Everyone has their own system when it comes to DNFing (Did Not Finish) a book. Do you finish no matter what, or is life too short for a sub-par book?
My school of thought is, try and give the book at least 25%, and if I’m not hooked by something-anything-then I drop it. I also try harder with new releases, so I can give a fair review. Unfortunately, with these three books,I just couldn’t get far enough to even justify writing a review.
Writing a review of a book I only read 15% of, I don’t think that’s fair. I do want to discuss my decision to quit all three of these books, however. Two are pretty popular, so I want to state that this isn’t an attack on anyone or their favorite book. We all have different things that rub us the wrong way, and sometimes it’s just too much to continue.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things – Bryn Greenwood
This one really hurt, because I was really hooked by the first 40 pages, but then things got… uncomfortable.
I decided to give this book a try because Book of the Month readers named All the Ugly and Wonderful Things the best book of 2016. One of my favorites from last year, Dark Matter, made the top five, so I felt positive starting out.
The novel is about an eight year old girl, Wavy, who has a terrible home life, with a drugged-out mom and a meth dealer dad, and she’s forced to be the parent to her baby brother. I got to the part where she meets Kellan, a young man (early 20’s?) who works with Wavy’s father. This is about their love story, Kellan and Wavy’s.
I thought, ‘this has to jump forward in time’, and from reading reviews it does… to when she’s thirteen. Nope, nope, nope.
Even if nothing sexual happens between the two characters, I couldn’t continue. The way Kellan talks about an eight year old made me feel sick, and if Wavy spends most of the novel 8-13 then I wanted none of it.
If you’ve read this book and loved it, let me be clear, I’m not passing judgement. This was a personal decision that was best for me. I knew that even if Kellan was the best guy with the best intentions, I couldn’t get passed the nauseous feeling I had. I only got about ten pages after he entered the story and I knew that I couldn’t read another page.
So I DNF’d it.
The Zookeeper’s Wife – Diane Ackerman
For the movie release of The Zookeeper’s Wife, I wanted to read the book beforehand and do a combo review and compare. Well, that didn’t work out. I’m pretty sure if I continued reading I would still be trying to get through this book!
I try not to let style choices keep me from continuing a novel, but I was so freaking bored, and most of the reasons why are due to the writing.
Everyone has moments when your mind wanders and then you realize you didn’t really read the last couple of paragraphs. That was my whole experience with The Zookeeper’s Wife. It started at about page five, and by the time I got to page sixty I felt like I was rereading half of what I just read.
I found the book to be far too descriptive, especially before I’m given any meat to anchor me to this story. I wanted to at least push to get to the crux of the story (the zoo hiding Jews from Nazis), but by the time I got to page sixty, the thought of continuing made me feel so defeated, and no one should have to work this hard to read a book.
So I DNF’d it.
Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner
For most fiction there’s always a certain level of ‘suspension of disbelief’, with some genres having more leeway than others. Once a book crosses the line and the illusion is broken, it’s hard to come back from that. In this case, I just couldn’t believe Goodbye Days existed in my reality.
The fault is mine, I thought the book was about a teen who was texting and driving, and so causes the deaths of his friends. But that’s not the case at all. Carver wasn’t driving, or even in the car, he just sent a text to his friend Mars, asking where he (and his friends in the car with him) were. Mars, while driving, decides to respond back and ends up crashing. Everyone in the car, Carver’s three best friends, die instantly.
I was taken aback by this premise, since Carver CLEARLY was not at fault. But guilt and grief isn’t rational, so I thought this was going to be a story about how Carver FEELS guilty for sending that text, but ultimately learns that he isn’t responsible for the crash and how to say goodbye to his closest friends.
This may have been the main plot, but I couldn’t continue once I realized that everyone else in this universe DO blame Carver. Not only blame, but the father of Mars is a judge and wants to hold Carver legally accountable, saying Carver knew Mars was driving. Most of senior class blames him too, because one of his friend’s sisters turned everyone against him.
Seriously, Goodbye Days. Just… No.
The fact that this many people blame Carver for the accident completely destroyed suspension of disbelief for me. I understand maybe some of the family wanting to use Carver as a scapegoat, especially Mars’ family (since he was actually responsible, and maybe they couldn’t face that), but once we go into the realm of Carver possibly being legally charged with ANYTHING, you’ve jumped the shark.
The only leg they have to stand on is that Carver knew that Mars was driving. But Mars, the driver, was still responsible. He chose to pick up his phone and text back while driving. Also, THERE WERE TWO OTHER PEOPLE IN THE CAR. Is Mars’ father, the Judge, also suing Eli and Blake’s parents? All Mars had to do was turn to either of the people in the car and say, ‘Can you tell Carver we are almost there.’
And the legal precedent they give is sometime along the lines of ‘well, this other girl was convicted because she badgered her friend to commit suicide, and the friend did.’ This is nowhere NEAR the same situation. Carver didn’t continually text Mars in the hopes that they would get in a crash. What bullshit.*
Because Zentner decided to put this plotline in, instead of just focusing on Carver facing his own guilt, I just couldn’t get past it. I also wasn’t invested in enough in the relationship between Carver, Mars, Eli, and Blake to try and continue. The other characters, especially the adults, were making some dumb decisions as well. Just all around, wtf.
Since this book currently has a 4.39 on Goodreads, I could potentially get some backlash. Maybe others could look past this ridiculous plotline and focus on Carver’s story, but sadly I just couldn’t.
So I DNF’d it.
*This part I read in reviews. I was hoping that the plot line wasn’t going where I thought it was, and after reading this I got hella’ pissed.