Today we’re talking about books that are worth (or not worth) the hype. I like to end on a positive note, so I’m going to start with the books that disappointed me, and leave you with the books you’ve got to read!
Books Not Worth the Hype
1. All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Okay, first, the agender/asexual rep here is abysmal and very obviously cis-centered, there was no real research or care taken with that. I could write an entire review based on that alone, but those readers will recognize it right away and not need further comments. That aside, the story just felt silly. The first-person tone reminded me of The Martian by Andy Weir, but it didn’t work like it did there. Both plot and character development were superficial and…meh. I’m not going to be reading on in this series.
2. Vox by Christina Dalcher
A dystopian novel is exciting thanks to its plausibility, which comes through a light hand: not too preachy, not too over-the-top. This book misses the mark, completely. Also, it seems to call out white feminism, but where’s the intersectionality? Far too many problematic moments go unaddressed: trans/enby erasure, cisnormativity, racism, ableism. The revolution will be intersectional! So why does this center the ultimate white feminist? It’s too bad, because limiting a particular group of people (in this case, women) to 100 words per day is a fascinating premise.
3. Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks
This nonfiction title simply didn’t live up to its blurb. It seems to speak more to parents who lack confidence in their parenting, who really worry about keeping up with—and how they appear to—others. Although the author acknowledges her own privilege, there’s still an icky layer of ableism and classism throughout that I couldn’t shake off. Her points felt scattered and unfocused. When a significant point/angle did come up, it wasn’t fleshed out before moving on. Overall, not a satisfying read.
Books Totally Worth the Hype!
1. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
A generation ship, incredibly diverse characters, oppression and uprising, and let’s not forget the wonderful examples of consent. This is sci-fi awesomeness. It needs to be a movie or TV series. It has everything you expect and want in a dystopian novel, plus so many elements that marginalized readers often miss out on in a reading experience. You just can’t beat the rep in this novel. And that ending!
2. The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
I read this in one day, pretty much straight through! I couldn’t get enough and wish the collection were longer. Daniel Mallory Ortberg took the darkest little threads found within fairy tales, sacred writings, and children’s classics and let those themes bloom in all their horrific glory, packaged in stunningly beautiful writing. The Velveteen Rabbit retelling was my favorite, but every one of these stories was a winner. A twisted and imaginative collection.
3. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Oh, is this ever a slow burn. Through lush writing, complex characters, and a two-generation family saga full of nuance, Claire Fuller has crafted a story that takes hold of your heart and very, very, very slowly rips it out … so slowly that you don’t realize it until you’re fully invested and can’t turn away. What a stunning novel.
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s lists! If you’re not already participating in #AMonthofFaves, let me know in the comments:
What hyped-up books did you read this year, and did they live up to that hype?