Of 118 books I read this year, only four merited a one-star review. And to be honest, I probably should have seen them coming.
But every book is a learning experience, and every book deserves to be celebrated, so here they are in all their glory: my worst reads of 2015.
The Girl on the Train / Paula Hawkins
I was surprised to hate this novel, since it’s been a staple on bestseller lists since it came out. Then again, maybe that should have been a warning sign. After all, you know what else rocked bestseller lists for far too long? Fifty Shades of Grey. Hawkins presents an interesting scenario – a woman on a train thinks she might have seen the key to a murder – and muddles it with a thoroughly unlikeable narrator. She whines. She lies. She snivels. She tries to manipulate those around her, and fails, and then cries about it. I couldn’t find a single sympathetic fibre in my being to resonate with this protagonist. The synopsis for this book really is ripping, but it falls unfortunately flat in practice. Too bad.
Atonement / Ian McEwan
This was the first McEwan I’ve read, and it might be the last. On the other hand, I generally dislike war narratives and historical fiction and books that span decades, so Atonement was stacked against me from the get-go. On the other hand, according to this poll from the Reader’s Room, I find myself in a fairly cosy company – one in five people hated Atonement as much as I did. For those of you unfamiliar with this novel, the short version: inaccurate rape accusations ruin lives and families, and so does war. There’s a didactic central moral about seeking and creating forgiveness, which is about as entertaining as it sounds.
Hunting Ground / Patricia Briggs
I’ve long had a soft spot for Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. What’s not to like about a female mechanic with a history degree who can turn into a coyote? Hunting Ground is set in the same world and follows a parallel set of characters, but seems to hit all the terrible tropes of the supernatural romance genre – while simultaneously dropping all the aspects that made Mercy such a badass heroine to root for. Ultimately, Hunting Ground turned into a soup of weirdly earnest emotions, seasoned with dialogue that had me literally rolling my eyes. Good grief.
Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear / Theresa Delaney and Theresa Gowanlock
This one hardly counts because it was forced on me as something I had to read for school. The rest of the course was quite good, but this novel – thankfully the shortest work of the course – was definitely the low point. Two settler women are kidnapped by the local indigenous people and taken on a trek through the wilderness, forced to to give up their belongings and bake bannock. It sounds sensational and almost interesting, but instead these two women become close friends, cobble together a sort of partnership with a sympathetic family, and bake bannock until they’re rescued. In short: a tragic and yet somehow boring kidnapping culminates in a sort of Stockholm syndrome through sheer lack of energy. And then it ends. Ugh. I love CanLit, but I draw the line at eighteenth-century novels.