Water Balloon. Don’t Bother.
It’s so hard to find a book you really love. The best way is to have friends who you know loves the same books you do and ask them to name a few great books. Other than that, you can look online. That’s what I did, looking for a great book for middle school readers. At Amazon, I read a whole bunch of gushing reviews of Water Balloon, so I had to try it.
The thing is, Water Balloon by Audrey Vernick was boring. The main character had to stay with her dad for the summer. Her dad basically never talked. The main character had a stupid job that she didn’t like. The main character had to go fishing.
That’s boring for me, anyway.
Not only was it boring, but it was negative. The whole first part of the book was complain, complain, complain. The main character, Marley, was left behind by her friends. And did I mention the boring dad and the stupid job?
So where did it get all those five star reviews on Amazon? What is up with that? My theory is that the author and the publisher pump up the reviews with entries from their friends. Has to be.
Also, I get the feeling that the author knew this book was boring. Here’s something Audrey Vernick wrote on the Amazon Kindle page:
"Most publishers frown upon books in which nothing happens, so I knew I needed to give Marley some things to do. And she’s juggling a lot: dealing with her parents’ recent separation, surviving an extremely challenging summer job, getting used to living with her father (who always seemed more spectator than parent), and wondering if her forever best friends are leaving her and their childhood traditions behind. In other words, stuff happens."
But stuff really isn’t happening at all in the book. Not interesting stuff anyway. Look at that list, are you wondering, "Gee, I can't wait to find out about all that intriguing stuff?" No. You know she ends up being friends with her friends, she ends up making things OK with her dad, she ends up rising to the challenge of her summer job. Who cares?
I think deep down the author knows that stuff doesn’t really happen. Because when she wrote on Amazon that “needed to” give the character some things to do, she was treating it like is was something she dreaded. Like she was saying, "Ug! I have to have my characters do something! What a chore!" For most authors action isn’t a chore. The story IS the things the characters do.