My Most Disappointing Reads of 2017

Posted December 31, 2017 by Amber in Reading / 4 Comments

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A couple weeks ago, I highlighted my favorite books I read this year.  Every one of them was an excellent, well-written, intriguing read.  Unfortunately, not all books can be perfect and meet all our expectations.  What follows is a list of the books I read this year that didn’t live up to my expectations and why.

By no means does this mean you shouldn’t read these books!  Just because I thought a book fell short, doesn’t mean others wouldn’t completely and totally love it.  In fact, at least two books on this list are very popular on Goodreads, so by all means, check them out if you want to give them a try.

For the purposes of this list, I’m only including books I actually finished.

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The Retelling That Didn’t Need To Be Told

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Ughhh.

I’m a sucker for Alice in Wonderland and it’s brought me nothing but pain and heartache.  From The Looking Glass Wars to Splintered, this never ends well.

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– Alyssa is such a sad sack, floppy and useless and constantly praised for things she isn’t really doing.
– The love triangle.
– And as if that wasn’t bad enough, both the boys are horribly manipulative.
– The handling of the asylum was just terrible.

A redeeming feature:
The world-building.  For all my frustration with the characters, Wonderland itself was dark and vivid and fantastic.

–> my review

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The Book That Explained Parallel Universes Eight Times At Least

The Switch by A.W. Hill & Nathanael Hill

This is a father-son book, and definitely feels like it was written as a bonding project.  I requested this ARC because it’s pitched as a book about parallel universes and inter-dimensional adventures.  Only, it really doesn’t fit the bill.

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– There’s nothing likable about characters.  Any of them.
– Stereotypes abound – racial, gender, you name it.
– Each scene is just a manner of getting from Point A to Point B.
– This really, really needed another round of editing to fix the condescending voice and awkward flow.

A redeeming feature:
Honestly, the concept here is really great.  It didn’t deliver, but the idea is good.

–> my review

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The Book with the Pretty Language and #BORED

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

You know, when I started reading this, I was absolutely enchanted. T he audiobook narrator was lovely, and I even liked the scratch-out dialogue. AND THE LANGUAGE.  So pretty.  But it didn’t seem to evolve, and by about 25% I was like that kids in the backseat whining, “Are we there yet?”

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– The pacing is insanely slow.
– I wanted more action and it was all fawning and romance and virtue.
– I felt like the setting got less and less interesting as the story went on… we started in a creepy asylum (#possibilities!) and ended in a high tech facility and whatever I don’t even care.
– I had high expectations due to incredible reviews and referrals.

A redeeming feature:
Like I said above, the language was really, really lovely.  For some people this could be a negative, but !!! I loved it.

–> my review

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The Well-Intentioned, Poorly Executed, Not #OwnVoices Book

Trell by Dick Lehr

This book was such a bummer that it threw off my ARC reading schedule for the whole end of the year and I’m been scrambling to catch back up ever since.  It’s told by an old white guy in first person of a young black girl and it made me cringe a bit.

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– The dialect felt so uneducated and wrong, it just seemed like stereotyping and I hated it.
– This is so closely based on a real story that the author was a part of, I just don’t understand why he didn’t write it properly and as non-fiction.
– Being written as a YA, this felt really dumbed down.  It felt more like middle grade, and too happy-go-lucky go-get-’em.
– The MC, Van Trell, is just the worst.  She goes out into the world and everyone loves her so much they tell her answers they wouldn’t tell the cops and she always gets out of bad situations like they didn’t happen and just… no.

A redeeming feature:
This story had a lot of potential to do a lot of good and talk about important things like Black Lives Matter.  The barest bones of this book is an important story.

–> my review

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The Book Thant Gave Zero F***s

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I really like intelligently written, technology-driven dystopias.  There’s no wonder that Cory Doctorow’s books made it to my TBR – his synopsises are compelling to my tastes and edgy enough to sound fascinating.  As it turns out?  He’s not the author for me.

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– It’s very angry?  It’s a stick-it-to-the-man sort of book, with no apologies or attempts to shroud its intent.
– I disliked the main character so much that I actually wanted the government to win….
– There’s a lot of overexplaining of technology.  While I am not the most technologically adept person, I knew the terms and didn’t need 15 minute explanations.
– The awkward teen sex scenes were just super nope for me, including Marcus’ internal opinion of women.

A redeeming feature:
Aggghhhhh.  I mean I guess if you’re trapped in an airport because your flight has been delayed and there’s LITERALLY nothing else to do but read this book, it’s better than nothing?  I really didn’t like this one, guys.  It was a struggle.

–> my review

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The Book Used ALL the Racial Stereotypes

The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

Billed as a treasure hunt, this book sounded like it would be so much fun!  I’m always down for figuring out clues and getting to the bottom of things.  I was really hoping this would be a fun middle grade series, but the writing was just… bad.

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– Dashner pulls out all the stops on sterotypes.  From an Italian girl with silky black hair whose family owns a spaghetti factory to a black boy who is 6’+ at 14 and plays basketball.
– Such.  Overexplaining.
– Some of the characters are so odd that you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the heck is going on with them and then miss the story.
– Super anti-climactic ending.

A redeeming feature:
Dashner is definitely trying to show kids of all different cultures and backgrounds coming together and working as a team and they’re all really lovely to each other (well, they’re kids), so that’s good?

–> my review

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The Book That Switched from Retelling to PSA

Drawn Away by Holly BennettDrawn Away by Holly Bennett

I had never heard of a retelling of The Little Matchstick Girl – one of the most thoroughly depressing fairytales – and I immediately requested this ARC.  This book ended up to have very little to do with the original story. It was more of a mix between ghost story and discussion of the effects of diabetes.  Which is fine!  Just… not as advertised.

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– The flow was really awkward and the cohesiveness just wasn’t there.
– At the end of the day, this really had nothing to do with the Hans Christian Anderson story… any ghost would do.
– Flat characters are always a bummer.
– This is marketed as YA because of the characters ages, but the writing style felt more suited to MG.

A redeeming feature:
The setting is written very vividly. Bennett also tackles issues (diabetes, teen homelessness) that are rarely present in fiction.

–> my review

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The Book With a Know-It-All Heroine Who Tricks All the Adults

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFeversTheodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers

This is sort of a running theme with my dislikes this year – middle grade books with kids who know the way through everything and the adults are useless bags of skin.  I guess I just don’t see the necessity in it?  Theodosia charmed me with the promise of Egyptian mythology, which was only sort of delivered.

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– Theo is the worst cat owner ever.
– The villain is so ridiculously incompetent that he stumbles around making a mess, and is easily overtaken by a child.
– Everyone in this book is a tool for Theo.  You never really feel any sense of camaraderie – just her bossing everyone around.
– Awkward repeated mentions of “Oh!  I’m in the Victorian age!”.

A redeeming feature:
The magical concept with the runes was really interesting, and a good basis for the fantasy elements.

–> my review

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The Book That Told The Most Depressing Christmas Story Ever

The Chimes by Charles Dickens

I got this one for free from Audible during the Christmas season of 2016 and it was one of my first reads this year.  I wanted to like – Christmas Carol is a classic Christmas read for me – but this was so depressing.

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– All the rich people telling poor people they’d be better off dead is not okay.
– Literally NO happy moments.  None.
– I don’t particularly like Totter?  Or rather, I had no feelings about him.
– ?!  The ending was just terrible.  TERRIBLE.  Disappointing and gave a very “well why did I even bother?” vibe.

A redeeming feature:
It’s a classic?  I guess?

–> my review

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The Book That Wasn’t the Ghost Story I Wanted

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

This book started with such potential.  I went into it thrilled and excited for a proper ghost story.  In the first couple chapters, I was 100% sure this would appeal to me as a fan of Supernatural.  But, it wasn’t really a horror story.  So my expectations were shattered.

Reasons why this book didn’t work for me:
– I wasn’t looking for a love story, but that’s what I got.
– The character growth felt pretty non-existent to me.
– THE CAT.  SERIOUSLY WHAT IS IT WITH BOOKS AND CAT HARM STOP IT STOP IT NOW.
– The pacing got really slow in the middle and I was totally ready to DNF this.

A redeeming feature:
Some of the early descriptions of Anna are so grotesque and absolutely gorgeously written.

–> my review

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What books did not meet your expectations this year?

Have you ever read a book everyone loved, only to find you hated it?

Have you ever DNF’d a book?
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4 responses to “My Most Disappointing Reads of 2017

  1. I haaaated Splintered. The guys were awful, and I couldn’t make myself like it. I don’t know if the sequels improved but I didn’t want to give them a go. I was also disappointed by Anna Dressed In Blood. I wanted horror, not a romance!

    • Amber

      OMG, exactly the same feelings. The boys were so possessive and demoralizing of Alyssa, any possibility of a good plot in Splintered just went out the window. And Anna’s scary scenes in the beginning of Anne Dressed in Blood were AMAZING, I just don’t know how it managed to get so far away from that. :/. Oh well, can’t win ’em all!

  2. I read a few books in 2017 that I just couldn’t finish because they just drove me crazy and were so disappointing, for example I couldn’t finish the Crowns Fate (the second book to the crowns game) it was just lacking for me and a serious disappointment considered I had high expectations. Also could not finish the Dark Days Pact (the second to the Dark Days club) was utterly slow and bored me but hey maybe I’ll pick it up again one day (not likely though..)
    Great post 🙂

    • Amber

      I am actually not familiar with either of those books, but… bummer, two sequels! How did you feel about the first books in the series? Were they AMAZING? Or more like, “this is decent, I’ll read book two.” Nothing can be more of a bummer than loving book one and being totally disappointed by the second book.