THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY, BY GABRIELLE ZEVIN
This was another one from Goodreads' list of the best books of 2014. It's more like it, definitely better than Apolonia, but it still didn't quite work for me. I don't mean it's bad, by all its elements, it's actually a very good book, it's just not to my taste. By the way, if you're reading this, it would probably be a good time to remind you all that I'm still taking recommendations for this challenge. It has to be a book written by a woman, that's all. Oh, and it can't be part of a long series, trilogies are the longest I can take. Or, if the books are episodic, and one doesn't depend on the other, so I can read just the first three. Please do this, recommendations seem to go much better with me than sites' lists.
Synopsis: It tells the story of A. J. Fikry, a widowed bookseller with self-destructing tendencies whose life is changed when a baby is left in his store.
Overall enjoyment: Meh. It wasn't bad, exactly. It was a very high-browed literary book, very meta. It just didn't work for me, but I'm sure there are many people who would have loved it.
Plot: It's in the biography style, so it doesn't have a dramatic arc per se. There are many dramas along the way, with a big one in the end. This type of story is tricky, because it doesn't work unless your characters are very good.
Characters: This is kind of a difficult category. They are very well-constructed and realistic, but I found them extremely unlikable. Especially A. J. himself. More about it on "political correctness"
World/setting: It's a small, touristic town in America. Quite a pleasant place, really, and very well described and included in the story.
Writing style: Again, a difficult category. If I had been into the book, I would probably have loved it; it's witty and slightly sarcastic but with a happy core. Because I didn't like the characters, though, it sounded condescending and patronizing to me.
Representation: A. J. is Indian (from India, not native-American) and his adopted daughter is black. There are many mentions of different sexualities too, the most memorable one being A. J.'s mother, who is explicitly bisexual.
Political correctness: Here's where it gets tricky. There are many female characters, and they are all amazing. And I don't mean this the bad way, I mean they are amazingly well-written, with flaws and quirks and passions and the like. The men, however, are a bunch of assholes. They're selfish, self-centered, rude and inconsiderate. And, in the end, despite this profusion of female characters, they all orbit around the male ones. They're not one-dimensional by any means, and they have reasons of living other than the men, but their actions in the story all depend on the men. And the men are all awful! Daniel, a writer and A. J.'s brother-in-law, is obviously a jerk and portrayed as such, but there is a scene when A. J.'s mother buys e-book readers for the whole family and he has a full-blown temper tantrum because of it that made me want to kick his ass. And Lamboise, his cop friend, feels perfectly justified in going through his new girlfriend's things. And these are supposed to be the "nice guys". Add to that the fact that, while his daughter was growing up, he didn't want her to be exposed to anything "girly", and didn't want to read books with "princesses" on it, but would rather choose something "feminist". That is not feminism, that's outright misogyny.
Again, this is really not a bad book. It's much better than most, even on the "feminism" side of things -- the women in it are fully formed people, after all -- but it wasn't to my taste. I guess I was just expecting more.
Up next: Four, by Veronica Roth