Talk to Me Tuesday is a brand new weekly meme where we will discuss anything (and everything) literary-related in an open forum of honesty. Questions for the next week will be posted one week prior to the post on the Features page. If you'd like to participate in this weekly feature, simply create your post, link back to me, and add your post to the wonderful Mr. Linky below. Have fun, and have at it!
This week's question: What makes a great novel, in your opinion?
It’s kind of like the age-old question for book reviewers and book nerds, alike. What makes the perfect book for you? What makes you want to read a book again, and again, and again? I sat down the other day and decided to analyze it, and I decided it’s a bit like a trifecta for me. Three things (mainly) make a book great for me, and when just a single element is lacking, a book lags in my opinion and slips in my reviews.
First, I need great characters. I need them to be well-rounded and motivated in the sense that there is a reason they exist in the book. For example, in a book like Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, we were given Lea, an emotionally troubled girl desperate to vanish from the face of the earth through her disease, anorexia. She is haunted by a pact she made with her best friend, determined to continue her own destruction for fear of failure, and hell-bent on being the best at something, even if it means her ultimate demise. There are, however, characters that are too surface-level for me, and leave me wishing a book was stronger in that element. A perfect example for me in this case is Bridget from Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison. She’s promising, yes, but I never felt like her character ever really broke through her mean-girl stereotype except for self-survival.
Then, we have the plot. This is arguably the most important element of the story because without a sturdy and steady plot, there is no pace, and without the pace, let’s be honest…the whole book falls to pieces. Every plot is different (obviously), but every plot needs its share of background, a good flow, and a climax. For me, a great example of an awesome plot is that of Dark Song by Gail Giles. It starts with a spoiled little rich girl, rips her from her roots, throws in a bad influence, and leads to something that could very well destroy a family and a life. It moves steadily and consistently without lulls and major plot holes. A lot of books, unfortunately miss the mark with the climax. A prime example of an unfortunate fail for me was Witch & Wizard by James Patterson. It’s bland, boring, and spends too much time on minute and obscure details to ever get going. It promises a powerful premise but falls hopelessly short.
Last, there’s the writing style and voice. In YA literature, which I primarily read and review, there’s a delicate balance that must be upheld at all times. There’s a misconception that YA lit needs to be dumbed down and writing in blah/boring terms because the people who read YA are sans education or far too young. Contrary to what one might think, we can handle seriousness and great prose. We can analyze the themes properly. Some books, like Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers, respect this and challenge our minds. Other books, like Trapped by Michael Northrop, miss the mark because they simple err on the side of youth, forgetting that we’re every bit as capable of reading and understanding powerful books and messages.
Here's what some of your fellow bloggers said makes a great novel for them:
The Book Vixen says, "It pulls me in from the get-go, never let's me go, and keeps me thinking about it long after the last page has been turned."
Linds from Bibliophile Brouhaha says, "A GREAT novel? One that takes you on the character's journey. When the story is so compelling, the voice so authentic, and the writing so solid, that you've become the character and the journey is your own."
Ginger from GReads says, "When the writer makes you forget that you're reading words on a page & the story takes a life of it's own inside your mind."
Obviously, these are my personal opinions, but without any of these elements, I have to deduct points in my reviews, which (I believe) my readers can attest to. I take no pleasure in tearing books down, but I do take great pleasure in reading challenging and unique books. Luckily for us, there are a great many fabulous books on the market today and, therefore, there is no shortage of fantastic reading.
Want to weigh in and do your own Talk to Me Tuesday post for this week? Go ahead and link up!