Riot Headline The Best Hardcover and Paperback Deals of the Amazon Book Sale (UPDATED May 17, 2024)
Our Reading Lives

An Open Letter to a Novel I Was Certain I’d Love (and Didn’t)

Alex Acks

Contributing Editor

Alex Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. They've written for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Alex lives in Denver with their two furry little bastards, where they twirl their mustache, watch movies, and bike. Twitter: @katsudonburi Website:

I remember the day we met. No—I remember the days before we met. I heard all about you. My friends were all talking about how awesome you sounded, and then how awesome you were once they got they got to know you. I looked up pictures of you on the internet. I read about you in blogs and news sites and just kept wondering when I’d have the time and disposable income to make you mine. Those were heady days, full of anticipation.

Because let’s be honest, you sounded like the perfect match from me. You were everything I wanted, on paper. Adventures in space! Awesome female characters! Queer characters that exist matter-of-factly and don’t get buried for cheap angst! You even had such a good pedigree—though I swear I’m not stuck on names and I like to give new people a chance—from a writer I knew and already loved.

The day arrived, and I couldn’t wait to take you home. The minute I had you in the door, I kicked off my shoes and dove straight into bed with you. Hey, when you’re that excited for a book, you can’t wait for little things like doing the dishes or cleaning the cat box. I had pages to turn.

Unrecognizable Woman reading a book on bed
I knew something was wrong right away, even if I didn’t want to admit it. I’ve been known to devour a book in a single sitting, work nights be damned, powered by only by cups of tea and a desperate need to know what happens next. But you? I… put down. Barely a chapter in, I remembered that whole cat box in need of cleaning thing, and the sink full of dishes, and then there were some YouTube videos that just weren’t going to watch themselves. But I’d get back to you soon, I promised myself. Soon.

How did we go so wrong, and so quickly? Our whirlwind affair should have rightfully lasted a day or two, and then you could have retired to an honored place on my bookshelf. But instead there you were, weeks and then months later, sitting forlornly on my desk, a bookmark placed accusingly only a few chapters in. You’re not even trying, you seemed to say.

But I was trying, that was the terrible part. I’d pick you up, read a couple of pages, and find my attention wandering. Those damn YouTube videos again. Or—and I should be a lot less ashamed of this than the YouTube videos—I cheated on you with other books. I read three, four, five other novels while you waited faithfully for me to come back. Books that I hadn’t even been excited about. Books that I was reading for the third or fourth time.

I finally forced myself to sit down and get through the rest of your pages over the course of about a week, because I promised myself once I was done with you, I could read something else. Yeah, that’s right, I had to bribe myself to finish a book.

I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. Well, okay, I’m a little mad. After everyone was singing your praises, I feel kind of betrayed that I  didn’t like so many small and medium (and a couple of big) – sized things about you. Why was your structure like that? Why couldn’t I tell a bunch of your characters apart? I expected better. I wanted better.

But maybe it’s not you, it’s me. Maybe I just didn’t get your point. Maybe everyone who was saying wonderful things about you understood something I didn’t. (I’m not really one to decide that I’m right and every other reader is wrong. Not when it’s something as personal as taste.) Maybe you’re a work of space battle and alien adventure genius. Maybe I’m just not the target audience.

But that makes me sad because I wanted things to be so good between us. All that anticipation, and all for nothing. Like opening up a fresh pint of rocky road ice cream and discovering that not only is it actually strawberry, but at some point I’ve become horribly allergic to strawberries.


Except at least you didn’t give me hives. So I guess there’s that.