Saturday, January 22, 2011

Timeless - Why I'm Giving Up

Those of you who follow me for whatever reason may have noticed a few snarky YA writing rants floating through my updates recently. This is because I’ve been reading Timeless by Alexandra Monir, as part of my reading list of YA debut authors. Now Timeless is a paranormal romance, which most of you probably know isn’t my cup of tea, but once a year or so I pick up a volume with an intriguing plot to give the genre a chance to change my mind.

Timeless has not changed my mind.

In fact, this isn’t even a review of the book. This is me giving up 40 pages in because I’d rather not waste the time I could spend reading Zombies vs. Unicorns. In fact, I should have given up 15 pages ago, because hitting three “strikes” within 25 pages is just bad quality all around. But, because I’m stubborn, I stuck with it to the end of the chapter and now have four strikes on the tally.

So, for the record and all time, here are the four reasons I gave up on Timeless:

1) Info dump of back-story clumsily “disguised” as an unrealistic economics class lecture. Specifically, the main character is sitting in Ecconomics class and, “To continue our study of commerce” they spend the entire lecture talking about the oh-so-rich family in New York that the M.C.’s mother ran away from to be with her father. It was forced, it was nothing like a real economics class, and it just made me roll my eyes.

2) The MC’s mother is “her best friend.”Oh hell no. I hate it when people do this in writing; that is, I hate it when the mother tries to be her daughter’s BFF, it works and everybody’s so happy about it, like in this book. It’s a whole different kind of author insertion fantasy. I always get the distinct feeling that the mother is being used as a vehicle for the author – “Ah, the MC is my little baby, but I’m still hip and cool so I’d totally be her BFF too!”

Besides all that, this real-life parenting style is so selfish I don’t like seeing it encouraged. Newsflash: No teenage girl wants her mother to be her best friend. She wants her to be her mom. That’s a mother’s job. When mothers sacrifice that, they’re doing their child a disservice.

But I suppose in the end, that doesn’t REALLY matter, because…

3) The mother promptly dies in a car crash. Don’t go telling me this is a spoiler. It’s not. I read the book jacket cover, specifically the part about “a tragedy” and instantly knew that some drunk was gonna run a stop light and kill the ultra-hip mother in her tracks. Lo and behold, as of page 23 I have joined the ranks of the clairvoyants alongside Yahtzee Crowshaw.

And yet, all of this is just knit-picking. It’s still a piece of escapist literature. It’s meant to be read quickly and enjoyed. And I could have totally enjoyed it, falling for the male lead in the heroine’s steed, if it wasn’t for the gigantic, wailing elephant in the room. The final strike:

4) Poor writing all around. Not “bad” writing, mind you, this isn’t The Overton Window or The Legend of Rah and the Muggles. It’s just not good; certainly not good enough to make up for the bad plot elements above.

The description, what little there is, is shallow. I was literally two scenes into the book, less than 5 pages, before my tolerance for clothing description was utterly exhausted. The rest of the narration is pretty much the same, telling us things in broad, superficial generalities but never presenting anything of substance. We’re never shown anything, ever. Subtly seems to be a foreign concept. And the pacing is buggier than the Fallout: New Vegas initial release.

This is always my major complaint with YA paranormal romance. I honestly don’t get this, why is this genre the only one apparently immune from the standards of decent writing? And where does this clumsy writing even come from?

Adult paranormal romances don’t suffer from this, I’ve read several that are well-written and intriguing with good characters, good writing and good plots. Likewise, other YA genres aren’t flooded with poor writing, two-dimensional heroines or paragraphs devoted to wardrobe. Even chick lit writing will have a witty voice that matches the superficiality and therefore uses it to enhance the story.

So what’s the deal, pararomance peeps? Are there well-written books out there that I’m missing for all the Twilight knock-offs, or is there just something about this genre that I don’t “get”?

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