Beta Reader Archetypes

I love my beta readers. All of them. If I could, I’d buy them Lexuses, just like artificial rich people do in those obnoxious say-I-love-you-at-Christmas-by-giving-them-a-car-with-a-bigass-bow-on-it commercials. Yes, that much.

If you’re not familiar, a beta reader is someone to whom you show your polished novel (not an early draft–that would be an alpha reader), and ask for feedback. In working with many of the same beta readers for my second novel I used for my first, I noticed things I hadn’t anticipated or previously spotted.

And when I notice stuff I think might be helpful, I stick in on here. You’re welcome, interwebz.

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Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely find a book that grips me so much I lose track of time. This book did just that. I finished it last night, going from 45% complete (thank you, Kindle) to done in an effortless five-hour reading session. Part of the reason you can do that with this book is the simple prose, told from the POV of a fifteen-year-old autistic boy, but the main thing that keeps you reading is, as with any good book, the story. I won’t go into spoilers, but I will say that it’s not really about a dog (though it starts there). It’s about the boy, his daily struggles, and how his condition impacts his parents. Equally heart-breaking and enraging with a sprinkling of humor, this is not the feel-good book of the year, and will stick with you, but leaves it up to you how.

Prose – There’s an episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ where Ted and Marshall go on a road trip. The only song they can play (stuck in the tape player) is ‘I Would Be (500 Miles)’ by The Proclaimers. At first they’re into it, then the repetitiveness gets to Ted. Marshall tells him not to worry, and that it will “… come back around.” It does, and they end up singing along as they drive. That’s what the prose in this book is like. At first the voice grabs you and pulls you in. A third of the way through, it starts to drag. Then you realize what the writer is doing – explaining through thestory how the MC thinks – and it works.

Story – The story starts with the boy investigating something that happens to a dog on a neighbor’s lawn, but turns to the boy’s life and his relationship with his parents. There are several ‘Oh sh!t’ moments, mostly of the tear-your-heart-out variety, and a few things that happen repeatedly that make you want to scream. Each character is both relatable (if you accept how difficult the situation they’re in is) and flawed. They feel real, even when doing things you wished they wouldn’t.

Favorite thing – The blunt way events unfold, as told from the MC’s perspective. One sentence, everything seems fine, the next BAM!

Least favorite thing – Nothing I can think of.

Overall – Recommend (if prepared to be affected).

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Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being a well known classic, I’m not sure what I can write about this book that hasn’t already been written, but I’ll try.

Prose – Exquisite, but not for everyone. The classic style will seem unwelcoming and distant to many readers used to modern voices, short sentences, and little flourish. I loved it, but did occasionally have to reread a sentence for understanding.

Story – Small town America, evil carnival, father and son. What’s not to like?

Favorite thing – Depiction of how we feel loss and regret as we age.

Least favorite thing – There are parts where Bradbury repeats himself, describing (and saying) the same thing over the course of several paragraphs. Gives you that “Didn’t I just read this?” feeling.

Overall – Strong recommend (if you enjoy a classic third person voice). If you typically only read contemporary authors, avoid.

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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prose – The prose in the prologue and first chapter is exceptional, but it flattens out after (it’s not bad, just simpler).

Story – X-Men meets Peter Pan, teenage love, Nazi (and some non-Nazi) monsters that want to be gods. All good elements, born from collections of old photos seen by the author. Inventive at times, cliché at others.

Favorite thing – The peculiar children. Entertaining and interesting. I especially liked Millard and Enoch.

Least favorite thing – Chapters are waaaaay too long for my taste. A lot to ingest and process in each.

Overall – Recommend.

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