Four Changes I’d Make to My Favorite Books

I read a lot.

Well, not that much, compared to some of the people I follow on Goodreads, who apparently read suspiciously close to the speed of light.

Yet in all the books I’ve read, there is not a single one in which there’s nothing I wouldn’t change if I were given the chance. I’m not trying to say that I consider myself better than any of these authors, just that there are small (and admittedly, sometimes big) moments where I know I would’ve written things differently.

Keep in mind, before any of you less level-headed people post angry comments like “How dare you insult A Song of Ice and Fire!” or “I’ll have you know that John Green’s writing saved my life!” you should know that all the books I mention happen to be favorites of mine. Which makes me want to change certain things about them even more, because then, in my mind, these books would be perfect.

(Caution: Slight spoilers for #2, and huge spoilers for #3 and #4. You have been warned.)

1) Take out a single word from Paper Towns, by John Green.

Paper Towns was my favorite John Green novel, probably. All I know is that while I liked his other books, this was the only one that I’ve felt the need to reread so far. And both times, there was always one line that’s bugged me more than any other. See, in the first chapter there’s a conversation between Quentin and his mother over the Senior Prom. Quentin hates prom and all things related to prom, because well, he’s a bit of a wet blanket. So his mom says, “Well, there’s no harm in just going with a friend. I’m sure you could ask Cassie Hiney.” Which prompts the following line:

And I could have asked Cassie Hiney, who was actually perfectly nice and pleasant and cute, despite having a fantastically unfortunate last name.

Did you spot what was wrong with this sentence? It should be fantastically obvious.

See, in my mind, the word “fantastically,” is a lot like the word “very,” in that it adds absolutely* nothing to whatever you’re trying to say. Except it’s so much worse, because “very” is a barely noticeable word, only two syllables long and so commonly used that most readers won’t even care. “Fantastically,” meanwhile, has five whole syllables and thirteen letters, which, considering it’s complete uselessness as a word, is thirteen letters and five syllables too long.

Had I written this, I simply would’ve put:

…despite having an unfortunate last name.

Tada! All is right with the world again.

You’re welcome, John Green. But next time, make sure to get permission from me and my infinite wisdom, before using an adverb over three syllables long.
4) Restructure at least two hundred pages of A Dance with Dragons, by George R. R.Β  Martin.

Of the five currently published ASoIaF books, ADwD is the one that had the most wasted potential. The problem was, there was simply too many chapters that could’ve been cut completely, or at the very least, severely edited. At least three Tyrion and Daenerys chapters could’ve been cut, along with the first Davos, Jon and Quentyn chapters. Plus, Arya’s two chapters should’ve been moved to A Feast for Crows, where it would’ve nicely completed her arc. If you were to also edit out the hundreds of sentences dedicated to food and bodily functions, you’d have at least two hundred pages left, which could’ve been used to resolve: 1) The Battle of Meereen, 2) The Battle for Winterfell, and 3) Jon Snow’s “death.”

If those three story lines had actually been somewhat resolved, I feel like the reaction to ADwD would’ve been much more positive. And I for one would’ve placed it in the same league as the first three books, which is saying a lot considering that they’re all up there as one of my favorite novels of all time.

3) Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins, should’ve been at least thirty pages longer.

I didn’t like Mockingjay at first, for different reasons. I thought it was too depressing, and Katniss wasn’t as cool and kick-ass-y as she used to be. But I’ve since changed my mind.

The key to liking this book is not to think of it as a story about a bunch of people rebelling against an unjust government (which the first two books would’ve led you to believe) but as a story about the horrors of war and the effect it can have on someone. Sure it was depressing, but that was the point. And maybe Katniss wasn’t as competent as she used to be, but considering the sheer amount of horrible things she’s had to witness and take part in, people should probably cut her some slack.

When I looked at it this way, Mockingjay almost became my favorite book in the trilogy. Almost.

The one problem: it was too short.

With so many series these days, as the books grow more and more popular, the editor has less and less control over the author, who’s books will get bigger and bogged down with unnecessary subplots and details. And so the series falls victim to its own success.

Yet here it was just the opposite. This book could’ve used a whole lot more detail, especially during the last third of the novel. I believe there was a sentence halfway through part three that went like, “my tears freeze on my cheek.” It took me straight out of the story because, wait, it’s cold outside? This whole time I was envisioning the setting as a beautiful summer night, cloudy with a chance of horrific violence and child-bombing, and as it turns out, only the second part of that was correct. It was actually the middle of winter, yet I didn’t even realize that until they were in the Capitol for at least four chapters.

Not to mention, I think Prim’s death scene was rushed, and it was written in a confusing way. I don’t think I even realized that she had died until a few pages after it happened, then I had to read the scene over again just to make sure.

Admittedly, my lack of attention and forgetfulness might be to blame here. But I’m going to criticize Collins for this anyway.

1) A Storm of Swords: The Viper should have won.

I’m sure many will disagree with me here, because I myself am still on the fence with this. From one storytelling perspective, Oberyn’s death makes perfect sense: Tyrion had already found himself on trial back in the first book, and had managed to get out alive by calling for a trial by combat, which is exactly what he does here. Having a main character get out of the exact same situation in the same exact way is a little too lucky, especially for an author like George R.R. Martin.

BUT… Oberyn is like, really cool. When his names pops up, the word “badass” usually follows, and I’d argue that even if he didn’t die, Tyrion’s storyline would still have been about the same. Sure, Tyrion wouldn’t have been sentenced to death, but he definitely would’ve been at risk of being assassinated by one of Cersei’s men, and no one would’ve cared because at this point, he was completely friendless, despised by almost everyone and had little to no political power whatsoever. Now, it is possible that Oberyn would’ve brought Tyrion back with him to Dorne, but being that Tyrion’s still a Lannister, I don’t think that would’ve happened. Oberyn didn’t give a shit about Tyrion. He just wanted revenge on his poor sister, who had had one hell of a bad day about sixteen years ago.

So basically, everything that happened afterward in Tyrion’s storyline still would’ve happened. He would still be pissed off at his family, Jaime and Varys still would’ve helped him escape, and he’d still learn the truth about Tysha and murder his father. His storyline would’ve been exactly the same, except less depressing.

Not to mention, in A Feast for Crows, we could’ve visited Dorne through Oberyn’s point of view, a character we already know and like, instead of from the point of view of a bunch of strangers we’ve never met before and have little reason to care about.

And besides, major criticism of A Song of Ice and Fire is that it’s too depressing for it’s own good. I had always disagreed with this criticism, up until this scene. I mean, really Martin? You’re going to introduce this ridiculously cool character with a motivation everyone can get behind, just to give him a horrible, gory, humiliating death, while screwing Tyrion over at the same time? Right in front of his wife? Bad Martin! Bad!

___

So, do you agree with my points? Do you disagree? Do you kind of agree but not really? Comment below. Also, make sure to vote on this poll (which I forgot to put in the last post).

Special thanks to those who submitted a name. You’re da best.

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*Sort of like how “absolutely” doesn’t add much either. But I’m a blogger without an editor. John Green is a famous writer with an editor, and so he should be held to higher standard.

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10 Replies to “Four Changes I’d Make to My Favorite Books”

  1. I completely agree with your criticism for ADWD i mean shameful confession here but i skipped the Davos chapters because there’s only so much boredom i can handle. However, i believe GRRM wanted to leave readers at a cliffhanger with Jon.
    Moving onto A Storm of Swords i think Oberyn’s death was needed to create that conflict between Dorne and to get the Sandsnakes in the story, I think Tyrion is a very crucial character and therefore having him win the trial and being secretly assassinated would have killed the story.
    You’ve got valuable and enjoyable opinions on these books πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you. I understand why you skipped over his chapters, but I do think you should at least read his final one, because it had a nice exciting reveal, among other things. And it puts some of the things Wyman Manderly does later into perspective.

      True, but even 2,000 pages after his death, the sand snakes have barely achieved anything. (Though I’m sure they’ll have a huge effect on the plot, eventually.)

      1. Aha off to wikipedia I go to view this exciting Davos reveal and it does seem like the Sand Snakes are gonna be big what with them travelling to Westeros and stuff. One might even kill Cersei you never know πŸ™‚

      2. ohh yea i completely forgot that. I personally think the prophecy is talking about Jaime since he is the younger twin and he is starting to hate Cersei now.

  2. I agree it would have been nice to have Oberyn live. The main complaint I had about the books is that each book has all these new characters … and I’m reading them and 150 pages in and thinking, “What the hell happened to character X? Who are these knuckleheads!” I get he’s trying to build an immense world, though it’d be nice to have a slightly familiar character help open up some of those new worlds.

  3. Really enjoyed your commentary about Mockingjay. It was far and away my favorite book in the trilogy, so I was surprised when I learned that most people found it disappointing. Your critique of helped me to understand why. It was always supposed to be an anti-war trilogy, despite all of the violence and, well, war in it!

  4. Definitely Cauliflower McPugg πŸ˜„
    I hated Mockingjay the first time I read it. I finished it, and then never touched it again – even though I had reread the first two books almost six times. But when I pick it up now, I like it a lot better. It actually shows what war is.
    But I definitely agree with you. It should have been longer. The world that Suzanne Collins created ended way too quickly…

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