Saturday, October 19, 2013
DNF Confession: This Much Is True by Katherine Owen
I read a great review of this on a blog somewhere and decided to give it a try, even though it is self published (well, published by something called The Writing Works Group, which I believe the author owns and only publishes books by her...) and I tend to steer away form self published books. But it was only 99 cents on Amazon so I took the plunge....
What I liked:
Tally's grief at losing her twin sister in a horrible car accident is raw and thick, never letting up for a second. It's really well done and believable. You can feel the weight that this loss has left on her entire family; the author manages to convey that weight on every page. It's suffocating, but...something like that should be suffocating. I was really impressed with how well the author depicted Tally's grief.
What I did not like: The writing seemed a little fanfic-y, particularly some of the dialogue. Sentences like "The image of her beautiful devastated face and haunting emerald green eyes stay with me"--uttered by a college baseball star--didn't quite ring true. Is "emerald green eyes" really a phrase you would expect to hear some famous jock utter? Well, it gets worse. "She has raven-black hair; well, it's more the color of dark-ground espresso, I guess. It's long?" Yep, same baseball player. I just don't feel like this is how ANYONE talks, let alone some sporty dude. So that was definitely off-putting.
There was also a lot of repetition. I think this could have benefited from a ruthless line edit. Example: "Still, there was something missing from their relationship and the guy wielded too much control. Something was missing in that relationship." This type of awkward repetition occurs several times over the first few chapters that I read and it was really jarring to me...I guess I'm used to reading books that have gone through the normal publishing process and have been rigorously edited.
The other issue I had a major beef with was the ballet story line. Tally is supposed to be this incredibly talented ballerina, utterly devoted to her craft. I have known real life aspiring ballerinas and read a fair share of novels about ballet, and the thing about ballet is that it really does take over your entire life if you want to be at all good. Even people who spend years of their lives practicing every day for hours, who have perfectly shaped feet and the perfect ballerina physique, are probably not going to end up actually making it as a professional ballerina, because it is literally that competitive and borderline impossible to succeed at. This is pretty common knowledge about ballet, I think. So, when Tally takes a four month break from ballet after the death of her sister (completely understandable), then returns, only to be told by her supposedly ironfisted ballet instructor that she is a superb dancer and--without even having to audition--has been offered a spot at some elite NYC ballet school (along with her best friend, conveniently), I had to put the book down because it seemed to be such a ridiculous manipulation of the plot. That would just never happen. You can't skip ballet for four months and then waltz back in and pick up exactly where you left off, not at that level! She would have had to do a lot of work to make up for the lost time and get back in shape. And I really don't think elite ballet schools are just sending out invitations to whomever...there are rigorous audition processes for these things. It just felt extremely contrived. As someone who loves a good ballet movie, book, or tv show (Dance Academy is my latest ballet obsession), I WANTED to like this, but was just way too unrealistic.
Why I ultimately gave up:
The best thing about this book (in the early chapters I read) was the very vivid, real grief that Tally and her family were coping with as a result of the death of Tally's sister. I really do think that was enormously well done. Unfortunately, there were just too many other negatives: namely the awkward dialogue and writing and then ridiculous ballet plot line. I have too many other books in my "to read" pile and would rather turn to something new than force myself to finish a book that just isn't doing it for me.