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TSS: Anyone want to talk me out of a potential DNF?

March 14, 2010

The Sunday Salon.comHappy Sunday, all!

It’s been a pretty relaxing weekend around these parts – it’s technically spring break (although not that that means much to me… no rest for the dissertating!), which means most of the students are gone, which meant that I had the gym practically to myself yesterday morning. Unfortunately, while I was at the gym, I realized that I was getting severely annoyed with my audiobook, which is a problem, because normally I rely on my audiobook to be interesting enough to motivate me to do tasks I ordinarily don’t want to do (like going to the gym in the first place).

It’s As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway. I picked it up because I’d seen a lot of people comparing it to John Green’s books, and I can see how the comparison is made: The basic plot is essentially “strange and wacky girl sweeps into the life of everyday mild-mannered teenage boy and changes it forever”, and Anna does remind me a fair bit of both Alaska from Looking for Alaska and Margo from Paper Towns. Each of them has a serious case of “Look at how Seriously Wacky and Off-beat™ I am! I am acting this way because I am deep and mysterious! Isn’t that charming?”

And, unfortunately, I don’t find it charming at all, I find it severely annoying. There was a point where the Anna and our unnammed narrator were talking about a teacher, and he’s all “Everybody in school seems to like him.” and she’s all “Well then he’s not for me.” (those aren’t exact quotes, because I was at the gym when it came up, and didn’t get a chance to jot down where I was in the audiobook, but you get the idea.) I don’t know that I have ever wanted so badly to slap a character and tell her to get over herself and stop being such a snot.

The thing is, while several of John Green’s female leads are pretty similar, in their cases I don’t mind it as much, because the book is about more things than just their manic off-beat-itude. There are interesting secondary characters, funny bits, things happening, and most importantly, a sympathetic main character. As Simple as Snow, at least by the end of the third CD, has none of those things, and seems to be relying on the reader finding Anna charming and mysterious in order to move the narrative along.

What I want to know, from anyone out there who’s read it, is whether this ever changes? Does anything ever happen that isn’t reliant on the reader wanting to unravel the mystery of Anna? If the book develops an actual plot, or the narrator develops a personality, I’d be willing to stick it out, but I’ve got this feeling that the point of the book is “mysterious girl blows through town, changes young boy’s life, and then leaves/disappears, as mysterious as ever, and what was important was not why she wrote obituaries for everyone in town and listened to streams of random numbers on shortwave radio and mailed found objects covered in arcane instructions that she expected the narrator to puzzle out, no, what was really important were the changes she made the young boy make in his own life.” And if I’m right, and that’s the point of the book, well, then, I feel like I’ve heard that before, and I’m not sure I want to stick through another several hours of a character who annoys me so badly just for that.

So, readers, what say you? Ditch it, or soldier on?

18 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2010 9:35 am

    My son’s spring break was this past week and he worked on two papers while he was here, so it’s not all fun and games. I haven’t read As Simple as Snow, so I can’t help you on that one.

    • March 15, 2010 9:30 am

      bermudaonion – It’s true, the ratio of spring breaks spent working to spring breaks spent relaxing in my own past is higher than I’d like.

  2. March 14, 2010 10:11 am

    I say ditch it. I don’t ditch a book very often, but I’ve never been sorry about it afterwards.

    • March 15, 2010 9:31 am

      cbjames – Good point! It’s rare that I DNF a book, but you’re right, I’ve never regretted it. (On the other hand, there have been some books that I was tempted to DNF but stuck with, and was glad I did.)

  3. March 14, 2010 10:51 am

    Look, it’s Stargirl all over again! Ugh. I haven’t read it, but the reviews I’ve seen makes me want to dodge it completely.

    • March 15, 2010 9:32 am

      Omni – Oh, gosh, you’re right! I’d forgotten all about Stargirl, but it’s pretty much exactly the same book, except not as lighthearted.

  4. March 14, 2010 11:48 am

    I’m not sure what to recommend, I read this before having read any John Green and I liked it well enough. But then I do enjoy stories with lead characters that are unlikable – it’s unexpected and so it gives a new perspective for me.
    And yeah I think you nailed the point – boy is changed because of girl.
    Maybe if you really don’t want to DNF it, but also don’t want to continue listening, you should grab a copy at the library and skim through the rest – it’s not long at all.

    • March 15, 2010 9:33 am

      Joanne – That’s an excellent idea – the library had a copy on the shelf yesterday afternoon, so I nabbed it. We’ll see how it goes.

  5. March 14, 2010 2:55 pm

    Oh dear! I listened to this book a couple years ago — hadn’t heard of it before, and needed an audio on board pretty quickly — and I really liked it. (Maybe it’s because I haven’t read any John Green.) Also, this is an interesting coincidence, I started a new audiobook just yesterday that *reminded me* of As Simple as Snow, and I recalled it fondly. Are you already up to the point where she disappears? And I remember that the teacher you mention has a larger role in the later part of the book.

    But of course, we all have different tastes and preferences, and if you decide to finish the book but don’t get much enjoyment from it, I’d feel bad for encouraging you to stick it out.

    One more thing to consider as you make your decision, and it’s critical: will completing it count toward a challenge you’re doing — or even better, toward two challenges?
    Just kidding. ;-) I look forward to hearing what you decide!

    • March 15, 2010 9:34 am

      Marie – She hasn’t disappeared yet, although it’s clear that it’s coming.

      …and no, I don’t really participate in challenges, so there is absolutely no external pressure to finish this book.

  6. March 14, 2010 5:45 pm

    I haven’t read it, but I’d say ditch it, just because of how you sound when talking about it :P Life is too short for annoying books.

    • March 15, 2010 9:35 am

      Nymeth – True, but then I’d have to be decisive about what to listen to next!

  7. March 14, 2010 7:29 pm

    I haven’t read the book so I can’t directly advise you on that. However, you could try to stick it out a bit more while doing something you enjoy (knitting or crocheting? instead of working out or cleaning). Then if it still annoys you, ditch it.

    • March 15, 2010 9:37 am

      Laura – Good idea! I think the weather’s going to be nice enough to walk to and from work this week, so that should be about an hour of listening per day that I don’t wish I was doing something else.

  8. March 15, 2010 3:05 pm

    I haven’t read this book either, but my personal feeling is that life is too short. :) I’ve had less patience lately for books that don’t hold my attention. If after setting them aside for a few days I really want to know what happened to the characters I will go back to it. Inevitably though, I move on to better books and don’t go back to the characters (or plot) that didn’t interest me in the first place.

  9. March 15, 2010 3:42 pm

    I have no words of wisdom to offer you, except that my system, of very often finishing books I don’t care for because I keep thinking I’m going to realize why other people liked it, has not, historically, been very effective.

  10. March 16, 2010 1:43 pm

    Ditch it!
    Or set it aside and if you pick it up because your in the mood then great. There are so so many books out there.

    But then I am a “dedicated ditcher”. :)

  11. trapunto permalink
    March 20, 2010 4:52 pm

    I liked this even better than Paper Towns, though admittedly I read it first. It is a completely different kind of fiction. Don’t worry about finding a reason to like Anna; if I had been hoping for her to be charming that might have spoiled the book for me, too. The only character whose insides you need to worry about is the main character. Anna’s a symbol. A Moby Dick. Read it like you’d watch a noir detective film, but without any expectations for the ending, and I think you might find it was worth your time.

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