How is everybody doing? I am not well. My depression food is ice cream and I’ve eaten a lot of it lately. Simultaneously teaching face to face and remotely, while learning a new position is really, really, really hard. I’m thankful for awesome coworkers and students though!
I’ve read numerous good non-fiction books about authorpreneurship lately and very little fiction. I was really looking forward to reading a good fiction story. This book, Hush by Dylan Farrow, looked promising.
I was given this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As a book reviewer, I must be honest with you my reader or I am betraying your trust. I was not impressed.
I chose this book because the premise was interesting. I love bookish stories-stories in which ink has power. In this story, ink is forbidden because it is dangerous. Ink causes an infection called the blot. It is like a bruise under the skin and spreads painfully until this person dies. That sounds horrific, so I’m intrigued.
By Dylan Farrow
The story begins with Shae, who dreams strange dreams. She embroiders and sometimes when she embroiders; she sees those strange things in real life. It is as if her embroidering something makes it appear in real life. This also sounds very interesting.
I started reading the story and was sorely disappointed with page one. It begins with an onomatopoeia.
Childish opening. I teach my sixth graders to never ever start their stories this way because that’s how very young children do it. Perhaps that is just a pet peeve of mine and I’m being an overly sensitive reader because I’ve literally read thousands of stories by students that begin with an onomatopoeia and I’m over it. (My eleven-year-olds find creative ways to begin their stories once they get to know me.)
I read on.
“My eyes whip open, and I’m in my bed, its thin unpadded pallet stiff beneath my back. That same dream, as vivid when it happened, five years ago. A dark figure stands over me.”
1- Another #PetPeeveAlert. The story starts with waking up?! Cliche. She could have started the story in a million different places, and yet she picks this one. Sorry this is another pet peeve of mine. I’ve never read a story I liked that started this way.
2- I couldn’t tell if she was describing the dream or reality. I had to go back and reread a couple times to figure this out. Was the dark figure real or the dream? This was definitely a case of the author being too close to the story. It made perfect sense to her, but someone just barely entering the world wouln’t know it.
What I wonder is how did the editor let this get through? 2 huge mistakes on the first page. Authors do sometimes get too close to the story, so they don’t realize the beginning is confusing or lame, but that is what we have editors for, right?
I checked the publisher. Macmillan. That is a big name. I like the books they put out. At this point I Googled the author and realized she is famous for things other than writing books, so her books would sell based on her already accrued fame whether or not it was a good story.
I kept reading. Maybe it would get better.
There is a boy she likes-she kisses, but isn’t really in love with. Then a handsome, mysterious young man shows up in her village, is nice to her, and she is enamoured. I really despise love triangles and falling in love based on looks and a flash of interaction. BUT that is merely a personal preference. Plenty of readers love this kind of thing.
I kept reading. Maybe it would get better. I hoped.
Something tragic happens. She is gaslighted. She runs for help. She is told that she has powers. She sees the mysterious boy. She forgets all about tragedy, at least temporarily.
I can’t. I just can’t keep reading. I am sorry to fail you, fair readers. I made it 50% into the book and I have to DNF this one.
I was, however, reminded of several very good lessons.
What have we learned from this book?
- Please don’t start with an onomatopoeia.
- Never, never, never start the book with waking up and boring description.
- Make sure the opening scene is clear and easy to follow what is going on. Dreams are a bad way to start for this reason. Remember, the reader is just entering your world even though you’ve been living in it for quite some time.
- In one of your revision passes, check your character’s motivations. Would the character travel a long distance to get answers and justice, only to forget about it when they are told they have power and a cute boy walks in?
Good news is that next up on my reading list is The Fallen Hero! This is book 2 of a series I reviewed last year here. I KNOW this one will be good because… Katie Zhou! I’m looking forward to seeing what happens after that unexpected twist in book 1! Look for that review soon!