When a Story Isn’t Written Well

I started a young adult fiction book, Pride by Ibi Zoboi, recently and am having a hard time seeing past its bad qualities. I’m very interested in the story, and am invested in seeing it through to the end, but there are some technical writing mistakes that I find exceedingly distracting.

I became interested in the book because it’s a contemporary take on Jane Austen’s classic, Pride & Prejudice. Operating under the influences of different economic classes and parameters of what defines blackness in a gentrifying section of Brooklyn, Zuri Benitez and Darius Darcy resist and then attract one another. I already know how this story will ultimately end. However, it’s been fun to see what parallels Zoboi draws to the original tale and how she imagines the characters in modern-day settings, including as people of color.

That’s where most of the pleasure ends. The story lacks detail. Characters are undeveloped and their motivations vary according to situation. Mostly I’m able to disregard these character flaws by relying on my understanding of Austen’s more multi-dimensional development of Darcy, Lizzy, and others, in her original book.

But what honestly irks me the most is the dialogue. Writers should mimic how we speak; fictional story or not, dialogue should be human and relatable. It’s not so in Pride. Considering the main characters are young adults, especially, the dialogue really disappointed me. As a particularly outrageous example, the protagonists address one another by their name (sometimes even full name!). This is horribly unrealistic and a foul on Zoboi’s behalf that, in my opinion, breaks some of the most elementary guidelines for building a good story.

I have abandoned a few books in my life, but it was usually because I could not connect with the story and didn’t care enough to finish it. (I am in favor of this practice; I don’t think we should read books we don’t enjoy.) But Pride presents a unique challenge because while I do want to finish and learn how every piece of the story contrasts with Austen’s work, I must battle through material that has technical flaws.

Zuri and Darius better end up together to make this worth it!

[I was not paid to write about these works. Links are not affiliate.]


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