Overall, reviews get me the least number of hits of all the types of posts that I do.
That makes sense. This blog is directed at sharing my process of learning the craft of writing with other authors, not at readers. I’m not going to stop doing reviews because it’s a way to help other indie writers, but I thought I’d try this concept for today’s book — an examination from the perspective of what we can learn as authors.
In an ideal world, you’d download the book and read it before continuing this post. That way, you could share your opinions in the comments section. I understand, however, that few, if any, are likely to do that. Know two things before we get started: A. This post is full of spoilers for the book and B. Though I focus on the negatives, the book read quite well. Though I didn’t end up liking it, I’m not so sure that some of you wouldn’t absolutely love it. It may be worth a look and is available for free download at: http://www.amazon.com/Jenny-Pox-The-Paranormals-Book-ebook/dp/B003X9775G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386769176&sr=8-1&keywords=jenny+pox
What the Author Got Right:
As long time readers of this blog know, I tend to focus a lot on writing technique. For the most part, this book flowed well and didn’t have writing issues that distracted from the story. Good job, Mr. Bryan!
Jenny Morton is the ultimate outcast. She can’t even give her father a hug without covering all exposed portions of her skin because she has an uncontrollable power that would kill him otherwise. Imagine going through life not being able to touch anyone. In addition, it’s not like she can tell anyone about her problem. Instead, she covers up completely, to the extent of wearing gloves, and is excluded from any kind of social activities. Her struggles and isolation immediately make her sympathetic.
While both the above are fantastic traits for a book, the novel left me, overall, unsatisfied to the extent that I can’t really recommend it and I’m not sure if I want to try any of his other novels.
What the Author Got Wrong:
Light or Dark?
By the end of the book, I was thoroughly confused by what story the author wanted to tell. Is this a light YA romance where the shy girl wins the handsome guy or is it a dark tragedy where the antagonist is truly evil and everybody dies? The author tried for both, and I think it detracted from the overall experience of reading it. Had he committed full out to everyone dying or softened up the dark elements, the story would have felt more coherent.
Both the protagonist and her love interest spend the vast majority of the book simply reacting to the manipulations of the antagonist. They come across as way too passive. Passive protagonists, in my view, are a huge negative.
Jenny and her love interest end up together due to a chance meeting after one of Seth’s friends hits Jenny’s dog. Seth, in a car following his friend, stops and heals the dog using his magic powers. It’s a good setup to establish the two getting together, but it occurs randomly. Had the antagonist, Ashleigh, plotted the death of the dog (establishing her earlier as Truly Evil, which also would have helped the plot), this get together wouldn’t have felt random and would have served the plot better.
Lack of Effort at Having Major Plot Information Revealed
Jenny, Seth, and Ashleigh all have magic powers. Naturally, they have some curiosity as to where their powers came from. That’s all they do, however — express that curiosity idly. “Hey, wonder why we have supernatural powers.” “You’re right. I’m curious, too.” “Oh well. Let’s move on to other plot elements and just leave this plot point hanging instead of struggling to find out.”
In the end, the answer is simply magically revealed.
What if, instead, the characters had searched for an answer and had it revealed as a result of their struggle? In my opinion, that would have been much better.
Even if you get the writing right, a poor story can detract from your reader’s experience. Make sure that all your plot elements work together. Eliminate randomness to the greatest extent possible. Have the protagonists struggle for everything they obtain.