The Arrival

The Arrival - Nicole MacDonald I'm not one of those people who doesn't finish books they don't like. I can't stand the thought of not finishing something I've started; it's particularly painful when I get caught up in a series I don't like all that much, but I'm far too stubborn to just put it down and read something else.

This is the first time I've put a book down without intending to finish it. I just can't in good faith bring myself to do it, especially when I know I have other books I need to start. Because of that, I want to try particularly hard to explain exactly why this story didn't appeal to me in the slightest, and anything I thought wasn't bad or could be improved with some work.

As soon as I saw a glossary of names before the story itself had even started, I felt like I'd have trouble reading this. If you build up really strong, believable characters, people will not need a glossary of names. Especially troubling was the fact that there really weren't that many names on it. And although this is probably just me being picky, giving short explanations of certain characters dropped spoilers. I now had some idea of what would be happening in the book, and I wasn't liking the look of it.

I was not soothed by the mention that the book takes place from multiple points of view, and that a clear line of space between paragraphs denoted the switch from character to character. I love multiple points of view, but this really set my hackles up:

We, the readers, are not idiots. We do not need to be told when a viewpoint is changing. If we're following the characters, we'll know right off the bat who we're with and that's that. Telling us things like this is a little insulting.
When the note referred to multiple viewpoints, I thought there would be a substantial amount of time with each character before a switch occurred. Uh, no. Not even close. PoVs were switching so fast I started to feel a little ill – sometimes multiple times per PAGE.
The PoVs constantly changing might have actually been something I could've dealt with, if the four main protagonists were actually characters. Let me try to get into that a little.

Nothing whatsoever stood out about these people. There was absolutely no way of telling them apart except for physical descriptions, and physical descriptions do not, for a single second, make a character. I'm usually good at following PoV switches, even when there's a lot of them, but this honestly just floored me. I couldn't keep up, and not just because they were so unbelievably frequent. There was just nothing separating these people from each other. None of them had any personality, none of them was ever really different from the others. There is no internal dialogue of any import. There is, from what I can tell, going to be little to no development. If these characters don't even exist, how the hell can I bring myself to care for them?

I tried, hard, to connect with Them. (I'm sorry but I can't see them as anything other than a single entity.) I tried to find the scraps of their hobbies or interest and hastily use a bit of spit and panic to stick that tiny bit of individuality to a name, but it just didn't work. I had no idea which way was up or down. Who was I reading about? Is this an important character? What is actually going on right now?!

I don't CARE about your party costumes. I don't CARE about the multitude of cool-sounding-but-really-cheesy-on-paper sports and jujitsu you all do together. I couldn't give a damn about your love lives. Tell me about YOU. I care about YOU. Who are you? Why did you all move to this town? You guys seriously don't think it's a bit weird that you all have the same interests, you all moved to the same town around the same time? You seriously never wondered about that? I sure as hell would. I'm assuming you're all in your twenties, so why are you all acting like thirteen-year-olds that drank a few sips of beer for the first time?

Perhaps I would've cared more about their fashion interests if I actually had even a basic character to work with, but getting to know these people was like trying to hold onto a fistful of air. It just wasn't happening.

Sad part? The blurb sounded fun and interesting. I'm digging the idea of some bad-ass chicks messing up the day for some guys and doing things their own way. Not to mention alternative worlds – yes please, I'll take three! Even the cover was nifty and appealing. What went wrong...?

The story turned into everything opposite of what I enjoy. I like deep, enriching characters that stay with me when I put my book down. I like a delicacy to writing that lets me simply see what's happening, instead of laying it out like a brainstorm, where I can see all the chunky and unappealing lines connecting everything from Point A to Point B. I like strong world-building, a world that paints itself for me and needs little poking and prodding by the author to be interesting and believable.

Everything else is bonus though, so long as I have my interesting characters. The Arrival did not deliver.

To narrow everything down a bit:

My negatives – Most everything. The characters were flat and lifeless (tacking a few cool-sounding sports to their hobby list and giving them a devil-may-care attitude doesn't make them bad-ass or interesting. Sorry). The obsessive switching between PoVs (sometimes just for a few sentences, come on now) was 100% unnecessary and took away from the story. The technical aspect of the writing was not good (I will happily donate some commas if needed), and read more like a shopping list at times – a means to TELL me the story, instead of SHOWing it to me.

My positives – The concept really did sound fun and interesting, and I'd consider coming back to the book in the future if I have a day or two to put aside for it. If the characters were actually people and not just cardboard cut-outs, if the technical side of the writing was much, much more refined, and if the PoV switching slowed the hell down (what is so wrong about having it switch between characters on a chapter-by-chapter basis?) or stopped altogether...then this book would be fun, spunky, exciting and just a good read.