I got a book through Amazon Prime called “The Good Neighbor,” by A. J. Banner. It was billed as a suspense novel from “a phenomenal new voice,” and it was praised to the heavens. It would, they promised, “forever change the way you look at the people closest to you.”
Big promises, right? And based on all this hype, the book quickly became a bestseller. But I’m not convinced that those things were written by conscious human beings—because this book is godawful bad. By the time I was only a couple chapters in, I was already angry at them (the publisher and promoters, not the poor inept author) for tricking me into choosing it. So I annotated my copy with all the things that made me roll my eyes, grumble frustratedly, or laugh out loud. Then, based on my notes, I went back to Amazon and wrote the following review (which leaves out a lot):
I truly don’t understand the hype for this book. Here are a few of its many sins:
– Flaccid, lifeless prose.
– Crammed to bursting with tedious, frivolous detail about the narrator’s tedious, frivolous suburban life.
– Protagonist can hear everything said by someone atop a cliff, over a raging thunderstorm, as she is drowning in a violent river. (No spoilers here; that’s in the prologue.)
– Clumsy, inept foreshadowing that destroys any chance for drama. They say when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Well, this book’s foreshadowing is what happens when the author has nothing but a big, heavy hammer: “This isn’t over yet. I feel something worse coming on. Only this time it’s not going to be a tree or a fire. It’s going to be less obvious, something insidious.”
– Contrived, wooden dialog. See above.
– A double homicide is investigated by a fire marshal. Don’t most towns have some kind of department that specializes in police work? What’s it called, again? Someone should tell the author.
– Every female character is shallow, beautiful, hyper-sexualized, and a threat to the narrator’s marriage. The narrator rarely visualizes another woman without specifying which sexy outfit she pictures her in. If written by a man, one would wonder if the author had ever met an actual woman, or just researched them by watching General Hospital.
– “I grabbed a brick from the Kimballs’ side garden, and dropped it in my sweatshirt pocket as I climbed.” One wonders if the author has ever met an actual brick, or just assumed they are made portable for the suburban woman on the go.
– The fire marshal (rather hilariously) spoils the ending to Backdraft. Does that mean spoilers are acceptable here? Because I identified her perpetrator in chapter 6.
I don’t like to be so negative, but this book is so over-praised that it seems necessary to give warning. It’s possible that a passable writer lives somewhere inside the author, because occasionally a decent bit of phrasing gets through the filter, but this book isn’t her voice.
It quickly became the most successful thing I’ve ever written, at least, way more so than anything on this blog. It’s been rated the most helpful review on that product, almost since the day I posted it. I’m proud to say that, as of this writing, I have prevented 541 people from making a very regrettable purchase.
I could do a lot of reviews like this, but I don’t want to. I’m not a glutton for punishment; I don’t enjoy being that harsh; and it can be a bit demoralizing to compile a book’s rap sheet while reading it. Better to just put it down! But sometimes a warning needs to be given, so I’ll still step into a phone booth and emerge in my Angry Reviewer cape when the world needs me.