Monday, May 27, 2013

Literature Review: Animal Ark: Husky with a Heart by Ben M. Baglio (2005)

Husky with a Heart is a book related to Ben M. Baglio's Animal Ark series, though it doesn't appear to be part of the main franchise. Despite this, readers who jump right in with this title having never heard of or read the previous books will definitely feel a little left behind. They may even be tempted to quit after the hundredth vague allusion to a past entry, and they probably should do that. It would save them a four-month slog through a miserable book short enough that it should only take an hour.

I seriously can't understand how a book can be so dreadful. I'd been reading this since mid-January and only just now finished it, which is ridiculous considering its reading level of attempted-Second Grade and its measly 136 pages of larger-than-average font. No part of this book was fun at all, and I found myself staring at the ceiling for hours after each paragraph simply because the cracks in the paint have more life and imagination than this vapid script. Not only are the characters unbelievably corny and not at all lifelike, often becoming irritating by a sense of falseness about them all (probably because the author knows they're being fake and can't make themselves take it at all seriously), but they have absolutely no personality. I'm not sure if this is because the series had already been ten-years established by the time this one came out, but it really does nothing for the reader other than highlight just how empty this book is going to be.

Blank-faced characters aside, the writing itself feels fake and forced, like the aunt at Thanksgiving who acts all smiles and talks in that annoyingly contrived sing-song voice despite the fact that every single person older than the age of fetus can see right through her, and they all would love nothing more than to punch her ass out into the cold. I know this book is written with children in mind, but I don't think that's any reason to be pretentious. At least, not obviously so. I always believe that speaking down to your audience is the surest way to lose them, and no part of this book acknowledges that children are equal, let alone capable of understanding big grown-up words. Remembering back to my youth when I was a much more avid reader, I can remember being very pissed off by books with this talk-down attitude. It was the quickest way to send me running back to the library, and in my busy adult (ha!) life, that translates simply to writing essays warning other people, and hopefully a number of them within the intended audience, not to touch the title with a yard stick. Not even ten of them strung together with a carefully planned construction of pipe cleaners, Elmer's glue, and tape.

Really, though, it's too easy to go on and on about what a book does wrong. It's much more difficult to talk about what a book (or any piece of media) does right. Perhaps as a personal challenge, I'll go ahead right now and try to think of something nice to say about this ghostwritten garbage. Thumper, I'll do ye proud!

Let's see now...


Well, there's a family tree at the beginning dating back several generations of Husky and detailing which ones the protagonist will meet during the story. That's pretty cool. I think I looked at it for five minutes or so just thinking about the histories of each dog, which was 500% more exciting than anything found within the actual novel.

I won't bore you with any of the other reasons the book is terrible, because I really shouldn't have to. It's straight up horrible. However, I will discuss one other negative: there isn't a story. There really isn't. Pay attention, because this part's important. Especially if you're a writer. Do you remember that big wave they teach you in elementary school which details the story progression of the book you're reading? They teach you that for a reason. They teach you that because a book that does not have a beginning, middle, and end will not succeed in satisfying your audience. If you think you can spend 100 pages on "Beginning" and maybe shuffle up "Rising Action", but not quite make it to the peak, and then you write the words "The end", you need to go back to school.

--Note: I understand some writers, me among them, do not necessarily heed that advice for artistic reasons or simply because that's the style we write. That's fine and all, do what works for you on a personal level. Just understand that what satisfied your artistic need will not always satisfy the needs of your audience. If you are okay with this (as I am) then proceed with not surfing the entire wave.--

In short: this book is awful. Of all the books I've come across in my years, so far this is the only one I've wanted to destroy or to in some way remove from my existence. I won't be doing that for the simple face that I want my potential future children to be literate and to choose their own interests, but I'll be praying for the rest of my days that their eyes never chance upon this one on the shelf. Speaking of ones, that's what this title has earned. One out of ten. Because it sucks.

--Note: While uploading the 1/10 picture, I noticed that I had made a 0/10 picture! Oh, how I was so tempted to use it!--

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