and here is a perfect example of why readers’ advisory is so, so tricky, and why i am devoting my life to perfecting the process.
i first came across this book when i was doing an assignment for my readers’ advisory class a couple of years ago. my goal was to find a read-alike for The God of Animals, which i had just read and unexpectedly loved.
for the assignment, i used many different readers’ advisory resources in order to come up with suitable read-alikes. after using NYPL’s “fiction connection” resource, this book was suggested to me as a read-alike based on the following matching terms:
coming of age
and after reading reviews and publisher information, i noted other similarities between the two titles: distracted parents, and a secret and potentially inappropriate romance.
not bad, right? i should have enjoyed this book just as much as i enjoyed The God of Animals
but i didn’t. far from it.
here’s the problem – this book was completely perfunctory. there is nothing new in this book, nothing that makes the reader go “aha! how interesting!!” it is so commonplace. 17-year-old girl dies, father immerses himself in his work, mother turns to pills, 13-year-old sister is left to her own devices, and ends up hanging around with her dead sister’s boyfriend, while he superimposes his memories of his lost beloved upon this way-too-young girl, and she has to manage both her grief and her confusing feelings about this “friendship.”
there is nothing wrong with these elements, but the telling of them is just bland and well-worn. there is nothing new here – there is no real risk in the writing. with The God of Animals, there was this ineffable “rightness” that captured the spirit of that age so well, and the character’s blunderings towards adulthood were heartbreaking and had more emotional appeal than a tapioca lifetime movie, which is what this book most closely resembles. plus,The God of Animals had horsies.
on the surface, the computer did its job in making this match. all the nouns and verbs are there, except for that one tiny little thing: style. skill. writing. it would be frustrating, if it weren’t so exciting to think of all the ways readers’ advisory services could be modified for improvement. don’t worry, this is something i am going to be working on – you don’t have to lift a finger.
but as for this book. shrug. it’s fine, but there are much better books out there that handle their themes better than this one does. do what you want, i am only here to advise.