I just finished a book that was so well written with such great characterization that I couldn’t understand why I avoided reading the thing. I love good writing whether it’s lyrical, clean and concise, deep and moody, action-packed, or–whatever. And I love well-written characters whom the author brings to life with telling brush strokes. SOMEONE KNOWS by Lisa Scottoline was both well-written AND had great characterization. And I put it down more often than usual, which surprised me. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t grip me.
It took me a while to figure it out. And I think it’s a personal preference thing. But every single chapter had the same rhythm. The chapters were all short, from different POVs, hitting a character in the midst of a telling scene that would change their lives. Gripping right? But the entire book was formatted that way. Short chapters. Each showing a character in torment, trying to deal with something they didn’t want to deal with. Dramatic. But it happened over and over again. EVERY chapter was like that. We meet Allie. Her sister Jill is dying. Next scene, Jill dies and her mother falls apart. Next scene, her father compensates by planning a 5K run for Jill, and his wife doesn’t want to come to it. Next scene, the run’s a failure. People don’t come. His wife falls apart. Over and over again. People in crisis. Until…I didn’t care. I was overwhelmed.
And then I’d put the book down, and it took me days before I wanted to pick it up again. The characters were so well done, I wanted to know what happened to them. I wanted to know who put the bullet in the gun when the kids met in the woods. But I needed a break between scenes. The truth was…I was bored. Too much of the same thing. The short, punchy scenes stopped building tension and started to make me crave a break.
This book is an editor’s pick on Amazon and has lots of stars. A bestseller. But I got tired of the constant, staccato, short chapters. I felt battered and the tension fizzled because I didn’t care. But I cared enough to pick up the book again and finish it. But I prefer books that grab me and hold me until the last page. And this book didn’t do that for me. And it was because of the format. Short, punchy chapters. High drama. Over and over again. The same exact rhythm. They should have built tension, but the book didn’t grab me until I met Allie’s husband, Larry, a caring, wonderful man who wasn’t hiding a secret. He just made me love him. He loved his wife so muc, and felt so bad that their marriage might not make it, that he immediately grabbed me. And I cared.
Lisa Scottoline is a marvelous writer, but I struggled through this book. And it made me think a lot about what grabs me and keeps me. And I realized great writing isn’t always enough. A few scenes with a different pacing, maybe even humor, would have helped me a lot.