To be honest, I think Amanda Hocking’s author story is great. Good on her. Although I’m not a fan of self-publishing, she obviously took the initiative and it worked for her. Now she’s reaping the benefits.
I can’t say that I have the same admiration for her book. I read it because of the hype – both the self-publishing hype and the hype it’s getting in our bookstore; we sell multiple copies just about every day. I wanted to see what made it rise above all those other books self-published. I’m still not really sure exactly what that quality was.
It’s a cute story. It has all the tropes of paranormal romance – romance and forbidden love and action and the heroine possessing a ‘special’ quality that puts her in danger from the enemy. Perhaps that’s just exactly why it is so successful. I think on the whole it is more light and fluffy than the usual paranormal YA romance, which often takes itself too seriously. Before I read all the same comparisons myself, I was thinking it came across a lot like The Princess Diaries. The writing is not so self-aware, and I think for Switched it works.
Switched has obviously been edited before being put into print, but I still found the language to have a very self-published feel – from the over-use of adjectives to characters never ‘saying’ but always ‘emphasizing’ or ‘ advising’ or ‘commenting’. Also Hocking has a way of phrasing or describing things that just doesn’t sound at times traditional. There are many passages of internal thought, which my editor always insists ‘put it into dialogue! Show it through action!’ But to be honest, I actually didn’t mind. I found it gave the writing quite a distinct personality, if writing can have a personality.
Wendy does at least have a personality, which is more than I can say for a lot of para-romance heroines. I’m not sure if it’s a good personality, or if I like it yet. Where the characters shine is with the periphery characters – Rhys and Tove, and to a lesser extent Willa and Garrett. I find these characters quite intriguing, and hope Hocking incorporates more of their story in her later Trylle books.
Also, good on Hocking for using trolls for her main paranormal creatures, but they could just as well have been faeries or just really beautiful humans. I didn’t really find them to have any distinguishable characteristics, apart from the whole ‘changeling’ thing. The mythical creature hierarchy is quite interesting but perhaps not developed as much as it could be.
And what was with the ending? It really did feel like Hocking just gave up and stopped writing, and deus-ex-machina was practically jumping off the page. It was the only part of Switched that I really didn’t like. The rest was rather harmless and cute.