Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stop me if you've heard this one before

Literary Pet Peeve 1: When I find myself reading/reading about the same book I've read a thousand times before. Particularly when it isn't even riding a bandwagon.

Note: I did not seek out any of these titles. The first two I read (sadly - I wish I could take those hours back...), the second two I came across in my daily book travels.
  • Exhibit A: Saving Zoe, Alyson Noel; Plot: Little sister Echo is the normal kid, big sister Zoe is the exotic, popular, beautiful one. Zoe is murdered - Echo starts following in big sis' footsteps, including involvement with boyfriend. She uncovers secrets. Drama ensues.
  • Exhibit B: Goldengrove, Francine Prose; Plot: Little sister Nico is a normal kid, big sister Margaret is the exotic, popular, talented, beautiful one. Margaret drowns - Nico starts following in big sis' footsteps, including involvement with boyfriend. Drama ensues.
  • Exhibit C: The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson; Plot (as summarized by Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. [...]
  • Exhibit D: Between Here and Forever, Elizabeth Scott; Plot (as summarized by Goodreads): Abby accepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible. Until the accident. Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it's nothing compared to living without her. She's got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen. Abby is about to find out that truth isn't always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could...
Exhibits A, B and C are almost identical to each other, down to the bizarre name choices for the sisters' names. I mean, seriously, with the exception of Margaret, none of these names are common for girls (Zoe is marginally acceptable but still fairly unbelievable). Get real. Furthermore, the plots of all four closely follow the same formula: meek little sister steps into the glamorous older sister's shoes following death/horrible accident.

For some odd reason, this storyline seems to be incredibly popular among writers. Please let me know if you come across any other examples so that I may shun those titles for completing spitting in the face of originality. Thank you.


  1. Songs for the Missing, Stewart O'Nan. Younger sister (Lindsay?) boring, older sister (Kim?) hot and fun; older sister disappears. It diverges here: younger sister's life just kind of sucks because she has to live in this insanely traumatized family. But still.

  2. YES. That plot is everywhere, and I hate it because I don't like thinking about anything bad happening to sisters. :p


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