I’ve been on a bit of a ruthless mood this year. Usually if I am reading a book, I’m able to push through and finish it, since I read quite fast and it won’t take me more than a few days, anyway. But after reading so many books I didn’t enjoy and entering a bit of a slump this fall (which is my favorite time of the year to read, so I resent that), I decided to DNF a book unless I truly, wholeheartedly thought it would get better. I think Cherish Farrah was the only book I DNF-ed on the first half of this year, so all the other books I’ve DNF-ed from Fall on – yeah, I may have snapped a bit, after one too many disappointing reads.
Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow
I’ve already talked about this book in The 10 Most Disappointing Mysteries & Thrillers of 2022 but I just could not stand the voice of the narrator. I loved the concept of this book, with a manipulative main character trying to weasel into another family’s life to improve her station, just to be caught up in something darker than she expected. Very, very cool. But the narrator herself was so obnoxious and self-centered and all talk and no doing anything really. I got pretty deep into the story, like 60% through or so, but just couldn’t do it anymore to myself, and so this was the first book I DNF-ed this year.
Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage by Heather Havrilesky
I was very intrigued by this book’s title and the gorgeous cover, although this kind of advice-column type of book is not what I usually would gravitate towards. This just did not deliver – in fact, I felt sorry for the writer and her husband because they did not seem to particularly enjoy being married, but decided to go through with it anyway and the writer then dispenses advice to others on how to do the same. Huh, no thank you.
Book of Night by Holly Black
Gosh I barely remember what I read of this book anymore – but the reason why I DNF-ed it is still pretty fresh in my mind. This read like a YA fantasy, and not a very creative one either. I adored Holly Black’s Cruel Prince, and I hope for a delicioulsy dark and seductive adult fantasy, but instead this seems like another heist-filled story about secret societies (and not in a fun way, I mean it in a I’ve-seen-it-all-before way). There certainly are ways to go about telling a story full of overly-used tropes and make still a very interesting book (I feel like the Daine series by Tamora Pierce does this very well, and so does Robin Hobb). So I quickly got bored, tried to power through for a bit longer, hated every second and eventually gave up.
The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
I wanted to love this one so badly, but it’s one of those that checked all the right boxes (dark fantasy, books, feminist story) but ended up falling flat for me. I didn’t get very far before deciding to give this up – the story felt pretty straightforward and not particularly special, despite its unique(ish) world-building.
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
I didn’t actually mean to DNF this. I started reading this because I had tickets to watch Much Ado About Nothing in the theater and I didn’t know much about the story. Then I forgot to actually read this after a couple of chapters and watched the play – and it was so fun! The acting was great, it was light and fun and not quite as dark as the original book reads to modern audiences (if you read it you know which scene I’m talking about). But. I could not see how reading the original would be any better, plus That Scene and That Ending would probably ruin the reading experience for me.
Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden
I gave up on this one pretty early so I don’t have much to say – I just didn’t like the writing a whole lot, it was a bit rambly and it struck me as a bit YA-adjacent (not sure how to explain), so I just DNF-ed it because I thought the writing would have annoyed me for the entire book and I wasn’t that interested in the story to push through.
In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power
Same as for Book of Night. Way too YA for me. I loved Wild Girls, but lately I’ve been gravitating less and less towards YA and was excited to read her adult debut and was disappointed by how much it felt like reading YA. If you don’t mind that, I think you might like it, but it struck me as very formulaic and juvenile, but then again, I didn’t read more than 5 or 10% so who knows, maybe the book is actually amazing after that.
Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter
I have a vague memory of enjoying another book by Karin Slaughter in the past, but this one – just no. First of all, it was way too gruesome for me, way too “police are the good guys actually” and a bit too obvious on the borderline-incestuous relationship of a group of friends in high school. I just didn’t buy their dynamics and was nauseated by the story. I’m not sure if this was just too dark for me, or if the writing didn’t work – I feel like I read a lot of dark stories, but this made me actually a bit sick. I guess it plays a huge part that the victim was pregnant when she was murdered, which I found very upsetting to read about. I guess books that hit too close to reality make me a bit too ill and uncomfortable when I’m reading mysteries for… enjoyment.
The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
There is a certain type of book that seems to check all the right buzzwords, the right aesthetic, and you’re attracted to it like moth to a flame, despite the little voice in your head saying that you’ll probably won’t like it. The Death of Jane Lawrence seemed on paper like the kind of book I adore, dark and Gothic, with such a gorgeous cover, with a main character who’s not looking for love, but is interested in her work, her only passion. This fell flat entirely for me, though, as I could not connect with the main character at all, as she very quickly went from “I have no interest in men” to “Except this one, who I immediately fall in love with”. This is a trope that is hard to pull off, because the expectations set from the start (a story mainly about a young woman navigating a loveless marriage while just trying to do her work and suddenly finding herself in danger) got completely obfuscated by the rushed, rather silly love affair. The writing didn’t work much for me either, so I gave this up pretty early on.
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Oh, this is probably the most upset I was all year to DNF a book! I loved Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, and really enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere, but this one was really really not for me. Our Missing Hearts reads like a literary young adult dystopia – so it has all the elements of YA dystopia that I don’t enjoy (a naïve narrator, themes that mirror real life issues in a very obvious way, little room for grey morality) but also the things in literary fiction that are not exactly easy to pull off (dialogue without quote marks, slow pace) and it just doesn’t work for me. I’m glad this seems to be getting generally good reviews, clearly this seems to be finding its audience. I was quite frustrated reading Our Missing Hearts and will probably still pick up Celeste Ng’s books but this one I’m quite upset about because I got a signed hardcover in anticipation of loving it. I mean it’s okay and not really a big deal, but a little bit frustrating.
Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart
I have no regrets about DNF-ing this one. I loved Shuggie Bain, but it was so depressing and it bummed me out so much I had to put it down for a few months. I requested Young Mungo on a whim and got accepted for an ARCon Netgalley… and took months to pick it up. The writing of this one is also gorgeous, and it had everything that I loved about Shuggie Bain, maybe a little too much. There were too many similarities and I didn’t feel like I was reading a different story at all and if anything, I liked the story in Shuggie Bain better. So I ended up putting this down at around 30%.
Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman
Fantastic writing, it was almost enough to make me actually finish this book – it’s seductive and a bit sad, like all the Messy Woman Trope books I enjoy the most. BUT. I can’t get over how incredibly boring Nathan is. Like, if you’re going to get a queer woman who is bisexual but politically lesbian and with complicated feelings about men, then I want the man she falls for to be an absolute charmer, to seduce the reader as well as the protagonist. I just. Don’t buy it. It’s an easier book to enjoy if you’re just in for the self-destructive, almost masochistic pleasure the protagonist has in defying all kinds of decent behavior by becoming so competitive with a woman she was initially attracted to because of some dudebro. No, thank you. I thought this might be an interesting exploration of sexuality, maybe the protagonist realizing she’s in fact polyamorous or so. But no. It’s possible that by the ending all of the book gets turned on its head but from the little I heard about Acts of Service and its reception amongst LGBT readers, nope. Maybe this is a book for fans of 50 Shades of Gray? I’ve no idea.
3 thoughts on “All the Books I Did Not Finish in 2022”
Love the death theme.
I had misgivings about Our Missing Hearts given the problems I had with Little Fires Everywhere (I did like Everything I Never Told You, though) and your review absolutely confirms them. I did not think Ng’s tendency to black and white morality would marry well with dystopia. Will definitely be skipping it!
Well, good for you for stopping a book if it doesn’t work for you! I’ve read two of these — Cherish Farrah (which does NOT get any better — in hindsight, I should have stopped long before the end) and Book of Night (which I agree is nowhere near as good as her YA books). I ended up putting some books that weren’t appealing to me, and I don’t regret it!