Is it possible to recognize good writing but not appreciate it? That’s the question I’m dealing with right now. I’m struggling to get through Kelly Braffet’s “Save Yourself” and I feel bad about it. I first heard about this book because people I admire were tweeting wonderful things about it over the summer. I’ve found some great book suggestions that way. (Last summer’s “Gone Girl” comes to mind). I put my name on the list and waited until I rose to the top. I didn’t know anything about Kelly Braffet, and was surprised to find out that she was married to Owen King, Stephen King’s son. No wonder Owen King and his brother Joe Hill were promoting the heck out of this book. They had a familial obligation! The ol’ pater familias hasn’t taken to twitter yet, (Will he ever?) but the next generation of Kings have embraced the platform and are giving their own a promotional boost through it. And why not?
I’m just not sure this book is for me.
SK himself advocates for the 10% rule. That is, read 10% of a book (i.e. if it is 300 pages, read 30 pages) and if it hasn’t grabbed you, put it down. Don’t feel bad about it. It’s just not the book for you, at this time. Move onto something you’ll actually enjoy and get something out of rather than slog through something just for the sake of finishing it.
Pretty logical advice, right?
The thing is, even though I am aware of this rule of thumb, I have a real hard time following it myself. Despite seeing the logic of not wasting one’s time, I still feel like I’ve failed the book, not that the book failed me when it happens. If I had applied the 10% rule to “Save Yourself”, it would be back on the shelf. But here I am, at nearly the halfway point, trying to get through it.
I don’t want to give you the wrong impression of this book:
It’s well written and the characters are expertly realized. I’m especially impressed with Ms. Braffet’s ability to get inside the male mind and write convincingly from that point of view. The dialogue is natural and believable. There’s tension on almost every page, and when it is released, especially in some pretty intense and realistic (SPOILER) sex scenes, I feel like I have to get up and get a glass of water and a cool cloth. I’d describe the general mood of the novel as being “Perks of being a Wallflower” meets “Veronica Mars”, and those that know me know that’s a huge compliment.
“So, what’s your problem?” I can hear the fanbase mutter.
I don’t know, I don’t know. Are there too many characters? Is it unclear as to who the protagonist is due to the ensemble cast feel of it? Is it a bit too wordy? See, this is where I second-guess myself. I can recognize good writing when I see it, (and yes, Dennis Lehane says it’s a good book on the back cover, so we know we’re in good company), but it just isn’t keeping my attention. There are scenes referenced that I don’t remember happening, and I feel like I have to go back and reread things to get caught up. This breaks the natural flow, and adds artificial time to my total reading tally. I have to admit I don’t really care that much about these characters, but I must care about something because I’m sticking with it. (It also probably helps that I read a Goodreads review that said that the last 75 pages are INSANE, and I’m kind of curious to see how it all resolves. I’m about 150 pages from the end now, so I’ve got about 75 to go BEFORE THE SHIT GETS REAL).
I’ve purposely not talked about the plot at all, because I feel like I’m not really sure where everything is leading, and I’d look like a boob if I misrepresented things. Let’s just say there are two deeply dysfunctional families and their stories intertwine. Is that vague enough for you? I don’t want to say too much more.
I suppose if I was serious about all this, I’d wait until I was done the damn book and review it properly, but there was a bit of a lull here at the MBM offices tonight, and I thought I’d share these few weird little thoughts with you. This blog is, after all, a book reviewing site. It’s just that we too busy talking about PUBES and whatnot to ever get around to the actual business at hand, and when we actually do, we write a LITERALLY half-assed one.
Apologies to Kelly Braffet, and her husband Owen. Hell, apologies to Joe Hill, and their parents Tabitha and Steve, and anyone else who had anything to do with this book. You are all wonderful writers in your own way, and it’s me. It’s all me. You’re fine.
Why don’t you just read it for yourself, people, if you want? I’d like to hear what you think, and maybe you can explain some stuff to me if you do. I think that’s all from us here at MBM tonight. Toodles!