I recently started and stopped two books that were well-reviewed on Amazon. Both had at least a four-star rating on the bookseller’s site, and I had read the first few pages, as I always do before I buy a book, to determine if I would like them. I can usually tell if I’m going to like a book by its voice in the first few pages. If the author captures my interest and holds it with an intriguing voice, then I’m likely to buy the book. I tend to like books that explore the deep, inner workings of characters. While I enjoy the occasional thriller or sci-fi novel, my heart lies in the throes of the literary genre. I write what I read, too.
The two books in question both passed my initial tests. They seemed to have unique voices and I rather enjoyed the first few pages, so I bought them and downloaded them to my Kindle. I began to read in earnest, and that’s when the wheels fell off like a lemon that fooled me on the test drive and in the first few miles from the dealership.
The first novel, and both of these novels shall remain nameless, began to feel like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. It droned on repetitively with none of the characters going anywhere. The author had made an impression on me with his quirky novel about working in a nameless company prone to relentless downsizing and corporate-speak, but he failed to get past the cliche himself and I quickly became bored. I abandoned the novel before I reached the halfway point and promptly gave the book a one-star rating on Goodreads.
The second novel had the promise of Khalid Hosseini’s epic style behind it. The first few pages read like Hosseini himself had written them, and I had visions of the lovely A Thousand Splendid Suns, but such visions were crushed the moment I moved beyond the first chapter. The pacing of the novel was tedious and became unbearable. The author was mired in the mundane without any obvious momentum to the novel. I suddenly didn’t care about the mystery presented at the beginning of the book. I was more concerned about wasting my time with a boring and fruitless read.
In both cases, I’m positive that each author set out to write the best book possible, and they succeeded for fans that like the styles they use. This much is evident in the glowing reviews on Goodreads and elsewhere. My not liking these novels means nothing about the authors. It’s all relative. My response doesn’t mean they are poor writers or storytellers. It just means the stories didn’t work for me for whatever intrinsic force that drives my innate response to the written word. If a thousand people read the same novel and predominantly agree that it’s a great book, you’ll ALWAYS find a handful of people who didn’t like it for whatever reason. That’s life. Even Mother Theresa had her detractors.
The important lesson here for me as an author is that not everyone is going to like what I write. It doesn’t mean I should stop writing or that I should be fearful of putting my work out there for the world to see. If every writer stopped the moment someone didn’t like their work, there would be no great written works to read. None. Think about all of the great books out there. Can you imagine a world without them? Neither can I. Experience has proven both as a reader and a writer that you have to keep going. Everyone eventually finds their audience no matter how small. It’s all relative.