The article in Gizmodo earlier this week prompted me to throw down a whopping 99 cents to see what exactly Amanda Hocking is doing to create such a stir. I finished her first book, Switched, last night. Here’s the scoop.
First and foremost, let me say that the book is fun. It isn’t terribly deep, but there’s no harm in that. The story is interesting, reads quickly and is very enjoyable. In fact, I’ve already bought the second and third books and plan to read straight through the trilogy. Hocking is creative and accomplishes a nice pace, the story unfolding in a comfortable cadence that is at times predictable, but still interesting.
Her single greatest strength is her ability to write dialog. Conversations feel real and lived in. Characters talk just like real people talk, which is much harder to do that it would appear. What’s more, her characters have distinct voices, each taking on tones and sentence structures that make them feel unique to the character, which is, again, deceptively hard to achieve. Hocking does it with grace.
However, while her story is original in regard to the legend she chooses to flesh out (her main character is a troll), the male lead bears a lot of resemblance to Edward Cullen of Twilight fame, and the similarities don’t stop there. While I could chose to site this as a weakness of the book, I’m rather inclined to be defensive of Hocking. Her story is a better story than Meyer’s, her approach more creative, her heroine far more likable.
The beginning of the book is, admittedly, rough around the edges. It feels like Hocking got more comfortable with her own role as a writer the more she wrote. (I wonder how many drafts she wrote. I can’t help but think the first third of the book deserved one more to iron things out.) But as the book moves along, so does Hocking. Now three chapters into the second book, I’ve concluded, at least for the moment, that Hocking is a writer evolving, which makes it all the more fun to read her work. The prose improves, the descriptions growing in strength and depth. Her words flow more naturally.
As I said, not the most profound book, but an exciting series to read. One, because Hocking is living a writer’s dream right now. She’s making a living doing something she loves without any publisher, greedy for maximum market share, breathing down her neck. She’s doing it on her own. Two, because the stories are fun. And three, because, come on–haven’t you ever wondered what trolls do when people aren’t twirling them so their hair stands up? Just a little?