Today I’m sharing another installment of the DNF Diaries! In this series, I discuss why I chose to DNF a book, because life is too short to read bad books. The book I’m chatting about for this DNF Diaries entry is When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn, out on August 1, 2017 from Dutton/Penguin Random House.*
“’This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.’
Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.“
The Good: Ben narrates this book, and it’s clear at the very beginning that he’s recounting his story from prison. I liked that we get thrown into the action, and that Ben is working backward in telling this tale. The fact that Ben is so upfront at the beginning – he killed Rose, he’s not sorry, he’s going to take his time – made me think that he would be a great, unreliable narrator with a lot of twists along the way. If nothing else, this book has a great start.
The Bad: This book is essentially about a bunch of kids who suffer through a series of events on a camping trip, and presumably most of them don’t survive. I don’t like camping/things go to shit while outdoors stories. I knew that going in, but I thought the mystery/thriller aspect would draw me in enough to compensate for that. It didn’t. Also the sheer amount of stupidity committed by these kids in the first 80 pages already convinced me that I 1) didn’t care about any of them, 2) knew they probably caused whatever bad stuff happened, and 3) was already so bored that I honestly didn’t even want to know how/why Ben killed his girlfriend.
The Ugly: The worst offenders when it comes to this book are the writing and the characters. Stephanie Kuehn’s writing somehow managed to make me simultaneously bored and offended. I can’t even describe how badly the writing style irritated me. Then we have the characters, primarily Ben and his girlfriend Rose. To describe them as “unlikable” would be too kind. Ben is a spineless loser (who still manages to have sex at least 4 times in 80 pages – including cheating on his girlfriend in the bushes of a wilderness trail!), and Rose is a controlling manic pixie dream girl who makes Ben feel like shit just because she can. Combine awful characters with awful writing, and their conversations had me banging my head against the wall. Just…so bad.
I DNF’ed this book at 85 pages, and I probably shouldn’t have even made it that far. There’s no beating around the bush – I hated pretty much everything about this book, and would not recommend it. My friend Karen told me that she personally DNF’ed two of Stephanie Kuehn’s previous novels, so I’m now convinced that I’ll never attempt to read another book by this author. Sometimes certain authors just don’t work for certain readers, and this is clearly one of those cases.
Do you DNF books? Tell me about the last book that you DNF’ed!
*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.