I just found out about the Top 5 Wednesday group on Goodreads and I’m hyped to start doing these, and although it’s not Wednesday until tomorrow, I figure I’ll catch up on last week’s prompt in the meantime.
So here we go, the top 5 books that I don’t like all that much but could talk about for quite a while:
5. The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus #1) by Rick Riordan
Like everyone else, I read Percy Jackson as a tween and loved it. Then The Heroes of Olympus came out and…I didn’t love it. In fact, I hated it initially. The tone of The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune felt totally different from the fun, humorous storytelling of the first series, which is still my favourite of Rick Riordan’s many franchises nowadays. I couldn’t sympathise with Piper, Leo, Hazel or Frank; I hated Jason for being so pretentious; characters I was previously fine with like Percy or Nico went way out of character. That said there are still things to talk about here, especially as it’s such a popular series and an exemplification of the Chosen One trope that I love to hate.
4. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins
Here’s another perennial least favourite/controversial/hate it but love it book. My first reaction when reading the trilogy, again as a tween, was a lot like many casual readers’. I thought the first one was the best. And in terms of being exciting or thrilling, sure, it probably is. But if all you read for is the thrill of the Hunger Games, you’re essentially playing the role of the Capitol (a point that’s been made by many critics, in fact). Mockingjay may not be exciting or even that well-written, but it’s an integral part of Katniss’s journey. It reminds us that for every second of war that’s glory and patriotism, there are hours of bloodshed, cruelty and PTSD. So I didn’t like the book–it’s not something you’d read and then go “oh yeah, that was cool, I enjoyed this”–but I certainly would like to discuss it.
3. Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab
In the same vein as Mockingjay is Our Dark Duet, which I read quite recently. It’s a gritty, cynical story that goes darker than you expect. I had an instinctive dislike towards it for that reason, and it’s so worthy of discussion for exactly the same reason.
2. A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas
I’ve nominated ACOWAR to my Top 5, but this designation applies to many of Sarah J. Maas’s novels, and to her writing style as a whole. That said, A Court of Wings and Ruin and Tower of Dawn are two of the most applicable, as well as two of the SJM novels I’m most familiar with and therefore comfortable talking about. Just focusing on ACOWAR, I agree with the common criticism that it reads like a rushed first draft. The ellipses, fragments and purple prose that define SJM writing are especially prominent without the years she had to refine, say, Book #1 A Court of Thorns and Roses. If you open to the first chapter of ACOTAR and ACOWAR, there’s a very noticeable difference in the quality of the prose.
Yet, as it’s to some extent a cultural phenomenon, ACOWAR raises a lot of key issues, even if its treatment of them is often oversimplified. Its coverage of class inequality, gender roles and LGBTQ identity may be sorely lacking in nuance, but at least Maas has taken earlier criticisms of her work and widened demographic representation. Which, in my opinion, is preferable to excluding them entirely.
1. Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth
Oh wow. Deep breath. It’s Divergent, what I consider the most overrated YA series of all time. (Yes, including such literary masterpieces as Twilight.) No, I don’t just mean the third book that everyone hated, I mean the entire series. I don’t like the acclaim Divergent receives. I think it’s poorly written, pseudo-intellectual pulp, and that would be fine, if people didn’t think it was much better literature than it is.
My main issue is the complete ridiculousness of the faction system, which is almost as contrived as the WICKED experiments of The Maze Runner. Dystopia loses all bite when it takes place in a political system that even the most delusional of fascist governments would never implement because it makes absolutely no sense. I won’t go into detail here about the outlandishness of Divergent, because it’s been covered to death by much more articulate writers than me. Of course, I’m still up for a rant about future Chicago any day.