Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Long Do You Give a Book?

I have a book sitting next to me on my desk. It's an award winner, and it's on the "best books ever" list of many people that I respect. I probably never would have picked it up, because the title doesn't do much for me, but I bought it because I'd heard such good things about it.

I made it to page 8. I set it down on the desk.

Then I went back to my bookshelf and picked up Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. After 40 pages, and a very tepid tub of bathwater, I finally forced myself to put it down because my kids wake up the same time in the morning, regardless of whether I've gotten 2 hours of sleep or 6.

So what was the problem with the first book. Oh, I don't know. It was in first person present tense, which I don't typically like, unless it's mind-blowing (I'm looking at you, Hunger Games). It also felt kind of...self-indulgent? I can't pin the right words on it. Any book that has a late-teens protagonist that still calls her mother "mama" gives me a creepy feeling, like the author is trying WAY too hard. Of course, I don't like it when my own kids call me mama, and they're four and two and a half. It all goes back to a deep loathing for a little program that used to be on in the 80s.

So what was so good about Life as We Knew It? Again, it's hard to put my finger on. You just got sucked in, immediately. You believed everything the main character said. When she mentioned the asteriod that was expected to hit the moon, almost in passing, you were like, "Miranda! Come on! This is a big deal!" Yet you were not mad at her for being stupid and naive, because you know you would have felt the same way about it. I guess it just smacks of reality, whereas contemporary teenagers calling their moms "Mama" and refusing to use contractions just doesn't.

But it's an award winning book that lots of well-respected people love. So I'm going to try to give it another chance. In a few years.

And it made me realize how impossible it must be for agents, who don't have a TBR pile on their desks. They have a "should I champion this book to the world" pile. And it's probably way bigger than my TBR pile will ever be.

What about you? What makes you put a book down? Do you ever pick it up again, or are you a "when I'm done, I'm done" person?

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