When I was recently in Tasmania I spied a copy of a new Anne Lamott novel at the airport, Imperfect Birds. I bought in on the strength of Bird by Bird, Lamott's book about writing, which I love, for her resilient honesty as much as much as for her advice to novice writers.
What was interesting about Imperfect Birdswas it's very American-ness. Did I enjoy reading it? I'm not even sure - I found some aspects of the characters engaging - Rae, the wise religious voice of the novel, Elizabeth's self-obsession, and the the emphasis on therapy along with the very inward-looking nature of the characters was kind of intriguing, but weird. As a book on addiction, I found it a little heavy-handed and, well, American. It's interesting to contrast this book with Junk by Melvin Burgess, which I think is masterly because it doesn't ever preach but is still a hard-hitting examination of addiction. Burgess, like Lamott, traces the insidious nature of addiction - but I think Burgess's characters have a more edgy reality than Rosie, the teenager girl in Imperfect Birds. Burgess's teens grow up in Thatcher's England and they're out on their own. Rosie lies to her parents but is protected by the very middle-class society that cocoons her, despite the E, the dope and the vodka.
I didn't know at the time that the book was part of a trilogy - there aren't many non-fantasy books that are trilogies, these days. However, the QC read it, loved it and discovered that is the final book in a trilogy.
In Sydney, I discovered the second book, Crooked Little Heart. Less intriguing. The characters are still self-obsessed, but the story flags.
I don't mind reading imperfectly written books, however - they can still teach you something about writing. I didn't find Rosie's problems convincing enough in Crooked Little Heart and I found her mother's endless obsessing precious. Keep it real, I kept wanting to say. So that was quite a useful thing to think about.
The QC abandoned Crooked Little Heart after about eight pages, I think. She said rather plaintively that she felt she'd fallen in a reading hole - finds most young adult novels don't speak to her, but most adult books not about characters who intrigue her. That too is a useful thing to think about.