The obligation to like books is a very real thing in the blogging community: whether those books be written by authors you know personally, or novels by authors from your home country, or because they’ve been hyped up by other prominent readers in the bookish community. But you shouldn’t have to feel obliged to like a particular book.
If there’s one thing I dislike about the bookish community it’s the idea that if you like a certain book, you’re a terrible person, and if you dislike a certain book, you’re also a terrible person. I understand that there are some books that shouldn’t be supported because of their problematic elements, but it’s also not okay to attack those for what they choose to read or not read — like or dislike.
But one of the most challenging aspects of being a reviewer, for me, is writing a negative review for a book I’ve felt obliged to like. I always try to share my honest opinion, even when I feel judged or like writing my thoughts out on my laptop crushes my soul slowly, but that doesn’t mean writing a “bad” review for a book I disliked has gotten any easier over the few years I’ve been blogging.
What prompted my thoughts about this issue was a book I read a couple of months ago — The Undercurrent by Paula Weston. This one is an Australian novel that I’d been hearing phenomenal things about before I had the chance to pick it up, so I was expecting to love it like everyone else had. And plus, it’s #LoveOzYA. There’s nothing I love more than supporting Aussie authors, but sometimes there’s a real obligation to like these books simply because the author was born on, or lives, in the same country as you reside in.
Alas, I failed to fall in love with The Undercurrent. I was expecting a fast-paced action novel with a range of characters I could connect with and a story that I couldn’t help but want to reread. However, The Undercurrent left me feeling very underwhelmed. I struggled to get into the novel in the beginning and I felt that its main downfall was that there was so much going on, and I simply couldn’t seem to follow it 100% of the time. There was so much action and so much conflict between the characters, and it just got exhausting. Even characters must need a tea break from time to time.
Another aspect I found disappointing was that I’d already read a novel where the protagonist has an electrical current running through them and can use it as a weapon, so the overall idea didn’t feel overly unique to me. It was interesting enough, but nothing that kept me captivated or eager to find out what was going to happen in the end. The characters were difficult to connect with because there was so much action consuming the narrative, and while I did enjoy the romantic elements, it wasn’t enough to be a redeeming factor.
Disappointingly, The Undercurrent fell short of my expectations. Perhaps that’s because I felt obliged to like it before I even started reading it, or perhaps it was because I’ve already read a book with similar elements. Too much action and not enough time to connect with each character on an individual basis was the downfall of this novel for me, and I just wish it had chosen to deal with one main issue, instead of trying to combat twenty.
Ultimately, the obligation to like books is a very real thing in the bookish community, and I think it’s something that has to come to an end. Feeling obliged to like certain books is sure to disappoint at least half the time, and readers shouldn’t feel the need to rate books higher just because they’re by a well-known author or by an author from your own country. Moral of the story — reviewers are here to share our honest opinions, so we shouldn’t feel ashamed to do just that. You do you!
Have you ever felt obliged to like a certain book? Do you feel this pressure too? What’s one hyped book you don’t like, or one commonly disliked book that you enjoyed reading? Spill your secrets!
Thanks to Text Publishing Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
The Undercurrent by Paula Weston
Eighteen-year-old Julianne De Marchi is different. As in: she has an electrical undercurrent beneath her skin that stings and surges like a live wire. She can use it—to spark a fire, maybe even end a life—but she doesn’t understand what it is. And she can barely control it, especially when she’s anxious.
Ryan Walsh was on track for a stellar football career when his knee blew out. Now he’s a soldier—part of an experimental privatised military unit that has identified Jules De Marchi as a threat. Is it because of the weird undercurrent she’s tried so hard to hide? Or because of her mother Angie’s history as an activist against bio-engineering and big business?
It’s no coincidence that Ryan and Jules are in the same place at the same time—he’s under orders to follow her, after all. But then an explosive attack on a city building by an unknown enemy throws them together in the most violent and unexpected way.