Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

UNPOPULAR OPINION FORTHCOMING!

Well, folks…

The Hype Monster got me on this one.

But before I get into my feelings about it, here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

Goodreads

Okay, where to start?

Where the Crawdads Sing was published In August 2018, and I *think* it’s been on the bestseller list ever since. It’s fourth on the NYT best seller list right now, and according to that, it’s been on the list for 77 weeks. Y’all, this book has been HYPED. People LOVE it. I don’t think I’ve heard one bad thing about it. People can’t stop raving about it and recommending it.

Hello, Hype Monster.

I think my expectations were too high. The publisher’s blurb about the book (taken from Goodreads and the copy I read) also says that Where the Crawdads Sing is “perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver.” Well, I’m a Barbara Kingsolver fan, and while I can see one particular similarity, that statement is misleading. This book is not on par with Kingsolver’s work.

There was something I really liked about the book, so let me speak on that first.

I loved Kya’s ecosystem and her relationship to it. This is where the Kingsolver statement comes in, I think. Kya is a natural biologist, even as a child. She doesn’t just live in the marsh, she is a part of the marsh. She knows more about her marsh ecosystem than any biologist. She interacts with every living thing in the marsh, and she treats the plants and animals of the marsh like family. Considering her family is so shitty and everyone abandons her, this isn’t surprising. Reading about the marsh and Kya’s relationship to it was the best part of the book, and I loved it.

I could have left the rest of it. The story didn’t draw me in at all. Typically, I can only read for pleasure on the weekends, and when I have to put a book down on Sunday evening that won’t be opened again until Saturday morning, I’m upset about that. All week I’m left wondering what’s going to happen next. That was not the case with Where the Crawdads Sing. I put it down on a Sunday night, and almost didn’t pick it back up again the next Saturday morning. I almost DNF’d it because I really didn’t care how it ended. The only reason I kept reading was because I had maybe 80 pages left to read and finished it out of principle.

And I can’t quite put my finger on where it went wrong. The story felt…cliche? I don’t know if that’s the word I want, necessarily. It didn’t feel original. It felt like a million other stories I’ve read, just in a different setting. The characters fell flat for me. I’m not sure I can believe Kya’s transformation. I’m not sure I’m cool with everyone who had any effect on Kya’s life — good or bad — being men. There were only a couple women in the story who really helped her, and they barely get any page time; they’re part of the background. I just…I don’t know. And I don’t like Owens’ writing style. The writing felt a bit choppy or stilted.

Why is it that I can write more about a book I didn’t like than I can about a book I loved? Sigh.

I gave the book three stars on Goodreads because the descriptions of the marsh and the way Kya interacted with it really saved the book for me. I loved that part of it. But I don’t think it deserves the amount of praise and hype it’s getting from all corners of the reading world. I don’t understand the high praise. Again though, that Hype Monster is real, and maybe my expectations were too high. The letdown might have been inevitable in this case.

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? Were you as enamored with it as everyone else seems to be? If not, what didn’t you like about it? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.