Books that didn’t live up to the hype

goonsquadYou finally get your hands on THE book your friends are raving about. You MUST read this, they say. It’s great! But when you finish it, you are underwhelmed. As readers, we’ve all been there. I asked my fellow bloggers what books they read that didn’t live up to their high expectations.

Ellen: I read a lot of books and always feel like I don’t read enough, so I carefully choose those books that I read. I read reviews and blurbs and then am rarely disappointed. However, I hated A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, which had somehow slipped through all my careful tests and evaluations. I liked nothing about it and even continued listening to it until the 8th of 9 disks. I cared nothing for the characters, I found no humor and nothing to recommend. It was painful but I gonegirlkept thinking that something would finally click because so many other people loved it. My advice—don’t bother. And don’t ever feel bad about quitting a book. Life is too short to read bad books.

Becky: For me it was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I waited forever for it, and when I finally read it I just thought it grew more and more far-fetched as the story progressed.  It seemed like it was just two or three plot twists too many.  Funnily enough, I thought the movie was well done.  One of the rare instances where the movie was better than the book.

bookthiefCyndi: For me it was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It has won so many awards and everyone seems to love the book, but I definitely wouldn’t have finished it if it hadn’t been required reading for a class. I thought the narrator’s bolded asterisked interjections were annoying and ADD-inducing. The story was actually okay, but stylistically I just couldn’t stomach it.

littleparisbookshopJo: Nina George’s Little Paris Bookshop was hyped by the publisher as a love letter to books. It also got glowing book reviews. The story features Monsieur Perdu, the owner of a boat docked on the Seine River in Paris that was converted into a bookstore. Monsieur Perdu considers himself a book doctor who can always find the perfect book for what’s ailing the reader. A novel about a bookstore boat in Paris with a book doctor? I’m so in! The first few chapters were delightful. But then the plot shifts to Monsieur Perdu’s smultzy quest to find out what happened to his lost love. A love story? Not what I was sold on. What a letdown.

Jane: For me, Girl on the Train didn’t live up to its hype. The hype touted it as the next girlontheetrainGone Girl, but I found it less riveting than Flynn’s book. The depiction of Rachel’s alcoholism didn’t ring true to me, but after investigation I realize Rachel abused alcohol but wasn’t alcohol-dependent, which I guess explains her lack of withdrawal symptoms when she took breaks from drinking. This one also didn’t keep me guessing the way Gone Girl did. Usually, when I read mystery or suspense novels, I don’t care too much about who the murderer is, because I am more interested in the characters and how they relate to each other. In this one, I cared so little about the characters that my attention went to figuring out who the murderer was, and that was disappointingly easy. I thought the book was okay but not interesting enough to justify the hype.

freedomAndrea: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen really fell flat for me (and for most of my book club too – in fact, I think a bunch of people didn’t even finish it). I thought the characters were self-centered and unlikeable, so I had a hard time getting through 500+ pages about them. Also, I thought the book needed some serious editing. There were storylines in it that just didn’t add to the overall plot. Overall, it was a really slow read for me. The plot felt like it meandered a lot but didn’t go anywhere. People say Franzen is a “love him or hate him” kind of author. I wouldn’t put myself in the “hate” camp, but this book didn’t make me a fan.

What book left you underwhelmed? Let us know!

–Jo Hansen, jhansen@cooklib.org

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