This topic was a really tough one for me. I have plenty of books that I love to discuss, but most of those are books that I loved. I’m generally pretty good at picking books that I’m confident I’m going to enjoy, so looking back on my Goodreads lists from the past couple of years, I found very few books that I truly disliked. Most of those that I did dislike are books that I’m not really interested in discussing either. I find it a lot more fun to discuss books that I love, even (especially?) if my opinions on them are unpopular. For example, I love discussing Me Before You, even though I know most people can’t stand the book. My other challenge with coming up with these books is that several of them seem to be a bit more on the obscure side, so even though I might like to discuss them, I don’t really have anyone to discuss them with!
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten
This book was one of my most frustrating reads during my first ever reading challenge! The book is about a lawyer named Danielle Parkman whose son Max is diagnosed with autism and is committed to a psychiatric facility for disturbed behaviour where he is accused of killing another patient. Danielle is convinced that her son could not possibly have attacked the other boy, and takes it upon herself to prove it. The main reason this book frustrated me is because Danielle’s behaviour was so irritating! She was constantly thinking to herself that she should not be doing certain things, and then went ahead and did them anyway, even knowing that it might not be in Max’s best interest. Her suspicions that the psychiatric facility was wrong about Max seemed too sudden for me since we got so little of their relationship before he was committed. I also found the book awkwardly written, and a very poor representation of autism. Max did not seem to have any autistic traits at all except for being skilled with computers. I like to discuss the book because it had so much potential to be a great story, especially with some of the major plot points revealed toward the end. It’s not a very well-known book, and it was a complete disappointment to me, but I still have fun discussing (or ranting about) it.
2) Strange Son by Portia Iversen
This book is already a controversial one that has generated quite a bit of discussion on its own. The book is written by Portia Iversen, a mother of a son who has autism, who meets Tito Mukhopadhyay, a boy with severe autism who lives in India and seems to have shown incredible intelligence thanks to his mother’s devotion to teaching him. Portia brings Tito and his mother to the US to help researchers learn her teaching methods to use with other autistic children. I am not unbiased in this subject matter, since I work in a day program for young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, and I’m fascinated by stories of individuals like Carly Fleischmann who have learned to communicate and show the amazing skills they have. I did not enjoy this book because I found Portia’s attitude toward her son very difficult to read. The methods Tito’s mother used to get him to communicate were also controversial. There was a lot of similarity to the now-discredited facilitated communication, and her methods often seemed quite harsh. I have seen video footage of Tito writing and typing on his own, so it seems at least some of his communication is genuine, but I found the book interesting to discuss because of the unusual methods Soma used and especially the issue of facilitated communication.
3) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I had a very hard time reading this book, and I think a big part of that is that I went into it expecting it not to interest me very much. This book is about a slave named Cora who travels along the Underground Railroad, conceptualized in this book as a real railroad, to escape from the plantation she lives on. In a sense, I feel like this is a book I need to give a second chance to because I like the concept, but I just could not get into the writing style at all. I found it very distant which made it hard for me to connect with the characters of the story at all. I found it boring and it took me way too long to make my way through it. It’s the kind of book where afterwards, looking at all the other positive reviews, I was left wondering if I’d read the same book as everyone else. There were some sections I really enjoyed, but considering the book is relatively short, it took me almost a full week to read and I was not interested at all. It didn’t help that I’d studied that period of American history in some detail in school, so not much of the story was particularly shocking to me. I think the biggest issue was the distant writing which made it so hard for me to connect, but I like to discuss this one because it is such a great idea.
4) The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
First of all, I find “saga” a bit of a strong word for this series. I read all four of these books and I am a bit interested in trying them all again, but I definitely do not think they lived up to all the hype. I’m not even sure I would say I disliked this series since I didn’t outright hate it either. More than anything, I found it disappointing but there are definitely some great discussion points, especially about the relationships between Bella, Edward and Jacob. I know there has been quite a bit of talk about Edward’s behaviour bordering on abuse, but I think Jacob had his moments as well. Let’s not even get into the bizarre “imprinting” issue which was both creepy and way too convenient. I found the series as a whole mediocre, and I was especially disappointed by the final “battle” although there were some parts that I really enjoyed. What frustrates me most about this series is that it had so much potential to be a great story, and given all the hype, I was expecting a lot more.
5) The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard
This is another book that doesn’t seem to be that well-known, although it was part of Oprah’s book club. I read this book a couple of years ago as part of one of my reading challenges, but it had one of the most irritating main characters I’ve ever read. It is about a woman named Beth whose 3-year-old son is kidnapped from a hotel lobby while she is there for a class reunion, returning 9 years later to a family he now doesn’t remember at all. This book raised some very interesting ethical questions about what was best for the child, and to see the family’s attempts to cope with the loss after the boy first goes missing. It had such potential to be a fascinating family drama, but unfortunately I couldn’t stand the main character and it made it hard to get into the book at all. I ended up bored and frustrated with it, which is too bad because there are so many great discussion points and it really is an interesting subject.