Sorry, bad books exist.
I know. You’d be forgiven for thinking they don’t, but they do. On this blog and others like it, bloggers focus on and praise books that move, that affect, that inspire. Because we love reading. All reading is good.
But is it… really? Sometimes, you struggle from page to page, wondering how, in a system of authors, editors, publishers, beta readers, publicists…. how a book can come out being so earth-shatteringly terrible.
Whenever I visit schools, I tell them my author origin story. I wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider or anything equally dramatic, I was just a boy in the back of a Year Six classroom forced to read a book so earth-shatteringly terrible that I had to put it down and pick up a pen. I thought I could do it better, and I was convinced that I would.
We’ve all been there – confronted by a book that we’ve had to force ourselves to finish… Well, I told this story at a school last month, and I was told I was sending the wrong message, it’s not appropriate to talk about a bad book in a classroom – it’s encouraging kids to not read.
And I believe the opposite. Luring kids into a false sense of security, tricking them into thinking that unlike any other story-telling medium, novels are not susceptible to suckness is only setting them up for future failure. One day, there’s going to be a book they don’t connect with. One day, they are going to hate a book. Just like they hated Transformers 2, or the new Rihanna CD, they’re going to hate a book. It’s inevitable.
That’s why I think we try to limit our talk to just those good books. They’re not all good, but when a good one lands on our desks, we scream from the rooftops. Hopefully, we’re writing positive reviews for the right reasons, not to uphold some archaic notion that all reading is good. But one man’s pleasure is another’s torture, so I won’t always be right.
But I can be certain.
As certain as I am that Susanne Gervay’s Always Jack is wonderfully heartfelt. I was deathly afraid of reading this book. One, I’m good friends with Susanne, and two, this is her baby, the third part in a trilogy she has wanted to birth for a very long time (forgive the horrible metaphor). And it’s not YA. I don’t usually read anything else. This was really far out of my comfort zone. But it was so fulfilling. The way it dealt with cancer and can act to open up discussions of the disease within families is masterful. It isn’t the dramatic downer a lesser author could have made it and I loved every single second of it.
As certain as I am that Six Impossible Things is the first of many fantastic novels that Fiona Wood will gift us in the coming years. Realistic dialogue that doesn’t just grab you, it shakes you while it’s at it. It mixes humour with the subtle emotional stuff so well. It didn’t take long to read, but honestly, it’d be worth triple the investment of time. and I love me a nerdy-yet-lovable protag.
As certain as I am that there’s another amazing Australian novel just around the corner.
Ah, the joys of being perpetually adolescent.