Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Switched, by Amanda Hocking, follows Wendy Everly, a teenage girl whose mother tried to kill her when she was six because she believed her to be a changeling. Fast-forward a decade, and it turns out Wendy is in fact a changeling. Some pathetic danger/threat means she has to leave the mortal world and her adoptive (I'm gonna use adoptive and biological to make things easy, since I don't actually know the terms for when changelings are involved) family behind to return to her troll family. That's right, she's a troll. And the story sort of staggers along from there.
I've been hearing about Amanda Hocking for a long time now, without really registering who she was, so it came as a bit of a surprise when I made the connect three-quarters of the way through the book. She is essentially the poster child for self-publishing - she sold a bunch of books online and that got her a two million dollar deal with a proper publishing house. Switched was, I believe, originally self-published as an e-book, but was re-released last year with bonus material. Or my copy, the second edition, has bonus material that wasn't in the first edition. I don't really know. The point is, Amanda Hocking is a big deal in the publishing world. She sold millions of books online by herself, and the love of her fans got her a deal with a publishing house.
And I can't see why. I mean, the book's not terrible, but it's not brilliant either. Maybe it's not her best, but if her other books are anything like this one, I can't see how she sold millions of copies.
Firstly, her character is called Wendy. Wendy. A teenage girl called Wendy. Yes, I am fixating on this, but it almost ruined the book for me. What kind of teenage girl is called Wendy? I had some hope when her initiation into the troll tribe meant she had to change her name, but the ceremony never takes place! She gets to keep her stupid name. Luckily, it's all written in first-person from her perspective, so I didn't have to read it very often, but still...it was distracting. It's so important to get your character names right and she just didn't. She flat-out didn't.
My other major issue with the book is the trolls. I think she calls them the "Trylle" maybe half a dozen times in the novel, and the rest of the time they're referred to as trolls. Which is fine, except we all have a pre-conceived notion of what trolls look like. If I said the word troll to you, you'd think ugly and warty and just generally unpleasant, right? The trolls in this book are pretty. Beautiful, even. And it just doesn't work. What really irritates me about is that there was never any need to use the word troll. Just calling them the Trylle would have been fine, maybe it's a little close in spelling to troll, but that could easily be changed. There was no need to even mention the word troll and utterly confuse the reader's impression of the creatures.
Details like names aside, the book just isn't very good. It's not captivating and it stumbles along without ever really going anywhere. I think the problem is that it's the first book in a trilogy and because she didn't have an editor demanding a properly structured plot with a beginning, middle and end, she didn't bother with one. It's average. So-so. That being said, however, I have just purchased the second book. Thing is, in the second one, Torn, Wendy falls in love with the bad guy, who I think has kidnapped her, and I find that utterly compelling. Hocking might well make a total hash of it, but I've always been fascinated by Stockholm Syndrome and that alone convinced me to buy the second instalment. I'll let you know how it turns out.