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Book Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

I thought long and hard about this post.  I’ve yet to write a DNF since starting this blog.  Some bloggers never write posts about the books they didn’t finish, but I don’t think that’s fair to our readers.  Not only does it lead them to believe we finish every single book we read, but that also means we are leaving out some of the most important reviews we could write: the critical ones.  It’s my opinion that my readers should know about books I don’t finish, and WHY I didn’t finish them, so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not they want to read it themselves.



Disclaimer:  I was given an electronic ARC of this book from Doubleday Books via NetGalley to review.  As always, all opinions are mine and mine alone.


I honestly was really apprehensive about accepting this ARC for review, and I think in the future I need to go with my gut more.  The premise sounded interesting, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have the time to dedicate to such a long book.  However, I found myself one afternoon away from home, messing around on my phone, and decided to check it out.


I began having a hard time right at the beginning of this book.  I get that the whole plot is about language, but the opulent use of obscure words had me skimming entire paragraphs at times.  It may be playing to your storyline, but if the reader is constantly having to look up words or deciding NOT to look up words and thus not entirely understanding the story, then it sort of defeats the purpose.

I found the footnotes located at the end of the chapters jarring.  As I read them, I had to reference back through that chapter, which is not NEARLY as easy with an electronic copy.  I truthfully skipped most of the referencing back.  Mind you, I AM a scientist, so reading through footnotes isn’t unusual for me (hello research papers), I just found it weird to have in this book.  If the footnotes had been inserted throughout the chapter, it may have flowed better.

The jump in perspective from chapter A (Anana’s perspective) to chapter B (Bart’s perspective), also felt strange.  I think the author wanted to explain all the backstory about these two characters.  The problem is that you don’t get a ton of backstory about Anana in the first chapter, that comes later, but in Chapter B you get bombarded with information, a lot of it seemingly unnecessary, at least from as far as I read.

Speaking of Anana’s backstory, you do start to get some of it in Chapter C, but it’s jumbling with various flashbacks.  The Alice in Wonderland references really confused me as to how they played a part in the plot, beyond giving Anana a code name.  Chapter C has all kinds of crazy things going on, the order of events is so confusing.  When Anana found the secret room with all the mindless workers, I pretty much threw up my hands and decided I was done at the end of the chapter.  It just didn’t make sense with what had happened so far.  I felt like 5,000 questions had been brought up with absolutely no answers.


Chapter D ended at roughly 25% of the way through the book.  I decided I had given the book it’s due diligence, and wasn’t going to punish myself any further.  The author’s ideas for this book were great ones, just poorly executed.  Someone with a love of words and dystopian novels, willing to push through the confusing slog of the beginning, *might* like this one.  Though given I only read a quarter of it, they may not.


How often do you declare a book as DNF?

If you’re a fellow book blogger and/or book reviewer, how do you handle DNF books?



7 responses to “Book Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

  1. Pingback: April Book Round-up | Books Are My Thing

  2. SarahClare April 25, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    I find that even more frustrating.. when the concept or ideas are SO good.. but fall flat in practice.
    Ive not done a DNF on my blog (yet), but I know that I would be honest about it if I did. Because you’re right, you owe it to your followers etc to be real about it.
    I enjoyed your post here, ive not really seen much about this book, but I appreciated the level approach you took.
    Coolness 🙂


    • Bookjunkiekrystal April 25, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Someone else who read it stated that perhaps if the author was more experienced, she would have done a better job with it, and I kinda have to agree with that. It just felt like the book hadn’t been worked enough.
      Thanks for the compliments! I just know that, as a reader, if a reviewer I trusted didn’t like the book, I’d consider it more before going for it, and that’s why I made the decision to write about my DNFs.


  3. ryandejonghe April 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

    The book has some interesting twists toward the end, especially with the word play. I’m not sure if you got to the part featuring the op-ed, which kind of defined the book for me. It would be interesting to see what a more seasoned author would do with this same material.


    • Bookjunkiekrystal April 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      It definitely had great potential, I just couldn’t get passed the beginning unfortunately.


    • Bookjunkiekrystal April 24, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      So after I thought about what you said some more, I realized I had typed Chapter C instead of Chapter D. I DID get to the op-ed piece, which certainly clarified a lot of things, but I think by that point I was just done.


      • ryandejonghe April 24, 2014 at 2:27 pm

        Haha, yeah. I think the author took liberty with the thesaurus. This is such an interesting idea that book lovers would bite into, but it hit the wall for many. I’m reminded of last year’s “next Rowling” with The Bone Season. Great material, obvious talent, but too inexperienced.


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