The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
I got this book from the library immediately after seeing the premise. Dystopian with a neo-Puritan society, living in a colony surrounded by a fence that keeps out the zombie hordes? Sounds awesome to me! But I couldn't get over my intense and all-consuming hatred for the heroine. She seemed to me to be ridiculously selfish, and spent all her inner monologue time whining about her life and how unfair it was, and the cruel tragedies that befell her. Don't get me wrong – being stuck in a burning house with zombies clawing at your door is sucks pretty hard. But there's a fine art to having a character suffer without being really freaking annoying about it. Lots of other people – including those whose taste I trust – loved this book, but I had to force myself to finish it.
Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld
I love Scott Westerfeld. I thought his Leviathan series was fantastic. But I was never able to finish this one, even though a good friend of mine totally loves the series and thinks I'm insane for not loving it. I think there are two reasons why it didn't work for me:
1) The prose and the story felt very simplistic. I don't know if this was supposed to be a middle grade book, but I think I was expecting something more sophisticated. Which is kind of a weird reason to dislike the book (it didn’t measure up to my totally random expectations!), but there it is.
2) I was a little burned out on dystopias by the time I got to this one. Again, not the book's fault, but by the time I picked this up, I was about ready to run screaming from any dystopian premise (I am so there now). I mean, this book was actually published two years before the Hunger Games, so it was a pioneer in its genre*, but alas, I read it too late to appreciate the premise, which has since been copied dozens of times.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz.
This is the most frustrating of the group, because I really can't tell you why I didn't like it. Look at all the awards it won! It's an amazing book about finding your identity and courage and the pain of being a young adult (particularly a child of Mexican immigrant parents). It has the most lovely heartfelt ending… but somehow, the emotion of the ending sailed right over my head (or should I say it sailed right over my heart?). Now, I am a middle class white lady, and I have never been a Hispanic teenage boy, so one could say there's an empathy gap missing. And yet, I think one of the things that distanced me from this book was that there were a couple of moments that were too real for me, the ones that recalled some of the helplessness and frustration that come from being a teenager. Those moments were so perfectly articulated, and so close to what I felt, that I think they might have made me withdraw from the emotions of the story.
In any case, you should all read that book, because I could tell it was beautiful, even if I never quite felt it myself.
*Okay, I started thinking "is it really a pioneer? When did dystopians really become popular?" And so I found this AMAZING infographic**, which credits Uglies as one of the earliest books in this recent resurgence.
**Do you want ALL the YA infographics?? You know you do!