Like many children of parents raised by Depression era parents, I have a “finish your plate” mentality about a lot of things. This has seeped into many aspects of my life. For instance, I am a serial plate-cleaner – even when I’m good and full. I put water inside my facewash bottle to make sure I get every ounce of cream out of the bottle. I take the pump out of my lotion and turn it upside down to get to the last quarter inch of lotion. So it will come as no surprise that I have a really difficult time quitting a book before I’ve read every last page including the acknowledgements. But several years into my Reading/Writing workshop conversion, I heard a presenter say, “Don’t waste your life reading a book you don’t like.” That was the first time it had really resonated with me that there was a legitimate reason to quit a book.
As a teen and now as a teacher of teens, there are so many books on my TBR (to be read) list. I can remember as a teen creeping through a book I didn’t really connect with while staring longingly at my TBR stack on my desk. I still struggle with quitting a book but I actually abandon them now. And because I read with my students during silent reading time, I think it’s important that they see real readers abandoning books. My students notice when the book I’m reading is different than they day before. Because many of them are “awed” at my reading “speed” they always want to know if I have a new book because I finished the previous one. They are shocked and awakened on the occasions when I tell them that I have a new book because I quit the other one. I can see it dawning on some of their faces…”Wait, it’s OKAY to quit reading a book before you’re finished?!” This is what real readers do, I tell them. Everyone has different personalities, different hair, different skin, different tastes in food so why shouldn’t their tastes in books be different too? Just because your bestie LOVED Delirium by Lauren Oliver, doesn’t mean that dystopic stories have to be your cup of tea too.
So in the spirit of promoting diversity in reading as well as in life, I want to talk about several books I’ve abandoned this year and why I quit them. I’d love to know your impressions of these titles since I wasn’t able to finish them. I may have a reader who needs the book even though it didn’t work for me.
TITLE: There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff
After receiving an ARC of this book from a close friend who’s on a publisher’s mailing list, I started this book about three different times. I LOVED How We Live Now so I was excited to read it and had heard good things. But I just couldn’t get into it. The whole concept of the universe being run by a God who was a teen was farfetched enough but then his name was Bob. I just didn’t buy it. Very few teens these days are named Bob. There were supernatural poker games and Bob’s mom was a lush. Not that teens’ moms can’t be drunks, but the whole scenario just didn’t fly. I also felt like Bob’s assistant Mr. B was whiny and enjoyed playing the victim. I mean, speak up for yourself. Granted, I stopped 50 pages in, but if a story about a teenage God can’t capture me in the first few chapters, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. Maybe Rosoff had some really enlightening things to say about God and being a teen and the chaos of our world in general but I never got there. So, I decided to abandon this one in favor of Cinder by Marissa Meyer (previous post April 5, 2012).
TITLE: Savvy by Ingrid Law
I picked up this book multiple times at bookstores and libraries when it first came out. Then it received a Newbery honor and I really felt like I should read it. I finally checked it out from the library in March and stalled about 75 pages in. I liked the concept of each of the family members having a gift and I liked that Mibs was on a mission to save her father. The part that bothered me was that I figured out what Mibs’ savvy was before she did. In fact, she thought she her savvy was something else and didn’t even realize what it really was. Then I was annoyed that they were on the bus going in the wrong direction. I just wanted something to happen. It was like her father was hurt in the accident and then we started climbing slowly uphill. Pulling a wagon. Full of other kids. So I gave that one up too. And I started reading Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. I didn’t like that one either but I was interested enough to finish it. Tell me what you thought about it if you read it. I always love to compare.
Isn’t it strange that even though these are the only two I’ve abandoned all year, I still feel like that’s a lot? It’s that good ol’ clean-your-plate/finish-what-you-start mentality creating massive waves of guilt that settle on my shoulders. But, it’s still a good point to make. The reasons one has for quitting a book are just as important in creating her reader’s identity as the books she finishes. So, happy reading or not-reading whatever’s in your TBR pile!