Like with anything we decide to pick up and read, a lot of that hinges on that little synopsis, either on the inside of the dust jacket or on the back. That and any blurbs that might have been sprinkled on the book too, a little boost to the book’s selling power. And that’s fine, how else are you going to know whether you want to take a crack at reading that book unless you’re given some idea as to the premise and plot?
But that doesn’t make a payoff that was anything less than what you were hoping for or expecting any less disappointing.
Sure, you can’t really come to an absolute final conclusion until you read the book, and nowadays if you’re reading through certain genres–like anything in YA for example–it might be the book you pick up is in fact the first book in a series, so in that case, of course you don’t bank on an all-conclusive climax.
But, there are still certain expectations to be met. And perhaps part of it has to do with my own preparation, since I’m working on breaking into YA fiction. Of course the industry is always changing, and with the hot machine of teen-novel-to-movie-franchise cooling off a little, the whole idea of guaranteeing a publishing deal for your YA novel being in part because you wrote it with the mindset of turning it into a trilogy, or quartet, or a series of any given number of books, probably doesn’t necessarily count for anything at this precise moment. Again, always just write what you want to write, not what the stats say you should write. With that said, if, like me, you are writing a YA book with the intention of building it into a series, there are certain things you have to do to sort of “safeguard” it, as it were.
For starters, the first book still has to be its own complete story, and stand strong on its own, with possible plot threads woven in. But not so that they feel like loose ends by the end of the story, more that the reader wouldn’t know they were woven-in threads at first glance, but then when they are revealed to be such in future books (remember, you haven’t even gotten a deal on the first one yet) it’s not jarring, but feels clever (that Hogwarts Whomping Willow, *wink, wink*). Experienced/previously published authors have a little more leeway with this, but that’s because they have the resume to back up their proposal to write a series and therefore agents and publishers have confidence in selling the fruits of their labor such that even if the first book does leave a little more dangling threads, they don’t have to worry about the book not selling well enough that they wouldn’t follow through on moving forward with getting the rest of the books in the series published. From what I gathered in my readings, anyway.
That said, that doesn’t mean readers can’t still be disappointed.
Like I just was.
I just finished reading a book (I won’t mention names, I’ve learned my lesson) that looks to be the first in a trilogy, and while technically it wasn’t bad…it didn’t quite meet my expectations either, and I spent most of the time reading frowning in frustration. I can’t justify that bad feeling you can get when a story isn’t going the way you want it to, and I can’t say that the twists and turns the story took with the logic in the world the author conceived weren’t creative, but even so…for me it somehow dragged the book down in the read.
Maybe it was because it was almost…too creative, to the point that I felt like a good chunk of the book was spent going over the different elements in an almost textbook fashion, and there were parts of the world itself that were rather disappointing to me how they worked and what their purpose was, but…I honestly couldn’t say why.
Again, I felt like so much time was spent going back and forth that…maybe it all just came across as needlessly complicated, and left little breathing room for character development, particularly where the romance was concerned. On the surface, it was perfectly serviceable, and I even enjoyed it at times. But it was also a bit paper-thin and clunky, where the two parties of the couple at first were in a damsel-and-distress situation, and then an I-hate-your-guts situation. Then, while it did give itself sometime to develop into a romance, I guess the story could have afforded to spend more time on its development and less time on the mechanics of the world, moments where the two of them could just be characters together rather than constantly going over battle strategy and building their relationship partly on the fact that they were working toward the goal of defeating an enemy. I mean, there were one or two moments where they were talking just like normal people, but I could’ve used more of those.
I don’t know.
Then again, maybe it was the climax that threw me off, which, while rife with action, somehow still felt anticlimactic somehow. Maybe because the main villain wasn’t built up as well as I’d have liked (so his last-minute introduction actually was just that to an extent, a last-minute introduction), and neither was the second-in-command who was vanquished. Again, this is the first in a series, so I understand not everything can be resolved. But now that I think of it, going back to how much explanation was put into the mechanics of this world, there wasn’t too much time spent in any of the many locations, for me personally anyway, to really feel any impact when the climax was unveiled in a place that I had never been in before. It was explained why, of course, and again, there was some buildup, but…it just was not doing it for me.
I think that last thought is the bottom line. I was really intrigued by the setup of the story, but the aftertaste of it was bitterer on the edge than I’d have liked.
But that’s life, isn’t it? It can happen with any story you try to get into, whether it be a book, a TV show, or a movie. You read the premise and it hooks you, but then it just leaves you disappointed for one reason or another. And I know too that stories can’t be what the audience wants them to be, but what the author wants them to be. Thankfully, we have message boards and sites like fanfiction.net to cope with things not going the way we’d have liked in the stories we read (Sirius Black somehow and for some reason not ending up dying, anyone?).
On the plus side, I can say that this at least was not a book super-hyped by the media. That would just leave room for throwing the book against the wall and wailing, “Why the hell is this so popular?” and then questioning the fate of the civilized world.
But then, on the other hand, I think I remember reading somewhere that just because a book is popular is no sure indication of how technically good it is. So if this book I read wasn’t particularly popular, is technically good, and I still can’t like it as much as I want to….
Well, that’s just frustrating too.