Worst Books of 2017

Obviously I’ll also be compiling a list of my favorite books from 2017, but of the handful of books I’m reading now to finish out my year, I doubt any of them are going to make my worst of 2017 list, so I thought it was safe to go ahead and post this now.  I gave 1 star to exactly five books this year, so this list practically wrote itself.  Note: these are books that I read in 2017 – they were not necessarily published this year.

Disclaimer: these are just my opinions, you do not have to agree with me, I apologize in advance for any hurt feelings if I insult your favorite book.  If you are ready for my complaining, read on.

51o3rh1onbl-_sx331_bo1204203200_5. Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen.  This is arguably the worst book I’ve ever read from a purely objective level, but the reason it doesn’t get the #1 spot is that it was at times so (unintentionally) hilarious.  It’s a thriller about a woman whose boyfriend leaves her – literally vanishes without a trace – and she has no idea why he left.  Now, I love thrillers, but I don’t exactly go into them expecting the next Great American Novel.  I wasn’t expecting that of Gone Without a Trace.  (Not least of all because it’s British.)  But I had been expecting something fun, fast-paced, creepy, and addicting… it was none of those things.  It was 300-odd pages of the main character’s insufferable whining in prose that was at about a 14-year-old’s creative writing level, and it culminated in arguably the stupidest twist in thriller history.  The last 50 pages have just about everything you could ask for if you’re trying to write the silliest and most melodramatic book of all time: characters conveniently falling into comas, ‘shocking’ (aka not shocking at all) affairs revealed, a central plotline being rendered completely inconsequential, the main character withholding information from the reader until it becomes convenient to divulge it, even though it’s written in first-person… I don’t say this a lot, because even when I hate a book I can usually find some merit in it, but how did this get published?!  Full review HERE.

51c0y8b0dtl-_sy344_bo1204203200_4. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay.  Oh boy, this is going to be a controversial one.  But I hated this book.  In Gay’s debut novel, Mireille, the daughter of one of the richest men in Haiti, is kidnapped, and repeatedly raped by her captors.  The novel is split into two halves – the first covers the kidnap in truly gruesome detail, and the second follows the aftermath.  Where do I even begin… the prose and dialogue in this book were straight out of a Lifetime movie, so corny and hackneyed it was hard to believe that they were actually in such a purportedly serious novel and not a cheesy YA romance.  Gay’s attempts to address racism, sexism, and classism, as well as relations between the U.S. and Haiti, were half-baked at best, and offered essentially no depth or nuance to an extremely complex subject.  The graphic depictions of Mireille’s sexual assault were virtually unreadable, not because they were so awful or chilling, but because they felt so voyeuristic.  I want to make this clear: I have so much respect for Roxane Gay as a woman and a feminist.  Though this is the only Roxane Gay book I’ve read, I don’t equate my dislike of it with how I view her as a person.  I just don’t think her fiction is for me.

51gy2mlxabl-_sx328_bo1204203200_3. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.  I don’t even know where to start with this book.  So, here’s the premise: this book is a romance between a grown man and a child – Kellen and Wavy.  Greenwood attempts to dig into grey areas (it’s okay because he’s a good guy, really!  it’s okay because she’s mature for her age!  it’s okay because he’s the only person she’s ever loved in her life!  it’s okay because he’s not actually a pedophile!  it’s okay because Wavy is WAVY, not some little girl!) (that last one is actually a quote from the book) and I just… I am all about digging into grey areas, exploring moral ambiguity – most of my favorite novels explore this theme in some way.  But I have to draw the line somewhere, and I draw it at a romantic relationship between a 20 year old man and an 8 year old girl – or 25 and 13, respectively, if we’re talking about their first sexual encounter.  Because of age and power dynamics, a child is unable to consent, ever, period, the end, I don’t care about the circumstances, I don’t care about the exceptions, the ‘what if’s, any of it.  We’re meant to see this novel as romantic, we’re meant to see Kellen as sympathetic, and we’re meant to malign the one character who constantly tries to get Wavy out of this situation, but all of it just made my skin crawl.  People also praise the writing in this book, but I was very underwhelmed by it.

325086372. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt.  This whole maddeningly insufferable book is written like this: “I thought of Father, my stomach growled hunger and I went to the pail of water by the well, let my hands sink into the cool sip sip.”  I can’t believe I actually made it through this whole thing.  It’s also the most viscerally disgusting book I’ve ever read – graphic descriptions of vomit and rotten mutton abound.  Sarah Schmidt takes one of the most notorious unsolved crimes in American history – the Borden murders of 1892 Massachusetts – and fictionalizes this story for… some reason that I fail to understand.  I truly do not get the point of this book.  It isn’t entertaining, it isn’t informative, it renders Lizzie as downright pathetic… I don’t know what I was supposed to take away from this book, but it was probably supposed to be something other than the frustration and nausea I was left with.  Full review HERE.

51mh8qgdc4l-_sx329_bo1204203200_1. White Fur by Jardine Libaire.  And finally, the book that I loathed above all others this year.  White Fur… where do I begin.  White Fur is a sort of gritty and sultry Romeo and Juliet-esque love story about Jamey, who’s rich, and Elise, who’s poor.  Congratulations, you have now read the book.  Because there is nothing else there.  Jamey’s personality is that he is rich.  Elise’s personality is that she is poor.  At some point in this book we’re told that they’re in love with each other, which sort of took me by surprise, because until then, all we’d seen was them having a lot of really badly written sex.  There is no character development in this novel, no nuanced approach to the subject of class differences, no plot (no, seriously, there is no plot), and literally, not a single thing to make slogging through this horrible book worth my time.  The dude also compares himself to an orangutan during a threesome, so, there’s also that.  I want every memory of this book to be scrubbed out of my brain.  Full review HERE.

What were your least favorite books from 2017?  Comment and let me know!

32 thoughts on “Worst Books of 2017

  1. You should make more of these books you disliked posts, because I found this to be so entertaining! Too bad you had to read books that you disliked so much. I am really intrigued by All the Ugly and Wonderful Things since everyone is always yapping on about how beautiful and amazing it is and I can’t posssibly imagine this premise EVER working for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha THANKS! Tbh I love writing this kind of post, I find ranting very cathartic. And that’s okay, so far I’ve read 99 books this year and if I only gave 5 of them 1 star that’s not too bad! Ugh I will never understand the hype for that book as long as I live…. I’ll be curious to see what you think of it if you do read it, because like you said, people LOVE IT and find it so beautiful, but I just… did not.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First: yes, highly anticipated! As I have said before, I love your rants.
    Oh, this is an interesting list! (I know that does sound like it’s backhanded but it is really not! I swear) I obviously love Roxane Gay but haven’t read her debut novel because the subject matter sounds so relentlessly bleak (and apparently graphic) but if I ever will I feel suitably warned.
    See What I Have Done is obviously on my list as well and your quote made me glad that I will never ever have to read it again.
    All The Ugly and Wonderful Things is a difficult case for me: because yes! that relationship is so wrong on so many levels (I remember one scene in particular where she Wavy describes her hands as too small to fit around his penis (not because it is so big but because she is not fucking grown yet) and I wanna hurl). But I did find it beautifully written and immersive and pretty impressive. Plus, well, it was the first arc I ever received and maybe I was too nice in my assessment and so I just never go and read my review ever and pretend I didn’t write it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 😀 Glad you enjoyed it.

      As a person I love Roxane Gay too! And I REALLY wanted to love her fiction, but there was just so much about that book that didn’t work for me. I fully intend to check out her nonfiction at some point, I really hope I have a better experience with it… Anyway, yes, An Untamed State is GRAPHIC, definitely proceed with caution if you choose to read it.

      And I totally understand your points about ATUAWT. Honestly it’s one of my favorite things ever where an author can take a premise that makes me go “???” and win me over by their sheer mastery, so I’m glad you had that experience with it. I was actually surprised by the extent to which it disturbed me – I don’t have younger siblings/cousins and I don’t even like kids all that much so it’s not something that’s particularly Close To My Heart, you know? But yeah, scenes like the one you mentioned just ended up disturbing me so much, and I couldn’t get over how much the relationship was romanticized.

      Hahaha I have those reviews too for the first ARCs I got approved for that I kind of pretend don’t exist… I guess this ties back into your discussion post about whether it’s better to revise ratings and reviews or leave them be – it’s tricky!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been kind of on the fence about whether to try All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, but this has pretty much convinced me to pass. I hoped it would objectively explore morality and paedophilia, ultimately to condemn it, but it sounds more like the author is simply trying to make excuses for it, and that’s already making my skin crawl.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I dislike books I am usually a “give it a shot anyway and see what you think” kind of gal, but I cannot in good conscience recommend this book to anyone. That’s exactly what I was hoping to get out of it too – I mean, I love Lolita, I’m clearly not opposed to the subject matter being approached from certain angles – but the narrative ultimately romanticizes their relationship and practically bends over backward to make sure we know Kellen isn’t REALLY a pedophile, he’s just in love with this ONE little girl! Shudder.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s definitely icky. I’m pretty sure I won’t be picking it up. It seems especially strange that a female author would go out of her way to excuse a man abusing a position of power. To an extent, sex or gender shouldn’t matter, but with this subject matter there’s something about it that I find particularly odd.

        In fact, I just looked the book up on Goodreads, and in a question from a reader mentioning comparisons to Lolita, the author said they’re not alike, as Humbert is a predator whilst her character just falls in love with ‘the right girl at the wrong time.’ PASS.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Right?? I was talking to another friend about this yesterday and she pointed out that if Greenwood were a male author, this book would have gotten so much more backlash, and I think she’s right… I don’t think it should get a free pass just because the author is a woman.

        Oh, that is so gross. If she’s 8 years old it’s the WRONG GIRL, period, end of discussion. If he can’t trust himself to be around her without experiencing romantic attraction, as the responsible adult in the situation he should remove himself from her life altogether. I mean, obviously it’s fiction and there wouldn’t be a story if he did, but… this story does not need to exist so it would be for the best.

        Liked by 1 person

    • OH NO. All I can say is good luck?!? I was looking forward to reading it as I find Lizzie Borden very interesting, but it was just… bad. I’d initially seen a bunch of positive reviews for it but right now it has a 3.31 on Goodreads, so I think my consensus isn’t even a terribly unpopular opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Omg that struggle is SO real, I firmly believe that I shouldn’t criticize something I haven’t read (I mean… I’m even careful not to bash stuff like 50 Shades of Grey, because I haven’t read it so WHO KNOWS??) but on the other hand why do I want to put myself through that torture?! This is a case of “if you must read it, download it illegally” if I ever saw one…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. LOL. These were great. My favorite part: “White Fur is a sort of gritty and sultry Romeo and Juliet-esque love story about Jamey, who’s rich, and Elise, who’s poor. Congratulations, you have now read the book. Because there is nothing else there.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • THANKS. Oh my goodness, it’s so true though. I kept waiting for SOMETHING a bit more nuanced, but it was literally just….. ‘he is RICH and she is POOR can their love SURVIVE’ like oh my god I don’t CARE!!!

      Like

  5. This was VERY entertaining to read….especially the Lizzie Borden one. I actually just listened to a podcast about the murders yesterday, and she didn’t sound that….deranged? I mean, I’ve done no research on her myself, but because of the reviews on this book I expected some mentions of a nasty past to come up, but mainly it sounds like it revolved around money and overall bad relationships within the family. And that Lizzie got really lucky in her trial because so much evidence against her was discounted for various reasons. But I’m of the opinion that people also like portraying her as pathetic because it was the 1800s and she was in her 30s and she was unmarried….there is SO MUCH that could be done with a novelized version of this event. I wish this book was better, because it could have been fascinating!!

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    • I’ve never been like… obsessed with the Borden murders like some people, but it’s always been on my radar (maybe it is a New England thing this is our #Culture) so when I saw the summary of the book and when I saw so many positive reviews from people whose opinions I trust I was like OKAY this is gonna be interesting!!! I am gonna learn some stuff!!! But it was just…… Bad.

      Omg YES I was actually really hoping the book would show Lizzie as sympathetic?? Like… whether or not she committed the murders she was clearly a complex person and I was hoping for something Burial Rites-esque where I’d feel sympathy for her but she was truly LOATHSOME. Like wow, you take a real person who’s known for possible being a murderess, and you make her character utterly horrible, wow, how novel. And you are probably SO RIGHT that there’s gotta be some misogyny informing that perception of her as pathetic just because she was living with her parents in her 30s and unmarried.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s exactly how I feel about Lizzie Borden, like I’ve never been too interested but I’ve heard the rhyme and everything, esp since it took place in my state. I looked on google maps and I literally work just about 2 miles from her house and grave, so I was like….it may be worth knowing more about her.

        In the podcast they speculated that the all-male jury may have felt uncomfortable about convicting a female of murder, which is some GREAT writing material. And in the investigation they didn’t search a lot of Lizzie’s things because it was “improper” to look at ladies’ garments and such. Like…the norms of the day may have just let her get away with murder. That could be SUCH a fascinating character/society study.

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      • OMG DANG now I’m even angrier about the wasted potential because that is all SUCH great writing material??? Omg????? HIGHLIGHTING GENDER NORMS IN STORIES ABOUT HISTORICAL MURDERESSES ARE MY JAM??? (Or maybe I should just reread Burial Rites.)

        What really kills me is that Schmidt didn’t even show the trial. AT ALL. The book was like….. it opened on the chapter where the bodies are found, and then there are a bunch of flashbacks of family dynamics leading up to what everyone was doing that day, and it’s one of those books where everyone has a motive so Who Actually Did It becomes the focus….. but then the trial is blink-and-you-miss-it and [spoiler] the final lines I think reveal that in this version Lizzie did actually do it but it’s like…… super vague and I was sort of like ‘I should probably reread that paragraph to make sure I understood that correctly’ but then on the other hand I was like YOLO I AM FINALLY FREE. Anyway it was just like 300 pages of horrible people acting half their age and there was no point to any of it and I was SUFFERING and Lizzie Borden may have been a murderer but she still deserved better than this book.

        Liked by 1 person

      • THAT SOUNDS AWFUL. It sounds like the author focused more on the lesser known part of Lizzie’s life, rather than the murder and trial, which is very well documented…WHY. I understand that writing trials and legal matters is difficult, but if you’re gonna do it you may as well go for the whole thing, especially one as infamous as this one?? WHAT A LOST OPPORTUNITY.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to have been of some help!! Ugh, that’s exactly how I felt about White Fur – I thought the premise sounded really cool and I was hoping it would go in a completely different direction, but then it was just… the worst version of itself it could possibly be.

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  6. Agree with White Fur completely. My least favorites of the year were Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe and Her Body and Other Parties. Ugh to both.One was an afront to literature in general and the other author needs to be taught that sex itself is not a plot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t heard of Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe but I just looked it up on GR and average rating of 2.73?! Yikes… but OH NO I’d been looking forward to Her Body and Other Parties, but since you also hated White Fur I can obviously trust your judgment, so this doesn’t bode well 😦

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  7. RACHEL, please never stop making those lists with lots of ranting because I’ve never laughed that much in my entire life. Literary will keep this in my bookmarks and read it when I’m sad.
    But I’m a bit furious that someone messed Lizzie Borden because I actually loved the case when it was presented on Buzzfeed Unsolved (not sure you watch it???). There’s also a YA novel coming out next year about the romance between Lizzie and Bridget, I might have to check it out, hopefully it will be better than your experience.
    Also, Roxane Gay’s fiction books never appealed to me, I’m glad to know my instinct was right. I feel like her nonfictional books are amazing, but I’m not so sure about her fictional ones and after this, I’m even less inclined to find out what I think.
    Amazing, glorious post. Is there any petition to sign to get more of these?

    Like

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