DNF Round-Up is a feature in which I talk about my latest books I marked as did-not-finish and reflect upon why they didn’t work for me.
1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
source: Bought(as a kindle daily deal, luckily!)
Where I stopped: 50%
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
Why I DNF-ed:
Um, did I read the same novel as the rest of the world? I joked on twitter that I would have rather go to the dentist than finish this book, but that’s not too far from the truth. Clearly, so many people have loved this novel and I’m a complete black sheep here, but I put this book down when I realized it was unlikely to get more than 1 star from me if I stuck with it through the end. I was painfully bored. PAINFULLY. And let me tell you, I have a high tolerance for boredom in my books. One time I read a book about WWI poetry FOR FUN(it started as reading for a paper, but I only needed to read a section. . . then I read the rest). The post-apocalyptic world felt entirely lacking in any sort of grounding details. There were mentions of rusted cars and such, but much less time spent on actually building the world in any meaningful way from what I read. Now, I didn’t see it through to the end, but I did read a huge chunk. Everything felt nonsensical and completely without any sort of internal logic. Definitely not a fan.
2. Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
source: Around 18%
Where I stopped: Around 18%
Why I DNF-ed:
*shrug* This book was fine, but I just wasn’t feeling it. If I had kept reading, I think I might have *liked* it, but in a very unaffected way. I wasn’t a huge fan of the split POV–they were distinct, yes, but I didn’t feel like each chapter was enough time spent in that POV before moving to the next one–and I wasn’t engrossed in the slightest.
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
source: Bought at library book sale
Where I stopped: page 100
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
Why I DNF-ed:
This just felt so, I dunno, malicious? Hannah’s suicide was tragic, and I don’t want to discount the effects other character’s actions had on her, but the whole thing was so manipulative. I get that this was a girl quite literally at the end of her rope and that her lashing out at others is an understandable reaction, but this went beyond being angry to the fact that Hannah spent so much time planning out her tapes and figuring out how to hurt everyone else. From what I read, it wasn’t about Hannah explaining how she was affected by other’s reactions–she meant to hurt. It was clear from her narration on the tapes that she knew what she was doing in the techniques she’d use to keep Clay listening, and while Hannah’s situation made me sad, the way it was portrayed just absolutely rubbed me the wrong way.