It’s going to be a long post.)
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Don’t get me wrong, this author seems like a cool lady and I’m going to keep trying her books even though The Upside of Unrequited was also not my favourite of all reads. I might even see the movie based on this book, because why not? (Sometimes adaptations can change things for the better.)
But I just wasn’t that into this book? And it got so much love and so many rave reviews! But it keeps the mystery of who the protagonist’s secret admirer is so secret that the reveal of it is kind of anticlimactic, it invites us to sympathize with someone whose threat to publicly out Simon sets off the premise of the story, and it just generally…is okay. I just wasn’t that moved by this book. Sorry.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
I get it, the worldbuilding in the first part of this book is pretty cool, but dear sweet mother of all things holy why are people so forgiving of the slave/master romance that comes up in this book it is so gross IT IS SO GROSS why are there so many fans of this book that never acknowledge this AAAH.
Also like yes, the worldbuilding in the first part of this book is solid and I get invested in the main character but then we move off into a different setting that is much less developed and doesn’t, on the whole, seem to make a whole heck of a lot of sense? And yes, chances are in book two and so on that we’ll get more of the initial world that was actually interesting but do I want to go to there when a slave/master romance is unapologetically, unselfconsciously happening?
No, sir, I do not. WHY. (P.S. I read this during a reading marathon, so I never really reviewed it, but you can now imagine why my review wouldn’t have been a real good time.)
The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson
At first I was pretty meh on the first book of this series, but then I kind of came around on the cleverness of its conceit, where it doesn’t tell you which of the protagonist’s love interests is which (the assassin sent to kill her, or the prince she ran away from marrying) and you’re left guessing until the end.
Then I was feeling all right about this series, because the second book does have a lot of worldbuilding about a specific setting that was kind of fun, which helped to overshadow some of the more annoying love triangle angst and so on.
But then we got to the third book, and the war between nations was happening really vaguely, and spares were getting paired off in silly ways, and EVERYTHING was reported speech (why, gods, why) and I was thinking, like, why did I spend over a thousand pages to get here. Why does this trilogy get rated so highly? Why do most trilogies only go downhill from their premise? What is best in life?
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
This book was so hyped because of its premise (a mysterious, magical circus game you can play to solve a mystery and receive any wish), but it lived up to approximately zero percent of the hype for me.
It was one of those mysteries where the mystery doesn’t really make much sense so you can’t try to solve it as a reader, and everyone alternately lies to the protagonist or tells the truth so who knows and/or can care, really. There’s sexual assault thrown in and not really dealt with because that’s just a plot point to fly right by, am I right? There’s also instalove, very little worldbuilding or character development, and…yeah, I don’t know.
I couldn’t figure out why to read this book. It is a book on this list that isn’t just like, fine, but not for me. It is probably just bad. (Seeing later reviews of it, I think I’m not the only one in this corner, so that’s a huge relief.) I read this to the end expecting something to emerge from it, but nah.
We Were Liars by e. lockhart
The irony of this is that I quite liked the writing style that a lot of other people criticize. Yeah, it’s the hipster kind of intellectual-whimsical taken to almost a purple prose extreme, but I can jam with that sometimes.
What I couldn’t really get behind was spending all our time with hyper-privileged, unlikeable characters within the context of a mystery that doesn’t really give us a lot of clues to solve it and that has a twist ending that is fine, but not really satisfying in any meaningful way.
Mysteries are hard to write, okay. You have to give the audience some way of trying to figure out what’s happening and of going “HMMMM” after they receive information, but you also can’t just tell them too much or it’ll be boring until the end.
…so some people err on the side of telling you basically nothing so everything is SUPER MYSTERIOUS only that it means it’s really hard to invest in what’s happening so you have to like the characters, but I didn’t even like these jerks (well, other than Gat) so basically I finished this because it was short and the descriptive passages were nice. Like, it was fine. But I don’t understand people whose minds were blown.
(Was it their first twist ending? I guess we all have a first.)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
This book was one of those that was just fine, but I just don’t see why it is so loved forever. Maybe I have to continue in the series? But I don’t know. Trilogies usually go downhill from the start, except in very exceptional cases. I don’t know if a quad of books is going to work any better for me.
In this case, I think it was that we spent a lot of time focussing on the Raven Boys and not the other introduced main character, Blue, because the private school kids trying to give meaning to their trust fund lives through magic adventure are really not as lovable to me as the book wants them to be, whereas Blue in her household full of witchy psychic women is way, way more interesting. So yeah, this one might be on me, because angsty rich attractive white dude is just not my literary type at this point. I need a lot more than that to be there for that kind of character.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
I ended up really liking Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star, so again, this isn’t about the author. And honestly, there were aspects of this book I liked: Maddie had a great voice, and I dug her style of book reviewing.
But this book ended up being iffy in terms of representation because of its twist, it rushed through the emotional consequences after the twist, and it had a super abrupt ending. It just kind of…didn’t work. It had a great main character, but the plot and the fallout from the plot just did not go anywhere good.
I have seen some few peeps out there about how this book’s twist didn’t sit well with people, so I know that after the initial hype died down, people did talk about that. (That, or those voices often get drowned out in initial hype and it’s easier to find those reviews later when people have quietly upvoted and agreed those opinions into sight.)
Sarah J. Maas
This isn’t a book, but I’m just going to go there.
Why, Sarah J. Maas. I gave you a second chance after Throne of Glass, which I found pretty trope-y and uneven and sometimes boring. (Apparently an unpopular opinion because that’s like the YA fantasy series, but welp. That’s how I felt.)
I gave you a second chance after A Court of Thorns and Roses, which dragged in pace until the last hundred pages.
I thought I knew you in your best form when I got to A Court of Mist and Fury, which had some really bad sex scenes and a pairing-off mechanism I couldn’t stand and very little representation of anyone but white straight…faerie people, but also a lot of writing that sought to empower the female protagonist and allow her to do her own thing and there were some sweet settings and I was here for it.
And then I got to A Court of Wings and Ruin and there was a badly shoehorned-in queer character in what seemed like an awkward side paragraph and more needless pairing off and a total bellyflop of a spy plot and lots of dudes acting super possessive and gross because the soulmate trope means they “can’t help it” and moustache-twirling villainy and just in general, bleh, a not-very-satisfying end to a really uneven trilogy.
The worst part is, I kind of want to re-read the trilogy and see where it went wrong. I kind of wish I understood what it was that made me feel like so much good was happening and then it just didn’t work out. I feel like when I read Twilight and it was pretty bad but everyone said I should continue so I read New Moon and I started to think Bella would move on with Jacob and I might have a glimmer of hope in the series and I was happy and then the end came and I was like “WHAT WHY” and I read on hoping that the author would reel back but it only got worse and then I had to be like “WHY WHY” and delve into fix-it fanfiction for the rest of my life.
I wanted to be done being in anti-fandoms, Sarah J. Maas. Why did you have to do this to me?
Which super popular books have you felt medium about? Do you have any books you wanted to love and wish you could just…fix? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!