I am a book player. I have commitment issues when it comes to literature. I’ve been reading these past few days: I completed two books (Witch Child, The Book Thief) and abandoned three (Peaches, Looking for Alaska, and Dawn).
I’m amazed at how other book bloggers read so many books to completion. I use to be able to do that, but not anymore. I am a book player. I’m notorious for giving most books on my To Be Read stack the big bookmark of death.
Something to know about me: when I like a book, I never bookmark it. I use my index finger to mark a page or I place it face down—a sign that I will return to the story immediately. When circumstance dictates that I have to pause and do something else, I’d (gasp) dog-ear it. These actions signal an urgency to finish the story.
I never resort to using a fancy bookmark unless the book no longer appeals to me. I bookmark the book so that I may return to it at a later time. Meanwhile, I’ll begin another book. Already, I’ve got my hands in another cookie jar. Not a good sign. The other book may be so captivating that I may forget about the previous book. By the time I remember to read the discarded book, the interest has already passed. The book is abandoned. Sorry hardworking authors, it’s not you, it’s me. That’s what all book players say.
Take Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson for example. I’ve seen this book at the library before and I’ve always been tempted to read it because its cover is so visually appealing. It’s also got an appealing story: three girls—a rebel, a Southern belle, and a girl with poor self-esteem—are thrown together by unusual circumstances to work on a peach orchard during Spring Break. I think I know where this story is heading. Due to their conflicting personalities, they’re reluctant to get to know each other. Check. But the situation calls for them to share close quarters. Check. In the end, they become best friends. Check. Diagnosis: predictable.
To be fair, Peaches is a good story. I abandoned it because I read it after I recently finished The Book Thief. That’s like going to McDonalds after you just dined at some expensive black-tie restaurant. There’s nothing wrong with McDonalds, but you’ve just experienced fine dining. Nothing is going to measure up for a while. The characters in Peaches seem flat and flaky compared to The Book Thief variety.
What’s wrong with John Green’s Looking for Alaska? Nothing, really. It’s a well-written story about a teen’s adventures in an Alabama boarding school. A witty coming-of-age affair. A Separate Peace for the new generation. The writing is compelling, the dialogue is clever and original, the pacing is right on target. So why did I give it the bookmark of death right in the middle? I was so sure that I was going to finish it.
Reason: I just didn’t feel like reading about boys in boarding school. I’m not in the mood. There may very well come a time when the mood will strike me again and then maybe boarding school novels will become the topic of choice. It’s happened before. Two summers ago, all I wanted to read were nonfiction stories about famous homicides and accounts of man vs. nature. That was the summer of Capote and Jon Krakauer.
As a result of posting about Dawn by V.C. Andrews, I developed the urge to re-read it—just to see if the story is as entertaining as I remembered it. This book I read to my boyfriend; something else you don’t know about me: I like to read out loud and I think I’m pretty good at voicing characters, inserting dramatic pauses. If only I could get paid for it…
I’ve discovered from experience that melodramatic stories lends itself to readings better than say, quality literature. The story moves along faster and the over-the-top dialogue is a lot more fun to bring to life. But somewhere along the way, we had to abandon Dawn because we both got annoyed by the title character. Dawn is, and I quote my boyfriend, “moronic.” So we both agreed that Dawn has to be the stupidest character we’ve ever read about…ever.
Funny, I’ve read Dawn twice, but I’ve never realized that Dawn was a walking idiot until now. Watching her get screwed over again and again was too much. Since I’ve read the entire Cutler series, I know beforehand that she’ll never grow a brain in the sequel, in fact, she loses the little gray matter she does have. I can’t read about this train wreck anymore. Big bookmark of death to the rescue.
In January, I picked up The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I know a lot of readers loved it, but I have my reasons for abandoning it. The main character, Margaret Lea, was such a push-over that it depressed me. After 50 pages, I found myself wishing for bad things to happen to her. That’s never a good sign. You’re suppose to root for the heroine, not secretly hope that she walks in front of a speeding train.
Likewise, Vida Winter, the other title character, got on my nerves. Must everything that comes out of her mouth be some figurative, philosophical puzzle? Who talks like that? Why can’t she just say what she really means? This book reads like a bad relationship. I need air!
I’m harsh, but it’s a fact of life that book players usually are.