aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Why I stopped reading

I’m a freelance book reviewer for the Oregonian, specializing in mysteries and young adult books. A PR person asked if they could send me an ARC for a stand-alone thriller from a well-known author coming out this fall.

I gave it up after 50 pages. I also learned something when I thought about why I gave it up.

1. Readers are looking for clues. They see clues in everything you write. Even stuff that you forget about. So when the girl in the first chapter is locked out of the trailer because the slatternly mom and the latest stepdad are fighting, and the author makes it a little worse for the girl by saying that she has to go to the bathroom, the reader will file it away. And feel worse and worse for the girl, mentally crossing legs, as the time goes by. And when the girl finally gets in the trailer, the reader will wonder why she never goes to the bathroom.

2. If you set stuff in the past, readers might actually remember how things worked in the year you write about. Part of this book was set forty years ago. In this case the author is old enough to remember 1968, too, but for dramatic effect perhaps, there are a couple of things that jarred me. One is an injured kid thinks he will “bleed out” – a concept he supposedly has learned from TV. 1968 was kind of the Adam 12 era. People didn’t do anything as gritty as bleeding out on TV for years and years. In another section, a lawyer tells an 11 year old accused mass murderer “I’m good enough to save you from the death penalty.” In 1968, I don’t think they would seriously have tried to give an 11 year old the death penalty. The youngest juvenile who was given the death penalty that I could find was a 14 year old black kid who was put to death in 1944 after being accused of murdering two white girls in South Carolina. I think it would be very hard to try an 11 year old as an adult, now or in 1968.

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