My First Scathing Review: The Priest and the Peaches
So, here’s the next book for the 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge. It just came out in December, but I’d planned to read it over Winter break, and just now got around to it. Boy, do I regret that…
Author: Larry Peterson
Release Date: December 2011
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Publisher: Tribute Books
Where I Got It: received an ebook copy from publisher in exchange for honest review
Score: 1 out of 5
The Priest and the Peaches has a premise with potential: set in the Bronx in the mid-1960s, in the story of five orphaned children who try to pick up the pieces after their alcoholic father dies (3 years after their mother and grandmother had died), leaving them with almost no one to turn to. Except the local priest. Throughout, the children see various “signs” that they take to be messages from their father, reminding them how he wants them to live their lives, with the basic motto of L-Y-N: “Love Your Neighbor.” In the meantime, they must deal with pushy relatives, and busy-bodies who think the younger children should be split up and put into foster care.
This book tries to convey an uplifting message of hope and love and sticking-together-through-thick-and-thin, and all that fun stuff. It is also heavily influenced by Catholicism (not a problem in and of itself as I am, myself, Catholic).
But. I couldn’t finish this book. I couldn’t do it. I got about 1/3 of the way through by sheer will power, having wanted to give up after the 3 chapter. I don’t believe this has ever happened to me before, and I feel bad about it, but I honestly could not get through this book. And I’ve been trying to for THREE WEEKS. It is simply badly and amateurishly written.
There are many problems with this book. The writing is stilted and clumsy, with awkward (sometimes flat-out incorrect) use of punctuation, that makes it difficult to decipher a sentence. The dialogue is extremely awkward. In several places it was just bad, and wholly unbelievable. There is far too much head-hopping: in just the first few pages (and I mean pages on my Kindle, not even book-sized pages), we get a look inside Joanie, Teddy, Dancer, and a random doctor. By the end of the 3rd chapter we’ve also jumped into Sarah’s head, Scratch’s head, and the Priest’s head. I wanted to shake the author and tell him to PICK a perspective and STICK with it! There was also a lot of really bad attempts of humor that were so forced and so NOT-funny, that I physically cringed on several occasions.
Worse yet, and by far the most annoying part, was the amount of info-dumping. In Chapter 6 I made a note to myself: “oh look, info dump number 1 million!” Obviously, a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. This book comes down to a series of badly-written info-dumps broken up with bits of badly-written dialogue. I’m sorry, but I’m not kidding. Rather than letting the characters grow, letting the readers slip into the world like slipping into a pool, the author simply keeps dumping buckets of water over ours heads: Look, here’s the entire life history of this character! A couple pages later: look, here’s the entire life history of THIS character and this one isn’t even a main character, he’s a walk-on, walk-off drunk the dead father knew from a bar, but I’m going to tell you his whole life story anyway! On and on and on.
On top of that, the narration telegraphs all over the place where the reader should be getting a message, or what should be foreshadowing, or “look, this is an ironic tie-in!” with things like: “they were about to find out how much they did not know…” and “little did they know that…” and “he would come to regret that choice in time…” And these things are ALL OVER THE PLACE.
I kept going, hoping it would get better. Hoping it would pick up. Hoping the plot and/or characters would be interesting enough to keep me going. But no. A little over a third of the way through, and barely anything of note has happened, the characters are still just as flat and obvious as they were on the first page (the eldest brother who takes charge, the eldest sister who’s been playing mother for the last three years, etc, etc, etc). I’m sorry, but if you’re a third of the way through a book and nothing has happened (excepting the father’s death right at the very beginning), well, then you’ve got a problem.
I tried, folks, I REALLY TRIED to give this book a chance. I hate giving scathing reviews, and this is actually the first time I’ve had to do it, but I HAD to do it. To be honest with myself, with the author, and with all of you, my readers who might have lynched me if I’d sugar-coated this review, and you went out and read the book and hated me for it.
So, in a nutshell, save yourself some pain and frustration, and don’t read this book. If you’d rather see for yourself, you can find the book on Goodreads.