Friday, January 28, 2011

What Makes a Book a Wallbanger?

I'm a writer, but I'm also a reader and every year when contest season rolls around, I'm reminded of that fact. I try to judge the books and manuscripts I'm sent as a reader, not as a writer. Your job, after all, is to create an emotional ride for readers, not to please other writers. So today, as I'm dragging myself through one of the books on my contest stack, I started asking myself what makes a book a wallbanger for me. 
Let me stop for a moment to say that this particular book isn't one.

But I've read a few, as I'm sure we all have. 

In my mind, there's a big difference between a book that's just okay and one that inspires me to throw it at the wall. 

I've read countless books over the years, and I can only think of a handful that I've actually tossed away in disgust. There are a whole lot more that I've put down and never come back to. I think there are 3 or 4 on the floor by my bed that fall into that category.
But we're talking about wallbangers here. What makes a book a wallbanger to you?  

The first book I can honestly remember flinging away in disgust is one I picked up about 30 years ago, while I was going through a divorce and struggling to support my daughter on my own meager income and sporadic child support payments. Life was tough. I was emotionally raw, spiritually battered, and struggling financially. Every day I had to worry about how to feed my child and how to give her enough time and attention, not to mention what was happening to her at the really lousy day care I could afford.

So I picked up this book about a wealthy woman going through a divorce. Life got a little unpleasant for her, so she decided to go to Europe for six months or so to "heal." 


I literally threw that book across the room. I don't remember ever doing that before, but I couldn't get that book out of my hands fast enough! I can tell you in all honesty that in 30-plus years, I never bought another book by that author. At that time in my life, at that moment, when life was so hideously painful and I was too poor to have any options at all, that book felt like a huge betrayal. In that moment, I realized that I don't read to escape my life. I read to make sense of my life and, for me, The Big Disconnect is probably the #1 wallbanger for me. 

What's top on your list?


Julie Hurwitz said...

I very rarely throw a book against the wall. But I did once. The author set up her characters with very definite, deeply-ingrained religious beliefs, and then tossed all that out the window in a stupid epilogue.

Really, really ticked me off!

Sherry Lewis said...

Oh, I hate when something like that happens in a book! Believable motivation and logic are essential for me. Without it, I just can't get through a book. It makes me especially angry when something like that comes at the end, after I've invested all that time in the book and the characters.