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This year yielded a bumper crop of amazing books, but not all books lived up to the hype. Here are the three award-winning titles that disappointed me the most.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Power won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, the UK’s most prestigious award for literature by women. Of all the fiction published this year, this was the novel I was most excited about, and it was also the biggest letdown. I had hoped it would be new Margaret Atwood–a feminist dystopia for the ages.
The intriguing premise: Women evolve an incredible electric power within their bodies that can heal, kill, and cause excruciating pain. This newfound ability tips the balance of power in the world, lifting women to the top of the food chain and making men the underdogs for the first time in history.
The story had so much potential. Unfortunately, the characters felt too remote and unapproachable to make it work. I also found the structure of the book to be disjointed and slow–so much so that I DNFed the book a little past the two hundred page mark.
So The Power turned out to be a dud. But I am hopeful for the next book that’s being marketed as the new Margaret Atwood–Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, which will be here next month.The Most Overrated Books of 2017Click To Tweet
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Exit West was a finalist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize and Kirkus Prize. In a year when highlighting refugee stories became more important than ever, there was a lot of hype surrounding this story about a star-crossed couple who migrate from an undisclosed Middle-Eastern city on the brink of war to the promised land of the West.
Alas, the magical realism that undergirds the story didn’t fly with a lot of readers, myself included. Exit West also suffered from the same fault as The Power–characters that felt more like distant mirages than real people.
Luckily, although this particular refugee story garnered mixed reviews, a nonfiction book about the refugee crisis was published and received strong praise from readers and a five-star review from me. The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley is a brilliant and engaging piece of journalism, so be sure to pick up a copy if you’re hankering for something on this topic.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Lincoln in the Bardo is a tricky book. This Man Booker Prize winner blends history and the paranormal in a completely original way. The novel follows Willie Lincoln, President Lincoln’s son, as he dies of typhoid and passes over into the Bardo–the land of ghosts caught between realms. There he meets a number of ghosts who do not realize they are, in fact, dead.
The audiobook was critically acclaimed for its all-star cast of 166 narrators led by Nick Offerman. The book itself is undeniably brilliant and, at times, quite funny. Unfortunately, that intellectual vim and humor is interspersed with long periods of stagnation.
In her review, Taryn from The Overly Attached Reader wrote that she “had a complicated relationship with this book.” Book Riot’s Tracy Shapley chose it as her favorite book of March, but began her review with, “What a weird book!” I think many readers felt the same, even if they enjoyed it.
Genius? Yes. Innovative? Yes. Unforgettable? Definitely. But not affecting in the way I expect fiction to be. I understand why it won the Man Booker. I even think that, of the books nominated, it most deserved to win. But I doubt whether it’s the sort of book that will have a lasting emotional impact on readers. Only time will tell.
Which books were you most disappointed by in 2017?