Review: With every ounce of my being, I wanted to love this book. YA. Historical fiction during World War II – one of my favorite periods for historical fiction. Narrated by Death? Awesome, yes? And so many people whose opinions I respect, people whose reading tastes practically mirror my own, loved this book. Like LOVED this book. And it has been on the top 10 of my TBR list for coming on three years. So, I jumped in expecting amazing. And I feel almost ashamed to say that I wasn’t amazed.
The first 300 pages I had to drag myself through each page. Had it been just about any other book, I would have abandoned it after the first 100 pages. But I was convinced there had to be something redeeming along the way, that at some point I would start to experience this book in the way that my reading friends had. It got better. It did. And when I was done, I didn’t think “Well, that’s time I could have spent reading something else.” But. I never fell in love with it. I was expecting to feel emotionally wrung out, and I never even teared up. Me. Who cries at everything. My super power is blubbering. But not a tear. While reading a book about the Holocaust for goodness sake!
The writing was fine. It wasn’t fantastic. It wasn’t bad. But the approach was gimmicky. The whole Death as narrator thing didn’t work for me. The font changes and constant interruptions by Death killed the flow of the story for me. Creative and unique? Sure. So was Watt by Samuel Beckett and I can’t think of a book I dislike more. So maybe that’s the problem. As a general rule, I don’t like experimental. For me, the book is about the story, and often about the writing style, but mess with the form and you risk losing the story. But it wasn’t just that. The emotional depth I would have expected wasn’t there. The connection I was hoping for never surfaced. It was disappointing. And I’m disappointed that I was disappointed.
But, I gave it a C+, and here’s why: if it were just some random book, for which I had no real expectations, no fanfare or hype, I would have said it was “meh”. Which is a C for me. But. I think I was exceptionally disappointed because my expectations were so high at first, which isn’t a reflection of the work, but my state of mind. So I’ll got with a C+ because I think I might be less disappointed without all the hype.
Would I recommend it? Well, I know lots of people who loved it. I’m not one of them. But maybe you will be.