Book Review: One Summer by David Balducci

One SummerPart of me feels like it’s not fair for me to do a review of One Summer. I am not this book’s audience. I appreciate the fact that there are people out there who like to read these kinds of books, but I am not one of them. The other part of me knows that no matter the genre, if the book is written well, even scrooges like me can enjoy it.

That being said, I have a couple “disclosures” before I get into this review.

DISCLOSURE 1: I really dislike contemporary fiction.

I find the genre boring. It deals with ordinary people in our ordinary (mostly boring) world. And it’s just BORING, guys. Thus, there really has to be something special about the characters or the narrative voice to keep me reading. In addition, it’s usually all drama, all the time, which I find emotionally manipulative. It’s like the author is trying to trick you into caring about the characters instead of doing the work to show us in a realistic way why we should care about them. I don’t know about anyone else, but if the characters want my sympathy, they need to earn it. All novels have some level of emotional manipulation – that’s part of the magic –  you truly do grow to care about characters that exist only in your mind’s eye. The problem with contemporary fiction is that it’s so obvious about it. Having a few bad things happen to the characters on page one isn’t going to stir this cold, cold heart.

To drive the point home further, I can definitively count on one hand the number of contemporary novels that I’ve read that I actually enjoyed. So, right out of the gate, I knew I probably wasn’t going to like this book. In fact, a sense of dread settled over me just taking a look at the front cover of the thing.

DISCLOSURE 2: I have tried reading two of Balducci’s novels in the last year. I put both of them down a few pages in and don’t feel the least bit sorry about it.

You can probably guess how this review is going to go – just like I could guess every plot point in this novel.

Alright, so One Summer by David Balducci…

It’s about a guy named Jack who’s a thirty-something veteran. He has a wife and three kids and when we meet him in chapter one he’s almost dead from a fatal disease which he never names. Then his wife dies in a car accident before he kicks the bucket and he’s shipped off to a hospice to die alone and his children are shipped off to live with relatives. But then Jack miraculously recovers and tries to pull his life back together.

I got the ebook version of this book from the libary, read a few chapters and just knew deep in my bones that I would never be able to finish it in that format (you know, if I had to actually sit down using my free will and dedicate hours of my time to reading it and doing nothing else – ha!), so I went back to the digital catalog to check out the audiobook, which I’d seen was available when I’d originally checked out the ebook. I’ve never listened to an audiobook before…and I may never do so again. Do they all have cheesy music that they throw in every once in awhile for dramatic effect? I hated that. It didn’t help that some of the music sounded wonky like an old, worn out cassette tape. I’m serious guys. I don’t know how that even happens with a digital recording…but every time that sappy music started playing and then started to warp, I was like, “Are you freaking kidding me?!”

Complaints about the audiobook aside…this book was just so cliché and predictable I could hardly stand it.

It’s like the author went down the Hallmark movie cliché checklist:

  • Resentful mother-in-law cliché: check.
  • Incompetent father cliché: check.
  • Rebellious teenage daughter cliché: check.
  • Custody battle cliché: check.
  • Sappy love letters cliché: check.
  • Learning to love again cliché: check. Check. Check.

I could go on…

I have no complaints about the writing or editing. It was fine. *shrug* These characters and situations, though, just weren’t believable to me. Real people are not cliché. Real life is not cliché. And yet. Here we have this novel. And many, many others just like it.

I really don’t understand the appeal, I guess.

My faith in contemporary fiction has most certainly not been restored. This book earns a C-. The writing is competent but it’s boring and predictable. Skip it and spare yourself the loss of five hours you will never, ever get back.

Three strikes, Mr. Balducci.

 

~ebook & audiobook borrowed from the local library.

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

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