Hello again! Today I am here with my most disappointing books of 2016. I actually really enjoy posts about books that people dislike because I think they are more informative in letting me know whether a person has the same taste in books as me, as compared to their favorite books. These books were not necessarily awful (although some of them are), but it’s more that I really expected them to be great but they just turned out to be kinda meh. I gave these books either 2 or 3 stars on Goodreads. Oh, and of course, these are ranked from the least worst to the worst worst. Also, the disclaimer that these are just my opinions and if I don’t like your favorite book, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong for liking them. To each their own, ya know!
9. The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein
This book is about a biology professor and a hardcore evolutionist who is working on a paper with a student who is an evangelist and is trying to prove the existence of an intelligent creator. Sounds real technical, I know. At the time I was reading this, I was taking a class on Evolutionary Psychology which kinda blew my mind and I thought this book was going to be an interesting discussion/debate about evolution and faith and how we can believe in both. In the end, the book was just about a student-teacher affair, a professor going through his tenure review, and the promised discussion on evolution and faith was basically nonexistent. It wasn’t really that bad of a book I suppose, it had interesting insights into life as a professor and I did take away the message that it is okay to believe in something that you don’t completely understand, especially in times of grief and devastation, whether it is scientific or not. Sometimes we just need a little bit of faith. So it was not the worst book ever, but I did expect something more from it.
8. Sea by Heidi R. Kling
This one was again my fault because I expected too much from it even though I should have had no reason to. This is a YA book set in Indonesia which I just thought was super interesting because I never read a YA book set in my home country before! It’s about a girl who accompanies her dad on a trip to Indonesia to help tsunami orphans deal with their PTSD. She is also dealing with the death of her mother so her dad thinks that this would be a good experience for her. Ultimately, the book is not about dealing with PTSD so much as it is about two teenagers falling in love. I didn’t really appreciate the romance because the main character only seemed to find the love interest interesting because he was foreign and exotic. She made some really stupid decisions and got kind of annoying and whiny towards the end. Still, the backdrop of the tsunami relief efforts was interesting and enlightening and I’m glad the author touched at least a bit on some of those themes. But ultimately, it’s really just another average YA book.
7. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Okay here is where we start to get a little controversial. This is a best-selling adult literary fiction about a group of four friends and it kinda just follows them throughout their lives from their 20s to their 50s. One of them, Jude, has an incredibly dark past though and we see his and his friends’ struggles as he tries to move beyond his traumatic past. I was told that this book would make me cry. I can see how it would I suppose but mostly, I was just disgusted by all the awful things that happened to Jude when he was a child. It was very jarring, shocking and graphic, the descriptions of what happened to him, and maybe that’s a good thing, when a book can make you feel that way. However, after a while, I just found everything kind of gratuitous because it seemed that every bad thing that could happen, happened to Jude. It didn’t seem very realistic as we uncovered more and more of his dark past. I thought his present-day struggles with his trauma were a bit more realistic, if a tad depressing. The book also seemed to be incredibly long and I really didn’t think it was necessary. I think a good third of the book could have been cut out. If I had to summarize my experience reading this book, it would be boredom (during the third where nothing was really happening) and then disgust and soul-sucking emptiness (as we learn more and more about Jude’s past), which I don’t think the author was really going for. Needless to say, this book comes with trigger warnings for abuse, rape and self-harm.
6. This is Our Story by Ashley Elston
This is a mystery novel. A group of five friends goes into the forest to go hunting but only four come out alive. Our main character is a girl who is an intern at the district attorney’s office and she investigates this mystery with her aging boss who relies on her to see all the details that he might miss. Interesting premise but the plot itself is very cliche and formulaic of many mysteries. I think I’ve read too many mystery novels and watched too many crime procedural TV shows that the plots become too predictable after a while. This is a basic crime storyline and there was nothing impressive about it at all. The big reveal at the end was no plot twist and it was also unrealistic how our main character, a high school intern, can be taken seriously when she just barges into court during a trial. Don’t even get me started on the romance in this story which was totally unnecessary, annoying, interfered with the plot, and made our main character do stupid things. Four pet peeves I have about romances in books. Overall, a disappointing mystery and nothing to rave about really.
5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Aha another mystery on the list. This one is crazy hyped up though and I think the hype is what makes this one more disappointing than This is Our Story. I have the same complaints about this one. It is a cliche mystery plot that is not unique and the big reveal in the end was kind of disappointing and not very plot twisty. Seemed like a regular plotline of a procedural TV show, and not even a good one. Our main character also makes all sorts of stupid decisions and I am just not here for that kind of protagonist. The movie starring Emily Blunt does look interesting though so perhaps it translates better to the screen. But the book itself is definitely not worth all the hype.
4. 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
This book is about three teenagers who are sent to the moon by NASA in an effort to rebuild interest in the space program. But when they get to the moon, things are not all they seem to be. This is a horror novel set in space and honestly, that description alone is enough to make me pee my pants. I cannot read horror novels because I’m a coward and I also have a fear of outer space. All that vast nothingness where no one can hear you scream and where you can’t even rely on the basic laws of physics? No thank you. Given all that, you would think this book would terrify me to pieces. Nope. It was pretty boring and the writing was so GOD AWFUL. The sentences were so jarring and they didn’t flow smoothly at all that it really hindered my enjoyment of the story. Oh but the story itself was not very enjoyable either. The scary things that were happening were just glossed over that we didn’t really get to comprehend just how scary it was, and the characters were little shits too. They were not likeable and they were incredibly one-dimensional. Not an enjoyable read and it didn’t scare me at all, even though “horror novel set in space” is the easiest way to frighten me. And I’m easily frightened.
3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Continuing the trend of shitting on popular books. This one is a classic so getting super controversial here. This book is about a woman working temporarily in New York and we sort of follow her downward spiral into… depression? I’m really not sure. We then see the kind of treatment she is getting and it’s not so great to say the least, because psychologists back then had no code of ethics. Interesting premise for me because I like reading about mental health and also, psychologist in training over here. Unfortunately, this was so incredibly boring. Nothing was happening and I honestly didn’t get the point of this story at all. Maybe I’m too stupid to understand classics or something but man, I was bored out of my mind. I just couldn’t understand how this became a classic. Maybe it was the writing but I wasn’t too impressed with that either. Overall, I kinda felt like it was a waste of my time.
2. Unteachable by Leah Raeder
So we’ve kinda reached the end of my disappointing books. The books I talked about above I didn’t actively hate but I just expected more from. I gave them all 3 stars. Now we are getting down to my 2 star reads, which I actively hate. Unteachable is about a student-teacher relationship and I’ll admit, I only read this because I just wanted something trashy to read. Still, I have standards for my trash. The relationship was fun and steamy in the beginning but then it dragged on and on and on and got so dramatic and I was just sick and tired of both of them in the end. I wanted to drown them honestly. I just wanted something fun and light to read and this took a turn for the dark and dramatic and veered into 50 Shades of Grey territory which I did not appreciate. It was really just an unhealthy relationship. This book is trash, and not the good kind.
1. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Speaking of unhealthy relationships and trash. This book was definitely my worst read of 2016. I actually enjoyed Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, which are the other novels in this companion trilogy. Isla is the last one and by far the worst one. Unlike the other two, the romance in this one was insta-lovey and underdeveloped and holy shit, the characters did some really stupid things. Isla refused to accept the consequences of their stupid decisions and just became a whiny brat. I really couldn’t stand Isla. I also cannot stand high school romances where they think that this is it, that if they get through the high school drama, they will live happily ever after (that goddamn title). How about college hmm? How about work? These characters think they know so much about the world and that “love will conquer all” even though they’re only in high school. Life is hard and high school is not even the worst part so I can’t stand it when books set in high school end with the idea that the couple is going to stay together forever. That is just not how it works. Wow, I think I’m really getting too old for YA.
So there we go, we have learnt that I’m a bitter old lady and that maybe I just can’t read pure YA romances anymore. I also can’t stand it when main characters make stupid decisions. I should also really not let the hype get to me and get my expectations up too high because that’s how I end up being disappointed. Oh well, it’s still fun to look back at disappointing reads and I don’t mind having them. It just means that the good ones stand out more!
Cheers and happy reading!