Here’s a question. When you’re reading a book, and it’s just not engaging you, when do you jump ship and put it aside?
I ask because right now, I find myself in this dilemma. I’m not going to say what book it is, because honestly, I don’t need that kind of karma. But I will say this: it is not YA, and I bought it because I read another book by the author which I LOVED (written after this one). So I had high hopes. I started it last week, and now I’m page 222, and it is just CRAWLING. I mean, there are too many characters, too many flashbacks, and while occasionally scenes grab my attention on the whole I just am not engaged. And this is a Literary book, a winner of awards. Which always makes me think that if I don’t like it, I am slow or not cultured enough. On the back, one blurb says it is “nothing short of a masterpiece.” So IS it just me?
There was a time when I finished every single book I picked up, if only out of empathy for the author. Someone worked hard on that book, I’d tell myself. The least you can do is read the whole thing. Then, though, as I found myself trudging through a lot of REALLY bad books, I decided a hundred pages was fair. Then, 75. That’s pretty much where I am now. If you don’t really have me by 75 pages, I’m probably considering moving on. This time, though,I keep thinking that if I just read ONE more chapter, maybe it will all make sense. Plus, I’m almost halfway there now. That’s kind of a commitment to just bail on.
But on the flip side, as an author, I would never want someone to finish my book purely out of guilt or obligation. Reading should be fun, or at least compelling: the best books are the ones you can’t WAIT to come back to, that call you home from great parties or social events, because they beat out anything else you have going. They keep you up way past your bedtime, and then linger with you all the next day, inescapable. (A Prayer for Owen Meany did this for me, in spades. That’s why it’s my favorite book.) This book, clearly, it is not doing this for me. And I have a stack of other books, some or all of which might be fantastic, just waiting for my attention.
So, maybe I will put it aside today. Pull out the bookmark, give the cover a little pat, and give in. Not my cup of tea, masterpiece or not. It’s kind of like a breakup, I guess. It’s not you, it’s me! I just need my space! Sorry. So Sorry.