Last post I gave you positivity, this time I give you negativity!
I’m very excited to bring you the finalized list of my least favorite books of the year and ruin your holiday spirit. I accidentally got very rant-y and this ended up being almost 2k words so. you’re welcome!!
Usually I like to stick my worst (and best) books into one long post about my whole reading year, but I don’t get to talk about the books as much as I want. So this year, both because I can’t shut up and also because I’m running out of content ideas, I decided to make this its own post!
Standard disclaimer that these are all my opinions, and you’re entitled to your own beliefs as I am entitled to mine! If you adore these books, I respect you. I might question you, but I respect you. Please don’t act as if I’m insulting you as a person because I insult these books!! I’m glad you could find joy in these when I could not.
This is the only book on this list that I don’t want to completely trash or diminish, because it holds a lot of valuable messages and talks about a very painful time in history. It’s set during the AIDS crisis in the 70s, and it’s a story about activism and survival for the gay community, written by a gay man (of color).
First of all, I just hated 2 of the 3 main characters with POVs, which meant there was no way I could like the book on an entertainment level. One particular thing I really despised was how the female main character’s development went from girl hate and “not like other girls” to… not hating other girls. It felt odd coming from a male writer, and especially when this was the only prominent female character!
Overall, I didn’t like how a story about queer rights activism did a disservice to trans people and queer activists (by leaving out trans people/activists, even deadnaming a trans character, and focusing on Madonna). Honestly, if this were written by a cis white gay man, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that this had a very cis white gay perspective. I don’t want to overstep, because I am not a mlm POC, so if you’re interested in reading more, here’s an excellently written review by a mlm POC (I specifically want to draw attention to the parts about the book not feeling like a QPOC perspective and ignorance of trans people).
I don’t want to scare anyone away from reading this, because I think it’s a story that still has a lot of importance, and most people I know adore this book (oops…)! I did tear up over it, and there are so many heartbreaking moments that made me emotional. It covers an often overlooked period in history, and I don’t want to devalue that! But I just feel like… this could have been written so, so much better.
This book could have been everything: exploring the expectations of Asian American kids’ parents with an Asian American dancer (like me)? Sounds fantastic. And while I do think that Ever had nice character growth, and the scenes depicting Taipei and all its culture were wonderful, there was just so much… bad that overshadowed everything.
There were quite a few things in this book that made me feel uncomfortable. At one point, a character leaks the main character’s nude photos without her consent as a revenge act, but then all is forgiven in the name of friendship. Another character threatens suicide if their partner breaks up with them, and it’s completely glossed over and not called out as abuse. And, if I’m remembering correctly, there was some cheating going on as well (if not physical, then emotional) and I don’t think it was challenged?
Beyond all of these concerning things, the book was simply not written well. It was slightly addicting in the way that I’m sure dating shows are addicting (I wouldn’t know because I don’t watch them)—the drama is ridiculous and unnecessary, but you can’t tear your eyes away—but it all got so annoying at one point that I closed my eyes to shut it all out and promptly fell asleep. I appreciate books about teenagers being messy, but so much of the mess in this book 1) annoyed me to no end and 2) was written so, so poorly.
First, this awful quote: “protest → potest → poetst → poett → poetr → poetry.” I want to say that this was an entire poem? Which sounds so utterly ridiculous that I’m like, I have to be remembering wrong, there’s no way this is it, but I think I’m right. I know there’s a lot of bashing of modern poetry these days and honestly I don’t care enough to have an opinion, but this specific “poem” was the WORST thing to come from modern poetry, I am pretty sure.
Second, I read half of this as an ebook and half as an audiobook (though it was very short, its terribleness drained my energy rather quickly and I had to resort to the audiobook), and there was one point where the words “you have to eat” was written like 50 times. I remember laying in bed and hearing those words play into my ear, over and over, thinking, “Okay, surely this is the last time.” BUT IT WASN’T. Yes, eating is important. No, repeating four words 50 times does not a (good) poem make.
Anyway. I could also talk about how tired I am of all these so-called feminist books written by white women that aren’t adding much more to the movement beyond “grr I hate men” (like, so do I, but why is this being touted as the ultimate feminist poetry collection). But honestly this is all I have to contribute! I think I actually could have just posted screenshots of the two parts mentioned above as my reasoning for hating this and that honestly would have been enough for you to understand!
The main reason why I didn’t like this book was because I did not care about what was going on in the book, as a result of my indifference towards the main characters. It’s very character-focused, so not caring about the characters meant I just didn’t care about the book overall. But I also really despised the writing: It tried so hard to be funny and failed miserably, and so many random phrases were stuck in and did nothing to further the scene. Example: “Maybe someone should create a new hashtag: ‘Life’s complicated, but so is math.'”
This book features a soccer team, and (obviously) on this team there are multiple people. However, it’s written like it’s supposed to be a close-knit, extremely supportive little found family, but I can’t even tell you one of the teammates’ names and many of them either had one personality trait or zero. In my review, the traits I listed out for the characters were: gay, speaks Spanish, asshole, bigger asshole, freshman, and ally. And that’s pretty much the only development they get.
There was also another thing that I hated. The one female character gets treated like trash by a guy for the whole book, only for it to be revealed that—surprise!—the guy actually had a crush on her the whole time! I think the point was to be like “this guy isn’t an asshole like his abusive dad because we are not our parents, he’s just an asshole because he likes the girl!” Like… I don’t know how to break it to you but… that’s not much better. (And then later on it says that maybe the girl can do the guy some good, because, you know, that’s what girlfriends are for.)
I think this story has some nice themes: I love the idea of a sports team that acts as a safe space for queer kids where they can be supported, and I think the body image struggles that the main character had were written well. But unfortunately, every time I opened this book, I just wanted to be done with it.
I honestly don’t have much to say about this book (because there is literally nothing to talk about), except that it felt like a completely useless addition to the series. All my burning hatred for this book boils down to that one thing, the fact that save for maybe one scene, NOTHING happened.
I read this book as an audiobook, and at one point while listening, I curiously opened the app to see how far I’d gotten into it. I’d expected to see like 25% or something, because surely I couldn’t be any more than a fourth through it if nothing had happened yet, and instead found a big fat 70% staring back at me. It was one of the most jarring moments of my life; I literally was like (and I’m quoting my past self), “How the hell have I gotten 70% through this and absolutely not one notable event has happened??”
I truly thought there was no point to the book, minus the climax scene (that lasted like maybe a minute. maybe). It felt very repetitive and basically just summarized the events of previous books. It’s actually really sad, because it follows my favorite character of the series, so I expected to enjoy it a lot! But I’m reassured knowing that this book wasn’t the favorite of many fans of the series either, and I’ll be warily continuing the next books in the series.
I wish I had the same experience as everyone who says this was exciting and kept them on the edge of their seats, because this was genuinely one of the most boring books I’ve ever had to force myself to read. It promised intrigue, it promised thrill, but every single time an exciting thing happened, the characters panicked for about two pages before returning to walking around the city and poorly flirting with each other or something equally mind-numbing.
The focus on the characters wouldn’t have been particularly frustrating if not for the fact that they were completely bland and uninteresting. If you forced a gun to my head right now and told me to tell you the names of both main characters, I would be dead. I would literally be on the floor, bleeding out. The main character has a little bit going for her, because she’s powerful and ambitious and I am unfortunately very in love with girls like that, but the love interest? A sack of flour. A literal sack of flour.
There was one specific thing that blew my mind with its ridiculousness, though. The book is about a magic competition, the stakes of which are increased when the competitors start to go missing. But what is supposed to be interesting if I don’t know a single thing about the other competing magicians? I just don’t understand how I can care about a competition if I only see the main character perform, or how I can care when the magicians mysteriously disappear if I don’t even know their names.
On top of all of this, the worldbuilding was genuinely nonexistent—it didn’t explain anything about how the magic works even though it is literally a book about a competition involving aforementioned magic. The writing was very choppy, the romance was the equivalent of a stale cracker, and it took me an entire (very long and torturous) month to finish reading this book. The only good part was the last 5%, when things finally got interesting. But unfortunately, it ended! And I will not be reading the next book to find out what happens next!
what are your least favorite books of the year? have you read any of mine? what are your thoughts on them? if you suffered like me, please complain with me in the comments <33