We’ve all been there: you finally sit down to start a book that’s gotten so much hype everywhere you look. Even if you weren’t completely sold on the premise to start with, people’s whose opinions you typically trust said they loved it. That must be saying something, right? Well, most of the time, wrong. There’s nothing more disappointing than learning that a hyped-up book didn’t work for you. Here are 5 such books where that happened for me.
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
Synopsis: What if you could take a vacation to your past? On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. But it isn’t just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 40-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?
Why I Wasn’t Impressed: I had such high expectations for This Time Tomorrow. I was expecting something akin to Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot with some reverse 13 Going on 30 vibes. There was so much potential for this to be a great story. And it just fell flat, for the most part. It leaned a bit too much into sci-fi influences for my taste, when it really didn’t need that to be an interesting or compelling narrative. It could’ve just been a what-if scenario with some important adulthood morals learned by day’s end. I’d skip this one.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Synopsis: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Why I Wasn’t Impressed: Good lord, can someone please tell the TikTok teens that other books exist besides this one? I wasn’t at all impressed with the first Taylor Jenkins Reid book I’d read in 2016, Maybe in Another Life. I was so annoyed by it that I gave it 1 star on Goodreads. So when, the following year, my best friend told me she loved Evelyn Hugo so much that it blew her away, I held out for a few months before I gave in. It wasn’t terrible, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for queering Old Hollywood. But it just reminded me too much of a depthless Danielle Steel novel for me to take it seriously. Sorry not sorry. Most overrated book in recent memory.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Synopsis: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her. But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.
Why I Wasn’t Impressed: Listen, this is very beautifully written and all that so I understand why everyone and their mother loved this book. People who “don’t read” were telling me I had to read it. But I was so bored. For the first 150 pages, it felt like nothing was happening other than Kya cooking grits and fishing. Even when the action started happening, I struggled to care. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t have the patience for this sort of thing, at least not anymore. Pass!
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Synopsis: Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother. As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared. Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.
Why I Wasn’t Impressed: I made a point of reading this once the trailer for the miniseries starring Jennifer Garner was released, because find me a gay man who won’t support Jennifer Garner playing a role that’s even remotely badass. I didn’t not enjoy reading The Last Thing He Told Me. I was hooked and engaged with it the entire time. I just found the ending rather unrealistic and anticlimactic. Without spoiling anything, it just felt like the protagonist is able to solve the mystery with a simple Google search in the end. The miniseries is more-or-less worth the watch, though.
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin
Synopsis: Gilda, a twenty-something lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace. In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.
Why I Wasn’t Impressed: This book immediately sounded like something I would like. A queer, introverted, and anxious protagonist? Sign me up. I think what bothered me the most about Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is that the protagonist doesn’t end up seeking treatment for her very obvious mental health concerns. It would have been easier for me to root for her more if she managed to take control of her own life and narrative in the end, to be in the figurative driver seat. And maybe she would’ve had an easier time doing that if she started receiving the medication she, in my opinion, definitely needs.
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