Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Just Didn't Connect with It

I really, really wanted to love Looking for Alaska. Because, well, almost everyone loves it, and because it won a Printz Award and because John Green seems like a nice, funny guy and has a great blog.

Writers are always hearing from agents and editors that "I just didn't connect with your work." And now I know what they mean. John's writing is great, the voice authentic, his theme intriguing. But, I just didn't connect. (Actually, John may be one of the few writers in the world never to have been told that ... apparently he sold Alaska to the first editor he submitted to, which is another reason I know I really should love this book.)

I think there were three main reasons I didn't connect.

  1. I hate pranks. Pranks play a large part in the book. And granted, the final prank is a hoot and is pulled off beautifully. But I cringe at TV shows and movies with pranks, and I felt that same discomfort here.

  2. I generally shy away from dark themes. I've never been a big Coen brothers fan. Disliked Fargo. Hated No Country. So you see where I'm coming from. Alaska has lots of humor and light moments, but let's face it, suicide (or, I should say, potential suicide) is dark, no matter how you frame it. This is not to say I never enjoy reading serious or dark books, but that generally is not my preference, so I'm sure that had something to do with my overall reaction to the book.

  3. The ending made me very, very unhappy. Not because it wasn't satisfying. Not because it didn't work. Not because it seemed contrived or inappropriate or unrealistic or any of those things. No, the reason I hated the ending is because Green ends with his main character writing a school essay exploring the meaning of life and love and friendship ... and that's how I was going to end my current work in progress! Now I'll just seem derivative. So I have to think about whether to stick to my plan or change it. Waaaah! (Ah, well, great minds... LOL.)

Now, please do not take this post to mean that you shouldn't read the book. John Green probably has more writing talent in his little finger than I have in my whole body, so by all means take this "review" with a couple/few grains of salt. My main point here, as indicated by the title of this post, is to reinforce to myself and maybe to others that those six little words, "I just didn't connect with it," might mean just that. And just because one editor or agent or reader didn't connect doesn't mean no one will.

9 comments:

WordWrangler said...

I've not read the book for many of the same reasons you mentioned...especially number 2.

I've read many a prize winning book and REALLY, REALLY thought I'd love it. Not so. Good thing we don't all have the same tastes - or the bookshelf would be a blah-blah-bland and begging for diversity! :)

Hugs,
Donna

LindaBudz said...

Amen to that, Donna!

Anonymous said...

Well...

Looking for Alaska is my favorite YA. I adore that book. Interestingly enough, though, I also hate pranks. Really hate them. They're never funny to me no matter whose book they are in and it seems they always take too long to set up and pay off. So I skimmed most of the pranks because I simply didn't care. But dark themes don't bother me. And the Colonel is probably my all-time favorite YA fictional character.

-- CC

LindaBudz said...

The Colonel WAS pretty cool.

milowent said...

as to #3 - fear not, its been done many times before and will be done many times henceforth. just only once by you, and hence unique.

LindaBudz said...

Thanks, milowent! Hope those editors see things your way!

Katia said...

Interesting, Linda. I also hate pranks. No control freak likes them ;) Although I also loved the last one in the book. But I liked the book very much. That said, I like dark, serious themes. I also thought that the characters were wonderfully drawn. Colonel is awesome, indeed. Anyway, I just want to say that I agree with milowent: even if you use the same type of ending for your story, it cannot be the same because the essay will be written by your character, who will have his or her own voice. If the voice is good, and that's the ending that makes sense for this particular story, no one will even think about John Green. I really wouldn't worry about that.

LindaBudz said...

Thanks, Katia, my fellow control freak! We really ARE twins!

Paul Michael Murphy said...

Loved the "before" part. Did not care for the "after" part. I get why it was important for Pudge to find out whether or not Alaska's death was suicide or not, but I just didn't care one way or the other. Dead is dead. The reason why didn't interest me in the slightest. He also got a little preachy at the end of the book. I liked Katherines better. Paper Towns, not so much.