Celebrity Status Trumps Good Writing

Everywhere I turn I see rave reviews written about this book.  And its status on the New York Times Bestseller List is being flaunted around.  So, I got thinking that maybe I shouldn't write a negative review.  Maybe that is something I, as a book reviewer, should keep more to myself.  Or quite the opposite.  

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell
Written by Chris Colfer
Little, Brown and Company, 2012
438 pages

Here is the synopsis on Amazon:

Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales.

The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. 

But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

    The main reason I am writing this review here is because I am tired of hearing only positive things about this book.  I find it misleading and I know that there are many other better written stories for our readers.  Chris Colfer is an actor on the television show Glee, and this book reads like a long drawn out screenplay.  Descriptions are either nonexistent or so basic that my students could paint a far better image.  When describing a cavalcade of knights arriving in front  the twins, Colfer describes them only by saying: "Their armor was clean and shiny."  OK...
    Colfer puts most of his story in the dialogue and the narration seems to be just a means to link those speaking parts together.  He misses the beauty that can go into a well written narrative.  A story should not leave its reader breaking away from the flow to consider how awkwardly written it is.  Truly though, I could go on and on, and that would be too harsh.  So, here are a few things that bothered me in a (sort of) list:

The extreme overuse of poor similes:
"Mrs. Peters was staring at her as if she had just witnessed a gruesome rural animal give birth."
(I couldn't think of a gruesome rural animal...pig, cow, mouse.  Dunno.)
"Alex clambered up the tree faster than any animal she had ever seen in a documentary."
(Doesn't that just flow off the lips.)
Compares the witch with the gingerbread house to: "...staring at her as if she were a rabid Tyranosaurus rex about to pounce on them at any moment."
(#1 rabid T-rex.  #2 would pounce be the best word to describe the movement of a T-rex? #3 the word rabies makes, I believe, 3 appearances.  At least one more I flagged when the twins come upon some unicorns. )
The similes go on and on and on and on...

Lack of revision.
If Colfer spent any time at all revising this novel we would not see the following phrase appear so often:
"Steam was practically coming out of the teacher's ears and nostrils." pg.75
"Steam was practically coming out of their nostrils."  pg. 361
"...Conner said.  Steam was practically coming from his ears."  pg. 164

Some of the writing just simply strikes me the wrong way.  Like when Conner sees the gingerbread house on page 112. "'Whoa,' Conner said.  'I feel like I might get diabetes from just looking at that place."

    Overall, the story is so horribly written that I BEG Colfer's editor to help him make the next book in the series a bit smoother.  The plot of the book doesn't bother me.  I can fall into the most fantastical storyline and believe every line of it.  But that is where the hard work on the author's part comes in.  Colfer must read more to become a better writer.  This is not a script, it is a novel.

Go on, tell me I'm wrong.  I can take it.  

But there's more to this post.  To honor my feelings, I am giving away my copy of the book!  Just leave a comment below for your chance of winning!  I will pick a winner from comments and retweets on twitter.  Good luuuuck.  Come on, don't you want to read it?!



  1. Contest is closed, a winner has been chosen!

  2. Thanks for your honest review. Can you recommend good recent books to read to my 5 and 3 year old girls? (Mostly read classics so far: My Father's Dragon, The Borrowers, Wizard of Oz, Pippi Longstockings, Ragweed...)


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