Disclaimer: Kyle, if you happen across this in your internet wanderings, I’m sure you’re a wonderful person, but you may want to read a style manual or two and up your reading game. There are amazing books out there, books that will help you develop the craft you’ve decided to pursue. I am sincerely sorry if this post hurt your feelings.
This is a tough one.
See, I was hoodwinked. That’s right, hoodwinked. The lovely cover design and the blurbs on Amazon fooled me into thinking that this was a good book.
Crap. I wasn’t going to come out and say it like that.
Look, when you pick up a self-published book, you run a risk. Most of them aren’t edited or, at least, not edited well. And there’s a host of other potential issues that we’re not going to even get into because this book, Not Afraid of the Fall, really only suffered from a severe lack of editing.
We’re not talking copy edits–that angle of things was (mostly) fine. No, we’re talking about sentence structure, about paragraph structure, about the linguistic stylings that take someone’s travel diaries and turn them into a book.
“But,” you say, “this book has almost 200 reviews on Amazon and has cleared four stars! Glowing reviews abound!”
Look, not everyone is smart.
Okay, you might be thinking that’s harsh, and maybe it is… but it’s also true. Go look at Fifty Shades of Grey on Amazon. Now that book (which I have read, sadly) has over 84,000 reviews and a four star average.
Not everyone is smart.
Or, maybe, not everyone needs good writing to enjoy a book.
I made it to page 94 and gave up. I almost never do this. In the last… year or two? I’ve given up on two books, including this one. In this, the writing was just so bad I couldn’t carry on. In the other, the characters were just… awful, two-dimensional creatures that I couldn’t spend another minute with them–and I read Harlequin romance novellas fairly often. (This wasn’t even a romance novel.)
To bring things back around to this book…
It’s literally a collection of half-page to maybe two-page long daily travel diaries. Where they ate, how much they spent, if they went anywhere, how much they drank, and maybe a little paragraph about the location. There’s no plot and the titular phrase “not afraid of the fall” gets used more than three in the first 94 pages. (My friends and I have a thing where we know how bad a movie is going to be based on how early in the movie the title gets said by one of the characters. It’s pretty spot on.)
Fart, poop, and nipple jokes aside, lack of plot aside, heavy-handed symbolism aside, alcoholic tendencies aside, the tendency to flip between past and present tense between paragraphs aside, “women love shopping” jokes aside… it was just bad writing.
And maybe I’m mad about it. I went and bought this book full price, based on reviews, blurbs, and press coverage. I invested time in reading it (the first 94 pages anyway). I tried to invest myself in the characters. I tried to force myself through the first 100 pages, hoping that it would somehow develop. I gave this author my money, time, and attention and he didn’t even have the courtesy to read a goddamned style manual.
I couldn’t tell you what upset me most: the cliched phrases that littered every single page (“all of the/a sudden”!!!) or the similes that also littered every single page. Literally every single page had a simile on it. That’s just not okay.
Near the end, when I spotted three similes on one page, I was compelled to get a pen to start scrawling on the pages. And I did. It was red.
Anyhow, I’m now left with a quandary: what to do with the book. I’m not going to give it to anyone–that would be cruel. I’m not going to sell it on Amazon, as there’s writing in it now. I’ve literally never thrown a book away in my life (even the one I dropped in the tub), but I’m honestly leaning that way. We’ll see what happens.
A selection of my “favorite” bad lines from the first 94 pages of this book for your suffering:
“When girls are in their shopping zones, it is almost robotic how their minds and hands work together to sift through rack after rack, only needing a millisecond to analyze and decide what will and will not make the cut. Whether it’s not cute enough, too expensive, made from uncomfortable fabric, or too similar to something she already owns, hundreds of items get passed over before the all-too-familiar pause and stare. This is where the man’s heart starts racing. She has a live one, we think as we immediately begin our own analysis of the item. How bad is this going to hurt? Is it too early in the outing that she will want to continue after this, or could this be our last stop?”
“The humming of colorful wings put me in a trance, and I felt like we were on an acid trip.”
“We had that feeling we had in Prague, where all of a sudden we felt a jolt of energy from all the people enjoying their evenings.”
“I realized I hadn’t seen mountains since we left Denver. I missed those lumps of earth.”
“Ash and I exhaled and laughed nervously, as if we’d just dodged a bullet.”
Some similes for you:
“We attempted to play a card game, but the wind was like a pestering two-year-old throwing our cards all over the place.”
“We approached a pho restaurant that made my mouth water like a dog waiting for its dinner.”
“Sprawled across the backseat, snoring, was a man with a blanket on, whimpering like a dog having a bad dream.”
“When we awoke from our nap, my stomach growled at me like a Rottweiler does at an intruder.”
“I tried not to wake her, but these mosquito bites were killing me. They covered my sunburned skin like volcanoes.”
“I was already dreading trying to get my soaked shirt off my skin. It would be like trying to peel a green banana.”
“When we stepped off the plane, it felt like the tarmac was being cooked by the Adriatic sun.”
From the same page:
“The sky looked like a bruise out of surgery.”
“It was like Budapest was a hot pan just out of the oven that had been placed under running water.”
“It looked like Pearl Harbor out there, bullets of rain abusing the now flooding sidewalks and streets.”