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Its not you, its me: a letter to Beck McDowells This is Not a Drill

This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell Its not you, its me: a letter to Beck McDowells This is Not a Drill


Dear'This is Not a Drill,

This is a tough letter to write, and Im sorry not to be doing this in person, except, you know, youre a book, so I thought this might be a nicer let down than just saying this to your cover. Maybe.

Ive been wanting to say this since a few pages in, but you seem like a nice book, and I thought that maybe, if I hung in there long enough, things might change and perhaps Id feel that spark. Not everything can be love at first sight, after all. I really did my best to fall in love with you, and I know this is going to hurt, but Im afraid I just dont feel that way.

Its not you, its me.

I know you dont want to hear about my reading past, but Ive been around a lot of books. A lot of books. I wont get specific, but lets throw out a number of three digits or so. A year. (But dont worry: I dont share my books around much. And if I do they come back clean.) And I know I shouldnt be comparing you with all those other books, but honestly, its hard. Because some of those booksjust wow.

Sorry. That was harsh. Ill try not to do that again.

If youll just give me a moment to explain. You see, youre the third school shooting book Ive read this yearnot that theres anything wrong with thatand I suppose Im looking for something else. I want to experience other plots and other types of writing, you know? Spread my literary wings a little. Im young, and there are a lot of books out there.

I know that you cant help the school shooting thing, and thats fine. I wouldnt break it off with you over something as minor as a premise. Its not like you can help a premise, and youve got to work with what youve got. Make the best of it. But thats not the only problem. See, youre also a book with an alternating first person point of view, and you have that possible-romance-plus-suspense element happening, not to mention that present tense thing that books seem to love these days, and Im just, well, Im just a little tired of it all.

Andman, I feel like I should stop, but weve come this far, so whats another paragraph or two? Dont get mad, because remember, this is totally not your fault, and you cant help who you are, but youre also one of a half a dozen or so books Ive read in the last few months where the viewpoint girl is a shy type, one who has a weird name and struggles with her voice, and where the viewpoint guy is a messed-up guy whose dads the local mayor. There are a lot of mayors sons in books at the moment. No offence or anything.

Oh, and then theres your voice. See, while Im sure itll be music to some other readers ears, Im a little over that colloquial, writing-a-book-like-youre-on-the-phone kind of thing thats so hot right now (see, I can totally fake it myself), and to be honest, Im not really sure that this voice stuff is enough to set a book apart from all the other books any more.

Maybe I have commitment issues, what with this whole new-book-every-day habit of mine, but I just dont quiteoh, how do I say this?I just dont quite feel that you quite stand out from the crowd. Yeah, its a big crowd, but Ive already apologised for that. Maybe youre better suited to a reader who likes to take it slow, who doesnt toss you aside for the next one in the pile the second were done with, well, you know.

Now I feel like a jerk.

But look, we had some good times, didnt we? Emerys heart conditionI liked that. And that teacher doing what she could to keep her class safe? That was some good characterisation right there. And tension, sure, there was tension, and, that conclusion! Not bad, even though its spoiled a bit by the Kirkus review on the back of the booksorry, someone had to say it.

Im rambling here, but I guess what I want to say is that youre a nice book with a classy cover and some deep thoughts and a sense of humour under all of that serious stuff. Im just not quite the reader for you. But there are plenty of readers in the bookshop, you know?


With thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for the review copy

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  1. Love this letter! So funny! I am getting tired of the first-person present voice too, but havent noticed the mayors sons trend yet! (I havent read a lot of YA lately, though.)

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks, Laurie! Im just starting to find YA so interchangeable. They all seem to be the same his/her love story with a rotating backdrop.

      The mayors son thing is very odd, particularly to an Aussie, given that we have so few mayors! I guess it allows an opportunity for rebellion whilst offering the character an ability to be privy to sensitive information and connections and potentially influence policy. Its an especially popular trend in YA dystopia. :)

  2. This review is awesome. :)I too am getting tired of shy girls and tortured guys. But maybe that is because Im reading a series now where a vampire has amnesia so his broodiness is sometimes double as he forgets he has already brooded. The girls arent shy, so thats a plus.

    • Stephanie /

      For some reason that put an image of a vampire Memento in my head!

      I think its partly the opposites attract thing, but its a shame that we keep getting the same opposites!

  3. Brilliantly done, lady! I had to do something similar with Veronica Roths Divergent series because I just wasnt in the right frame of mind at the time to be reading it. Its a shame that we, too often, see many slightly different versions of the same story and it gets tiresome. I really applaud those authors who are able to take a well-loved concept and make it their own. Its a shame this book didnt quite do it for you.

    • Stephanie /

      Oh, thats interesting. Ive heard good thing about Divergent, but I think Id be the same: Im just burnt out on particular genres and stories. In part I think its because it feels like there are *so many* stories out there at the momentperhaps too many: its very easy for a novel to feel bland and mediocre.

      I agree with you, too, that authors need to work harder to stand out in a world where readers are hungry consumers of words and have very high expectations when it comes to books and literature.

  4. Dear Reading in a Single Sitting,

    I love this letter and the format you used to review this book! I wont read it, but Ill keep reading your blog!


    Rebecca @ Love At First Book

  5. I havent read this book, but I must admit that I also struggle REALLY struggle with present tense. Im not saying first person present, because I have NO problem with first person, but the present tense thing gives me a pain. I struggle with it, because I think its silly to object to a book on those grounds, but I just dont like reading it. I like a well turned phrase, I dont mind knowing that Im reading a book, not having a texted conversation. I guess Im old fashioned. Maybe its me, too Loved this! ;)

    • Stephanie /

      I hear you, Imelda! Im not much of a fan of a colloquial narrative voice as I often feel that it undermines the medium. Why use writing to tell your story if youre not going to make the most of the form?

      For me, first person and/or present tense can be fine (or even wonderful) if done well, but I just feel as though its being used as a shorthand for characterisation at present.

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