As a book lover, it’s hard to write a negative book review. I believe that every book has it’s own true beauty, but I struggled to see the true beauty in California by Edan Lepucki. In most books, I can get through the bad attributes. For example, I don’t mind a boring book as long as it is well written, or weak characters, as long as there is a unique idea to the story plot. But… California struggled to do any of this. It was very difficult for me to enjoy this book. This is the first book I’ve ever marked as a DNF (do not finish). It hurts my soul to find a book like this and give it a negative book review but I want to prevent anyone else from experiencing the same situation. Overall I gave this book a 2 out of 10.
Originally I had found California at Barnes and Noble hidden under the table at the paperback section of new releases. I now understand why it was hidden. At first I thought I was cool cause I found a unique book, but you know, life tends to laugh in your face.
I was really attracted to the cover of the book. It was beautiful as it showed a forest, thriving and on its side. As a huge nature lover, I really enjoyed the tall green trees with a blue sky as the California cover. I thought, “With a cover that pretty, its gotta be good!” Yeah. Awkward.
So I know you’re thinking, “Why would you pick a book just based on the cover?” Well, the gist/ summary was really good too! Here, take a look:
The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they’ve left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can’t reclaim, they seek solace in each other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant.
Terrified of the unknown and unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.
It sounds really good right?!? Yeah… So okay, here are the few reasons I did not enjoy this book.
#1- The writing style. The writing in this book struggled to connect with the reader. I felt lost sometimes and I found myself re-reading sentences three times just to understand what was going on. An example of the writing style follows:
“Cal didn’t like that. He didn’t like that he didn’t like that.”
So, personally I believe this book is just a ‘first book’. The writing style makes it seem like a rough draft, and I think that Lepucki is on the way to good things. I will be so excited for the next book she writes, but for now, California is just a stepping stone.
#2- The characters. In California, our two main characters, husband and wife are Cal and Frida. Both endured the apocalypse and are forced to live their lives controlled by mother nature. Cal is portrayed as a busy man focused on surviving. For Cal, love isn’t really a word used to describe his feelings. He doesn’t show his affection for Frida. Also, Frida is supposed to be this strong and empowering woman, but she constantly has a problem. There’s no dynamic between these characters and I struggled to find something to like.
#3- The apocalypse. Usually in an apocalyptic book, there’s one major key event. In California, there are several events to trigger it. But as a reader, you’re constantly guessing what really happened. It was so frustrating and I always felt like there was a new way or event of how the world ended.
Reading this book, I just felt so confused. I was annoyed that I couldn’t just read the book without getting lost. The characters were a struggle and I wanted to know what happened for them to end up in the damn forest. But this is only my opinion and there are other readers who loved California. Here are some of their reviews:
“The writing style of this book is different from what I usually read and it took me a while to get used to it but when I did I could not put the book down. Definitely enjoyed it.” – Barnes and Noble Book Review
“It’s a sinister place, this dystopian future Edan Lepucki imagined. I wouldn’t want to live there. I got lost in this book for a week though — and I love that, that feeling. Just wanting to read a book. Early in the novel, before things got bad, there was a line about how Frida yearned for nothing more than a latte going into a cafe and ordering a latte and that struck me as so true. A thing you can miss. There were lots of amazing lines, Frida and Cal, their thoughts, small deceptions.” – Goodreads Book Review
Unfortunately I couldn’t think of a drink to accompany this book. I didn’t want to pair a tasty drink to accompany an unsatisfying book.
On to the next…
The next book is a short read, Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs. An interesting read about human experiments. Reminds me a lot of Frankenstein.