Same Book, Different Readers

I’ve blogged before about how different people can have different reactions to the same book. I was again reminded of this when I finished Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive, and then scanned the reviews on Goodreads. Wow. Reviews of the book vary from one and two stars to five stars. There are rave reviews and abysmal reviews of the same book. While this in general is not unusual, it is for this particular book, which has gained vast popularity and is already on the way to becoming a motion picture.

I read this book after if was highly recommended by two librarian friends, and I was not disappointed with it. I tried to understand why those who gave it poor ratings so fervently disliked it. Their complaints ranged from dislike of the protagonist, an unbelievable plot, distracting stream-of-consciousness writing style, and too many detailed violent acts. One reviewer even opined that the protagonist was too stupid to be believed because of certain actions she took when she was fourteen years old. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the book very much. Yes, it’s violent (but, I say, it has to be, because a major plot point involves a rape); yes, the young girl does make stupid decisions (but, I say, she’s a kid…kids sometimes make very bad decisions as do adults, on occasion); and, yes,the protagonist is not likable (but, I say, for good reason–she has been traumatized by horrific events in her past). I do agree with reviewers who complain about the writing style, which is somewhat distracting.

I like the book for its message about the place of women in our society. Women are often made to feel their ambitions, brains, and desires are insignificant, that their more important role is to play second fiddle to the men in their lives. The protagonist’s struggle to overcome the challenges of her past made it a compelling tale for me.

As individuals we react to the stories we read based on how we relate to the elements in those stories: the characters, the plots, the writing style, etc. I try to carefully select my reading material based on reviews or recommendations from friends. But even if a friend shares interests similar to mine, it doesn’t guarantee we’ll like the same book.

 

 

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