After the last book I tried reading as a potential comp for my own writing bombed (enough that I DNF and I *never* DNF), I decided to take a break from the others. I read some memoirs and a giant book of theatre reviews from the NYT, but before jumping into anything else huge like Ron Chernow’s Grant book, I knew I had to get back to my potential comp TBR list. So, off to the Boston Public Library with a couple of call numbers, and minutes later I was back on the Green Line towards my workplace with what I hoped would be some great new books.
::insert blank faced stare here::
I don’t even think I’m going to share the name of this most recent read because it’s that bad. Writing-wise, it’s fine. The prose is probably the best part of the whole thing. Some readers had problems with the constant time jump from one chapter to the next between the 1980s and the 2000s. This is never a deal-breaker for me, and I was always able to figure out what time period we were in once I started reading, although an indicator at the beginning of each chapter certainly wouldn’t have hurt.
My main problem, as it’s been with other books I’ve read, were the freaking characters making unbelievable, ridiculous choices. Like, the main character is supposed to be this quiet, kinda sheltered girl from the Midwest who’s moved abroad to study acting. Okay, cool. She has a boyfriend back home who she seems happy enough with, & the distance shouldn’t be a huge deal since she plans on moving back to the States after her training’s over anyway.
So why the fuck does she insta-fall in love with this “bad boy” rocker guy who treats her like a total douche? Except for him having “nice lashes” and a “raw energy” and of course “he doesn’t believe in love.” Barf. They go out a couple of times, then he follows her when she’s drunk and leaves a party to go call her real boyfriend at a pay phone. But she doesn’t get through to him, and she’s upset about stuff, so she runs off with rocker guy (although he won’t tell her where the cab’s going that he hails) and the next thing you know, she’s blowing lines and chugging more alcohol and they’re having an all-night sex marathon. Like. . .what?! Where did this come from? I found it way hard to believe that someone like the MC would have zero reservations about doing any of these things. (btw, does the author realize that cocaine + alcohol is way more potent than coke alone? That a first timer would probably be really freaking sick, not having a grand ol’ time? Research, people!)
And it’s all down hill from there, one terrible decision after another. You know, my characters make some terrible decisions too, but spread out over the course of several books. This just felt like too much within the space of less than 300 pages. It got to the point where I didn’t even care, because so much of what happened was preventable if, you know, she had a rational thought once in awhile.
The supporting cast wasn’t much better. The SC who’s supposed to be super cool is just annoying, the SC who’s also supposed to be a naive rube *also* makes ridiculous, out of character decisions (freaking out because you’ve been planning a dinner party and somehow overlooked the fact that you need food? My immediate thought was “take out?” but like, the two characters involved in this scene have apparently completely forgotten about this concept until SC 1 jumps in to save the day).
The scenes that actually had to do with acting and theatre were marginally better than the other stuff, though there were a bunch of stereotypical situations in the school that made my eyes roll.
To be honest, I haven’t finished this book yet. Part of me wants to quit and jump right into the other book I have waiting, but part of me is a masochist who wants to see how this trainwreck ends. Needless to say, I will NOT be using this as a comp title. At this rate, I’ve read over half the books in my TBR “potential comp title” list and only two were kinda-sorta, if you turn your head and squint, possibilities. Frankly, I’m glad there’s nothing out there quite like my story, although it’s slightly depressing that maybe it won’t be trad. published *because* my characters aren’t over the top caricatures who do dumb things. I don’t know. I do know that I’ve read much better work from beta readers and critique partners than most of the novels I’ve been working through – several of those writers have agents now, so maybe the tide will turn eventually.
Rant over. There will be some changes to this blog soon, including links to my work for BroadwayWorld Rhode Island and a brand new podcast on all things theatre that my husband and I have been working on. Keep your eyes peeled!