I’ve been reading And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard for the past few days and it’s written in a very odd style. We’re being narrated the story by some unknown speaker, it randomly goes into the past and back, and part of the story is written in poem. This got me to thinking.
Do unusual writing styles push readers away?
Obviously, that question is too widespread for an exact yes or no. I’ve read plenty of unusual styles that actually worked. Take Golden by Jessi Kirby. That book alternated between the protagonist’s story and the journal of a dead girl and, somehow, that worked.
But at the same time there are a lot of books that I’ve struggled to read because they were unusual. *cough*And We Stay*cough* Okay, And We Stay is a lovely book, but it is terribly hard to get into. You feel like you have almost no connection to the protagonist, and the poetry is probably just going to throw a lot of readers off. I know a lot of people who don’t really like poems.
Unusual writing styles seem to be hit or miss to me. Some, like 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (which is written in the style of someone on tape cassette) hit it off excellently. It’s won awards and readers seem to love it. But others, like Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell (which hasn’t yet come out) I’ve seen more negative reviews for. Honestly, if tape cassettes made it, then why not a story told in part through letters? On paper, these things look fine, so there must be something more to it.
Which brings me to my next question.
What makes an unusual writing style work for you?
For me, I have to connect to the character. I have to deeply and emotionally understand them and the story, and the unusual method has to help me better connect to them. No matter what the format, I want a book that can make me laugh and can make me cry. I want to relate to the characters and understand their story. And, overall, have a reason to turn the page.