March 13, 2018

Books that Defied my Expectations (for Better and Worse)

Top Ten Tuesday is a list-based meme hosted by the amazing Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. If the meme sounds familiar, it was formerly hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

Let's just throw the whole "don't judge a book by its cover" saying out of the window. Nobody listens to that advice. In fact, I would be more worried if you pick up a book without judging it at least a tiny bit. As a book blogger, my days of wandering through a library and randomly grabbing a book are long gone. I may not always judge a book by its appearance (unless it is shiny, then I am definitely going to love it), but I always make a judgement about the author, the synopsis, or even the genre. The question of whether or not I should be prejudging books is a matter for another time since today I am talking about books that defied my initial expectations and hopes.

To me, there are two kinds of surprises: presents and duds. Presents are the boxes that you find wrapped under the Christmas tree without knowing what it is. I don't know what is in them, but I am pleasantly surprised when I see the goodies inside (which, to be honest, is probably more books). On the other hand there are the dud surprises that catch you off guard with their awfulness. Maybe you pick up the newest book from your favorite author and hate it or maybe a book with a shiny cover was actually terrible (I still think this is impossible, but I am entertaining the idea for the sake of the comparison). 

Books don't always match up with our expectations, which can be both surprisingly good and surprisingly bad. Here is my list of books that destroyed my initial impressions. 

The Duds

1. Paper Towns by John Green

John Green is one of my favorite people ever. I know that people are split on his books, one side calling him a pretentious middle-aged man masquerading as a teenager and the other side proclaiming his ingenious revelations of humanity to the entire world. Not only do I love his writing, but I also love his other projects like Crash Course, Project for Awesome, Vlogbrothers, AFC Wimbledon, his gaming channel, his podcast "Dear Hank and John", and many other endeavors he dabbles in. So, I was extremely surprised and devastated when I hated Paper Towns. I didn't even finish the book. I hated the love interest. I didn't really like Q and his desperate whining. I realize that the book is supposed to critique the manic pixie dream girl trope, but I don't think it succeeded. Instead of defying the trope, it ended up cementing the idea into my brain. Talk about a nasty surprise.

2. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Not only is Veronica Roth one of my favorite authors, but Divergent was one of my favorite series before Allegiant. Tris was my book soulmate. Four is still my favorite number (among other things). Contrary to popular belief, the ending was not my main beef with the book. I was not a fan of the dual perspectives showing up in the last installment of the series. There was a definite shift in voice and plot suddenly appearing in the last book as the characters tried to reconcile their relationship, their lifestyles, and an entire government conspiracy. There was so much stuff happening in one book that I do not feel like I got closure, despite the fact that there were two different perspectives. I will still always love the first two books in the series, but Allegiant was a disappointing end to the story.

3. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

This one is a little bit unfair, but I was disappointed with the J.K. Rowling's (Robert Galbraith is just a pen name) change in genre and voice. Instead of the magic of Harry Potter and the wizarding world, I got a mystery novel that lagged so much in the middle that I almost cried. My preconceptions about Rowling's writing are all centered around magic and fantasy, neither of which were present in this mystery novel. I know that I should not judge it on the lack of magic, but I was also extremely disappointed with the lack of action and intrigue. 

The Presents

4. Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic

I don't enjoy most of the books I read for school. I don't read a lot of non-fiction. I don't read a lot of memoirs. I don't read a lot about war (unless it is in a fictional world, which is a completely different story). So, all of the odds were stacked against Born on the Fourth of July when I picked it up.

However, I ended up loving this story about a veteran who converts to be an anti-war protester. Kovic's story is unique in the fact that he had a complete change of heart from an enthusiastic and loyal soldier to an advocate for peace and the end of the war. The memoir is raw, real, and inspiring. In addition, Kovic's voice does not read an a dull biography, but a conversation between author and reader about the lessons he has learned in life. Even if you don't like non-fiction, memoirs, or war stories, I highly recommend this book.

5. Alive by Scott Sigler

Unlike the rest of the books on this list, Alive is an underrated novel. There was never any buzz about it in the book blogging community. It was just collecting dust on a shelf in the public library when I decided to pick it up after seeing it at the bottom of a Goodreads list for YA releases. Since no one seemed to know about this book, I assumed that the worst.

However, Alive is one of my favorite YA space books of all time, up there with Illuminae and Beyond the Red. The twists and turns kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime. There are not a lot of books set in space in YA, and there are even fewer space thrillers. Thankfully, Alive perfectly fills both of those holes in the genre. In fact, Alive beat out Michael Grant's Messenger of Fear in one of my Book Battles. Alive proves that underrated books can compete with even some of the biggest names in YA. 

6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

At first, I didn't think that Ready Player One was the book for me. I suck at video games (with the sole exception being Just Dance) and 80s trivia is not my strong suit. Even though Ready Player One incorporates 80s references and gamer lingo, anyone can enjoy the story. You don't have to be a world champion at (insert today's popular video game here) in order to understand the stakes of the hunt for the Easter egg.

I was worried about the 80s references since I was born way after the prime of Prince and Michael Jackson, but the allusions were woven into the storyline not left out as awkward outliers. 

All in all, Ready Player One is a unique take on the dystopian genre that made me fondly relive days of dying failing at Call of Duty, Pacman, and every RPG game I tried. 

Bonus surprise: The movie is coming out soon and the trailer looks amazing!

What books went against your expectations of them? Were you surprised by any of these books? Do you get more duds or presents when reading new books? Are you excited for the Ready Player One movie? 

No comments:

Post a Comment