Monday, May 01, 2006

Charlie Bone

A couple of books from a young adult series came into the store recently and the cover art and storyline compelled me to give it a read. I took home the first book in the series entitled "Midnight for Charlie Bone" and settled myself under the covers and began to read. After one chapter, it was clear to me that this author knew next to nothing about the craft of writing. Her premise was good, the timing of creating a new series in the magical adventure genre was good, but the story itself was just plain bad bad bad. I've read thousands of children's books over the years and I honestly can't remember a time when I've been so appalled by poor writing skills. I actually had to turn the book over several times while reading to be absolutely sure I wasn't holding an uncorrected proof. There is zero character development, zero coherence from one scene to the next and bizarre little elements that serve to distract from becoming engaged in the story. For instance, what is the purpose of describing a ten year old female classmate as having trouble with her high heels on some worn stone steps? HIGH HEELS? Excuse me? Not only that, but she has long red painted fingernails and the author goes out of her way to assure the reader that the girl's purple hair dye is spray-on. Is this a trollop or an exclusive private middle-schooler? The kids in this school are under strict instructions to wear their school robes at all times, but apparently that's the extent of the dress code.
The scene changes are increasingly erratic; one minute the characters are having breakfast and two paragraphs later they're navigating the same complex passageways to make it to supper on time. The reader can never really get a sense of the purpose of anything introduced into the story. It seems that the author just wrote from a stream of consciousness mindset. As if she tired of one setting and then hustled us along to the next weird event that is supposed to move the story along. I am despising this book. Without a smidgen of hyperbole, I can attest that my 10 year old niece writes better crafted stories. Granted, hers deal with the world of high fashion, but she's much more in tune with how a story flows.
I'm wondering if the rush to publish popular genre fiction is compromising quality writing these days. And I don't even mean "quality" as in Philip Pullman or E. Nesbit. I mean quality as in a well-written story. A story that has been coached along by a good editor. This book could've been good with the help of a qualified editor, but instead, it's an absolute trainwreck.

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