Saturday, July 16, 2016

Judging books by ... titles

Time is precious and fleeting (every second wasted another moment closer to death) so when I choose books with which to spend said precious time, I attempt to apply some judicious discernment. You know, perusing the Book Review, listening to NPR segments, carefully selecting works by authors I've already vetted, taking recommendations only from the most trusted sources to ensure maximum intellectual growth... OR, I walk through the YA aisle of Target or the overflowing to-be-shelved cart in the Teen Room at the local library and grab five books in ten seconds.

Both methods collect winners and losers. I know we aren't supposed to judge books by their COVERS, but it's really hard not to judge them at least in part by their titles, right? The name can sometimes make or break either the reading experience or the ability to share them after.

Con Academy by Joe Schrieber has everything I want in a title -- memorable imagery, the assonance
of a familiar phrase, the clever wordplay that has some pertinence to the plot, it's all there. And the book itself can stand up to its name. The characters are just developed enough to believe their games and the plot moves. There's a whiff of romance but it takes a back seat overall to the long con, which I love. A great super-speedy summer read, when it could have been just a good title in search of a book.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson is sort of the opposite -- an amazing book in search of a worthy title. I really enjoyed Since You've Been Gone and knew there was another book out but literally could not remember the title to go find it. It seems like a placeholder that the team forgot to fill in before the release. And the book itself is SO GOOD. The few slim implausibilities that get the book rolling are quickly replaced with fully-fleshed out characters making actual human mistakes and a story that doesn't wrap up perfectly but is so satisfying in both the journey and the conclusion. I want a 10-years-later sequel to this! And more emoji-only storytelling!

The title isn't wrong, exactly -- it makes sense for the story within. It's just too generic for a very well-done novel. (Not that I have any better suggestions, so this isn't terribly constructive. And it's selling quite briskly, so I guess no one else is having any problems remembering the title. Plus those are some seriously cute dogs on the cover...)  Well, I think I may have just talked myself into liking it. Go ahead and judge your books by their covers.

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