I finished the delightful American Gods last night, ticked it off my must-read list and, nerd that I am, wrote my thoughts about it in a journal I have specially set aside to chronicle what I’m reading. I write down notes about every book I finish these days and it’s been handy to have; I’ve gone back to it several times for one reason or another.
On to the next book. I picked up one from the swelling ranks of my to-read pile (I’m a terror in a book store, new or used) and got down two it. I’d had my eye on one for a while, a super-hero flavored chic-lit that I’d heard a little about and decided to try in an attempt to widen my reading range. You’ve got genre in my chic-lit! You’ve got chic-lit in my genre! It had possibilities.
Three chapters of mostly narrative summary later, and the story sort of starts. The heroine is lifeless, doesn’t even feel like she’s taking part in her own story. Her reactions are hackneyed, repetitive, ridiculous. I’m reading this book and I’m arguing with it – never a good sign – and by Chapter Five said, “Enough.”
Is this a chic-lit thing? The beginning was so dumbed down, broken into cute little color-coded bits so we wouldn’t lose anyone on the way. It felt like those opening chapters that you write when you begin your novel but that you then must cut to get to the actual story. The background presented, while important to setting up the story, needs to be deftly inserted throughout the book itself, not vomited out in a hurried, drunken sorority rush before getting to class for the exam in the morning on time and somewhat sober. The narrative summary mostly stopped around the Chapter Four mark, but by then any good will I still had left was gone.
I think what’s got me really fired up is that the premise had potential. There are writers out there doing comedic send-ups of comic book mythos and tropes and doing it well. This really felt like an outsider to the genre looking in who then wrote the funny joke for the wrong audience.
The intention whenever I buy a novel is to read it from beginning to end. Even the bad ones, because you can learn from them. That said, there was one book I tried reading during the summer a few years back that had the same “throw across the room” response. I didn’t finish it. I’m not finishing this one. I have way too many books to read, books I’m really excited about by authors that know their craft. You can learn from a bad book, but I’ve already learnt enough from this one.