Friday, February 11, 2011

It's a stakes thing

I've have a fantastic reading month. I've read some truly great books, the angel series by Nalini Singh, the first book is pretty amazing stuff, the Maze Runner had me obsessed with getting to the end for days, and then I picked up another eagerly anticipated YA book. I'm going to try and not name names, or book titles.

I'd heard nothing but positive buzz on this book, and the cover is amazing, the description of it on the back cover sounds fascinating. The first chapter is riveting and the author does an incredible job of worldbuilding. It's postapocalyptic, but a different take than I've read. So all good. Except then the book grinds to a halt.

There is a nice subtle air of menace underlying each of the scenes, but I feel like I'm forcing myself to read on. The writing is lovely, each scene does progress the plot, and really, I can't tell what is about to happen, but I'm not invested in the story, because I truly do not know what is at stake. The reader does not know the consequences for breaking the rules, we don't know what will happen if the heroine veers from the path chosen from her, and really, right now, I don't care all that much.

Maybe because she doesn't care much either. Half way through the book, there is no real sense that she wants a change in her life, and would be perfectly happy if things continued as they'd been set out for her at the beginning of the book.

So how am I as the reader supposed to care if she does or doesn't. Not every book needs a cackling villian in the background, rubbing his hands together at the thought of breaking the heroine's neck, but there has to be tension regarding the heroine's decisions, a real sense that if she makes the wrong decision there will be hell to pay, either emotionally or physically, or both.

And it doesn't have to be life threatening either. One book I absolutely love is Ain't She Sweet. The heroine has a lot to lose in this book, mostly her dignity and self-respect and there are scenes where she does hit rock bottom, and we feel every moment of her pain. It's brilliantly done.

I need to read that book again, but first I need to pick up the book following the Maze Runner, called The Scorch Trials. Anyone read them?


Maureen McGowan said...

I have heard such great things about Maze Runner and can't wait to read it. But I also heard good things about the one I know you didn't like... And your reasons for not liking it are so smart. But of course now I want to read it to see if I agree. :)

Stakes are so important. Even if they aren't life and death, the protagonist needs to think they are that big to him/her.

Sinead M said...

I know part of my boredom is a personal reading taste thing. I'd just finished Maze Runner which is nothing but high stakes adn fast pace to this book, which is really taking it's time with each scene adn the development of ther heroine's relationships and her realization of what ever is the realization and I'm bored.

But others did love it.

That said, I do not have a clue what is at stake for her if she does not follow the rules, so I don't know if I need to be worried for her or not..
And maybe that's my problem with it.

Sinead M said...

I can bring it for you on Sat.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Stakes is one of those things that I have to remind myself to do... you know you're going along in the story - thinking about the next scene, and the next moment and then I read a blog like this - and I'm like RIGHT!!!

Stakes! I need them. I ALWAYS forget that.

So thanks Sinead for reminding me why they are important.

Molly O'Keefe said...

This is exactly the problem I'm having with a historical romance I'm reading - but while the romance is FULL of stakes - holy cats it's good stuff. The stakes. Though there's danger, there's no sense of repercussion in the characters strange.

Which of course has me freaked out about the subplot of my mms which is now taking over most of the plot and THERE ARE NO STAKES....

Eileen said...

Stakes. Curse them. I forget them, too. They're tricky, though! They have to feel real and dire, but not melodramatic.

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