Well, well, well. Here we are at the end of my 2017 worst lists. Of course, it’s not the end of all my lists, but it’s the last of the bottom-of-the-barrel content. 2017 has been a rough reading year for me. I gave myself a reading goal of one hundred, which was a mistake. I’m only meeting it thanks to graphic novels. I haven’t read a lot of truly terrible books (in fact, I DNF-ed the books that really offended my sensibilities), but I have read a lot of mediocre books. But this isn’t the list for those. This list is for those books I read that really just sucked. In order to qualify for this list, I simply had to have read the book this year. I can include DNFs, but only if I made it at least halfway into the book. This excludes some really awful books from my mid-year DNF post and upcoming post about my DNFs from the rest of the year. Either way, I’ve got some real stinkers to talk to you about today, so let’s get ranting:
- Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard (Released July 24, 2012):
For the first half or so of this book, I thought it was decent. It’s recommended to fans of Cassandra Clare and I’ve had a void in my heart since Lord of Shadows, so I gave it a shot. The Dead are rising in Victorian era Philadelphia, and Eleanor Fitt finds herself in the middle of it when her brother goes missing. Undaunted, she seeks help from the Spirit-Hunters. Problems became more and more evident the farther into the novel I got. The characters are incredibly flat, the world-building is lackluster, the romance is forced, and the plot twist is predictable. There’s a very forced double meaning between “Miss Fitt” and “misfit,” one that had me rolling my eyes. The entire end battle had me howling with laughter, the very last thing you want in your climax. I think I need to just give up on Susan Dennard. Her books never work for me. Although she’s definitely improved as a writer since 2012, I just can’t fall in love with her work. It’s something sad and mediocre.
2. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (Released April 4, 2016):
Despite not being a fan of All the Bright Places, I decided to give this one a try. It promises fat representation and introduces a rare mental illness. And for about half the book, it worked for me. But then everything fell apart when Jack says of Libby, “She’s graceful for a fat girl.” For a fat girl. That’s so insulting! Once I was disenfranchised, earlier plot points fell apart. It was at this point I had to DNF the book, though I did skim through the rest. The fat representation is also incredibly offensive, Libby having once been lifted out of her house by a crane. Jack also inexplicably doesn’t tell his family about his mental condition, even though they’re a perfectly loving and understanding family. Libby’s dad lets her skip school to go out with a friend he has never met. Jack dumps Libby because she’ll have to stay fat so he can recognize her. It’s supposed to be for her benefit (at least from his view) because she is trying to lose weight, but it’s just such an ugly thing to tell someone. He also almost kidnaps a child because he mistakes them for his brother. And yet all of Jack’s transgressions are forgiven when he finally admits to the whole school that he can’t recognize faces. That doesn’t change the incredibly mean and damaging things he did to you, Libby. I was so glad to DNF this offensive and problematic piece of dreck and I will never be reading another book by Jennifer Niven. How can she promise characters that are “holding up the universe,” if she can’t even hold up her promise to provide quality representation? Next.
3. Deadpool, World’s Greatest, Vol. 1: Millionaire With a Mouth by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, and Mike Hawthorne (Released April 19, 2016):
Perhaps part of my dislike for this graphic novel is the fact that I haven’t read many Deadpool or Avengers comics (or rather, any), but I don’t think it’s fair to blame only that. While interconnecting series are fine, any single series should be able to stand on its own and be easily understood by someone who hasn’t read prior related comics. This comic relied so heavily on other series that it was hard to follow. Deadpool was also incredibly out-of-character. He has recently joined the Avengers, so he’s more hero than antihero. The antagonist’s motivations were also difficult to follow. They are seeking revenge on Deadpool because they had been in his head in a prior series and now their brain is messed up? Or something? I don’t know, it was really weird. Gerry Duggan certainly gave me a check to cash with more than he has, because this graphic novel is the world’s most confusing.
4. Crystal Storm by Morgan Rhodes (Released December 13, 2016):
The fifth and penultimate installment of the Falling Kingdoms series, this book was a waste of time and money. It does nothing to farther the plot, a filler book if there ever was one. To add to the messiness, so many characters have perspectives now that you hardly spend any time with any of them. This vastly reduces the chance of character development. It was just a bunch of glimpses into the characters that told you nothing. It also had way too much content for one of my biggest NOTPs, Magnus and Cleo. Magnus is as pissy as ever, self-loathing for no reason I can understand. I mean, I hate him but I’m not sure where this self-hatred is coming from. And then a last-minute conflict was thrown in to put a wrench in his relationship with Cleo (who he does not and never will deserve). Amara, who I previously loved for being devious and ambitious, is suddenly easily duped and overcome. And then, of course, there’s all the dead characters that are suddenly back to life. Gaius, who we last left at the bottom of a cliff, is not only alive again but apparently had been under a spell that made him cruel. Okay, honey. Ascher’s resurrection was equally as contrived. Lucia, who was ruthless in the last book, is back to being irritating. Except now, she’s pregnant! But she’s got one of those magic, speedy pregnancies so she gives birth by the end of the novel (which takes place over a month at most). All of our characters are left in peril, the novel ending on a cliffhanger. But there’s no sense of fear or urgency because you know they’ll be fine. This book has been through a storm, all right. And the results are the aftermath and wreckage.
5. The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins (Released January 24, 2017):
I’ve been a fan of Ellen Hopkins since high school, her stories dark and fascinating. Written entirely in verse, her novels tell of troubled teens and their difficult lives. She often focuses on heavy topics, like abuse, drug use, and suicide. She also almost always features a romance. But this book made me realize I’m kind of sick of that formula. All her books read the same now. However, I was interested in this book because the protagonist, Ariel, is bisexual. At the time, I thought I was bisexual and was hungry for representation (I still value it as a lesbian, though for less personal reasons now). But this book, in addition to be a rehashing of all her other books, is incredibly biphobic and lesbophobic. So many slurs against queer women are used, it’s honestly sickening. Even worse, Ariel’s bisexuality is based entirely on stereotypes. She dates a boy and a girl at the same time, and everyone’s okay with this because “she’s bi and still deciding which one she really wants to be with.” No, that’s not bisexuality; that’s infidelity. She doesn’t even have to make a choice or face any consequences because the boy she’s seeing falls for another girl and gets with her instead. It’s so ugly and, even worse, lazy. Ellen Hopkins didn’t even try to go into this and write an accurate portrayal of bisexuality. She just relied on stereotypes. Honestly, I think this is the last Ellen Hopkins book I’m ever going to read. And I wish I’d never known the contents of this one.
6. The Valiant by Lesley Livingston (Released February 14, 2017):
This was one that really saddened me. A book about a female gladiator? That’s right up my alley! Unfortunately, there was zero gladiator stuff in the entire first half of this novel. I completely understand letting your story breathe and build up, but this is a fairly short book so it either needed to be longer or get to the good stuff faster. It was also filled with girl hate, the other gladiator women constantly picking on Fallon, our protagonist. This was done, I assume, to garner sympathy for her. This could be better earned by actually developing her character. This book also has not one, but two cases of instalove both involving the same character. And it’s not even that the characters fall in love fast (although they do), but that Fallon will think she doesn’t feel that way about a boy and then in the next sentence by like, “No, wait. I do love him.” I don’t think I’m the target audience for this (it seems more geared towards girls ages thirteen to fifteen), but I still don’t know that I’d recommend it even to them. It’s so contrived and the morals are force-fed to the reader. I only made it halfway into the novel before I had to DNF. Unfortunately, this gladiator tale was a valiant flop.
What do you think of my choices? What were the worst books you read this year? Tell me about them in the comments!