Amanda Hocking has gotten a lot of ink for her non-ink success writing paranormal romance novels for e-readers and self-publishing and marketing them online. She’s also become a millionaire in the process and landed a hefty advance from a legacy publisher. So I read the first volume of her Trylle series in paperback. Switched tells the story of Wendy, a misfit who was nearly killed by her own mother at her sixth birthday party. She is a difficult, surly child and teen who gets kicked out of every school she attends and has grown up fatherless, with a mother confined to a mental asylum and a doting big brother and aunt who go to considerable lengths to protect her.
It’s a very lively story with plenty of violence, smoldering eyes, emotional conflicts, near-fatal misunderstandings and magical trappings. Wendy discovers that dear old homicidal mum isn’t really mum at all—something the woman has insisted since the infant was handed to her in the hospital. Wendy has been switched with a boy who disappears. She is a changeling, and something else—she is a troll.
Hocking says she researched what was selling in an effort to teach herself to write best sellers. She seems to have settled on a good strategy. Reliable YA readers tell me that Switched is a typical paranormal romance with a predictable plot. I thought the characters were flat and clichéd. Those shortcomings seem to make the book no less satisfying to its legions of avid fans. So, huge kudos to Amanda Hocking for pulling off a literary and financial coup.
Switched is readable but there are strange lapses of spelling and grammar that should have been smoothed out by the editors at St. Martin’s—here’s a quote from an educated member of royalty who is portrayed as one of the elite: “She looked at Finn, but gestured to me. ‘This is her?’ ” (sic) That was not meant as some type of colorful idiom. It was just horrible, incorrect English. Came a few paragraphs after a glaring misspelling. Even the open to the book is poor English, obviously so. “A couple things made that day stand out more than any other. It was my sixth birthday, and my mother was wielding a knife. Not a tiny steak knife, but some kind of massive butcher knife glinting in the light like in a bad horror movie. She definitely wanted to kill me.” (sic)
I wasn’t a fan of Twilight—thought it was a terrible example of how to be a vapid female and fall in love with and pursue an abusive and deadly male. Read a couple of the books to try to figure out their appeal and decided they were just stupid. Despaired of the state of intelligence of millions of teenage girls. Nasty bitchy clique books fall into the same discard pile. Now I’ve read the source of much Internet buzz and a personal fortune. It wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be but Switched does nothing to relieve my cynicism.
The English language is so magnificent and there are such powerful storytellers out there. Pandering to the least common denominator may be the way to amass a pile of money. But that’s all it is. Maybe Hocking will develop more sophisticated storytelling now that she doesn’t have to crank out a new book every couple of weeks—and maybe St. Martin’s press will gift her with a more rigorous editor.
Switched (Trylle Trilogy) Amanda Hocking | St. Martin’s Griffin 2012