Like the most surprising books of the year, I find “disappointing” a bit of a tricky term to define sometimes. My natural inclination is always to pick the books that I rated the lowest, but I find that these are often books that I was already on the fence about anyway. What’s a lot more disappointing sometimes are the books that I’m really expecting to love, and I somehow end up not connecting with at all. In some cases, they are books that I thought would go in one direction but veered off somewhere completely different. Like last year, when I look back at the books that I gave 3 stars this year, I found that most were books that I didn’t really think I’d love anyway. I think part of this is just because I’ve become a lot better at predicting which books I’d really enjoy, although the fact that I could still pretty easily pick out some disappointments from the books I read this year means that it’s still impossible to perfectly predict.
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) Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
This was the first book that immediately sprung to mind when I thought of books that disappointed me this year, and I’m still not really sure whether it is entirely the book’s fault. I was very excited to try this one because Uprooted was one of my favourite books the year that I read it, and I assumed that this one would be as well. Unfortunately, I also read it during a very stressful week when I wasn’t quite in the mood for it, which definitely didn’t help. Even at the time, I knew I shouldn’t pick it up then, but it was getting close to the library due date and I couldn’t renew it, so I decided to go for it anyway. I’m not sure if it was entirely because of these factors or the book itself, but I just couldn’t get into it and ending up feeling like I was slogging my way through. It’s too bad because there were some parts that I loved and I really enjoyed what I got of the concept, but I also found it very slow and it didn’t keep my attention at all. I do feel like this is a book that I might have enjoyed more if I had read it at a different time and it’s one that I might want to eventually try again, but I was pretty disappointed by it this year! Even with all that said though, I still ended up giving it 4 stars so it really wasn’t that bad.
2) 500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario
For some reason, this was a book that I kept coming back to on my TBR and it became one of my priority books for the year, which is especially unusual since it is written in verse. I loved this book because of the concept, which was a high school senior who, after cheating on her boyfriend, tries to repair her reputation by writing college admissions essays for her classmates to help them get into the competitive colleges of their choice. As someone who has always been pretty good at writing essays, I could definitely relate to the idea of being asked to write for others, although I have never nor would I ever actually done so. I’m not a huge fan of books that are told in verse in the first place because I find it a style that can be really hard for me to get into, but I loved the whole storyline about academic pressure. However, I didn’t care for the romance parts of the plot and thought they actually detracted from the rest of the story. I actually ended up rating this one a 4.5 initially but rounded it down to a 4, which is not a bad rating at all, but I was a bit disappointed because I expected this one to be a very easy 5 stars.
3) Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith
This was a book that I was always a bit on the fence about, since it was for a challenge prompt that I already wasn’t too excited for. I hope this isn’t taken the wrong way, but for some reason, I always struggle to find books by Native American authors or that focus on Native American characters that strongly interest me. I was excited to see this one on Goodreads because it sounded like something that I’d love. It focuses on a teenage girl named Louise, who is of the Muskogee Creek, whose younger brother is cast as a lead in the school’s production of The Wizard of Oz, leading some parents to complain about the diverse casting choices. I liked Louise in the first few pages, but very quickly lost interest in the character and especially in her interest in just about every guy she meets. I thought the characters all felt underdeveloped, and was disappointed to see that the storyline about the “colour-conscious casting” of the play did not get as much attention as I’d expected, despite being the most interesting aspect of the story. I found the writing strangely jarring and disjointed, and characters were introduced so quickly and with so little development that I couldn’t remember who they were when they were later mentioned again. Although I didn’t necessarily expect this to be a 5 star read, I was still disappointed that it didn’t do more with such an interesting premise, and ultimately gave it only 3 stars.
4) Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
I suspect this one was partially my own fault, because I’d assumed that this book would be more of a thriller, when it really wasn’t. To be fair, that seemed to be how it was initially pitched, but many of the reviews that had been written by the time I wrote it had commented on the fact that it wasn’t really a thriller at all. This book is about a woman named Sarah who meets a man named Eddie and very quickly falls in love with him, only for him to disappear after leaving for a previously-booked vacation. Sarah is convinced that Eddie wouldn’t just ghost her like that and insists something must have happened to him, while everyone around her tries to persuade her to just move on. This was another of hte books that I was most looking forward to trying this year, and while I didn’t hate it, I also didn’t really get what I was looking for from it either. I really liked the first half of the book, but thought it fell apart a bit in the second half, where the focus changed a lot. There were some very strong moments, especially about some of Eddie’s backstory, and the twist toward the middle did genuinely catch me off-guard, but I also couldn’t buy into Sarah and Eddie’s relationship and thought it felt very unrealistic. I also thought things got dragged out way too much toward the end, although I may have enjoyed that part more if I had been more invested in the relationship. I ultimately rated it 4 stars because the parts that were done well were excellent, but this was just not the book that I expected it to be, and I thought it should have been an easy 5 stars.
5) The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
I picked this one up because I’d been hearing so much about Holly Black in the past couple of years because of the Folk of the Air trilogy, and I wanted to try some of her earlier books. Unfortunately, it looks like this was not the best place to start, and I had seen very mixed reviews for it even before starting to read it. It is about a teenage girl named Tana who wakes up at a party to find everyone else dead, except for her ex-boyfriend Aidan, and a vampire named Gavriel, both of whom are alive and imprisoned in the same room as her. I liked Holly Black’s writing style immediately and I found the first few chapters interesting, but the book pretty quickly lost my interest and felt very slow-paced. I liked how Holly Black included the backstory for the main characters and some worldbuilding in alternating chapters with the main story, and I liked that the vampire mythology was a bit different from the typical lore although some of it was a bit confusing. I loved the concept of the story, but just couldn’t connect at all with the characters and found myself not remembering who people were or even plot details from day to day when I picked the book up again. I liked the second half a bit more, but by then I had already mostly lost interest, and it was another case where I just couldn’t buy into the main relationship. I ultimately rated this one 3.5 stars rounded down to 3 because although I liked the writing enough to continue reading Holly Black’s books, I just couldn’t get into this particular story.
- Textrovert by Lindsey Summers – I didn’t really expect to love this one much so it wasn’t a huge disappointment, but the elements that had drawn me to the book in the first place were such a minor part of the story, and I found the characters bland and predictable
- Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes – This had such an interesting premise, and Joe Goldberg is a fascinating character, but taking away the second-person narration lost a lot of the appeal of the first book and this one just didn’t hook me the way the first one had
- Wildcard by Marie Lu – I really liked Warcross and was hoping that the reviews I’d seen commenting that this wasn’t anywhere near as good would be proven wrong. There were some elements that I really liked, but I found the story a bit inconsistent and the characters felt a bit underdeveloped