Another month, another book club pick I read after our meetup date. I picked “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” by Katarina Bivald to read alongside my favorite Des Moines book lovers/ girl squad in April…and I feel a little bad about it, even though we all voted to read it.
Here’s what I thought.
“The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend gets 2.5 stars from me. Overall, I had very mixed feelings about it.
What I liked
This book has some cute moments and at its core it celebrates a love of books. I can’t help but like that aspect as a book lover. A couple characters (like Caroline and Tom) made me laugh a few times. And, I really enjoyed a few scenes.
Unfortunately, on balance this just fell flat.
What didn’t work for me
The pacing of this is painfully slow. I wanted to DNF (Did Not Finish) it, but felt I couldn’t since I picked it. It didn’t hook me, and I felt very disconnected for a little over half the book. It picked up in the last half and I was much more engaged in learning the ending after around page 240 (in a 394 page book).
Most of the characters are extremely flat, so there’s not much to connect to. You don’t get to know really even the main characters as intimately as a book like this requires to be enjoyable.
I also felt the book was just pretentious at times. No book lover I know takes books as seriously as the book lovers in this book. We love books, we love reading them, and they hold a special place in our heart…But Sara is next level in a way that’s just not relatable. The narrator’s voice at times makes things that wouldn’t otherwise feel pretentious feel just ridiculous.
Also, this book spoils a whole bunch of classic books you may or may not have read. I’d definitely recommend seeing the list at the end before you start reading if this bothers you.
I also didn’t appreciate that the book relies heavily on stereotypes of small town America, and of Iowa. Like really? A town full of people proud that Oak trees are the state tree? Sorry, but we Iowans are all much more interesting than that, even in small towns. The details included about Iowa felt like they were trying too hard, and pulled straight from a Wikipedia article of things Iowa is known for. Also, is Bivald unaware that Iowa City is a UNESCO city of literature? We have many readers in this state. In summary, this didn’t feel true to the Iowa I know and love.
Last, but most definitely not least as this is a big issue for me. I felt LGBT+ topics and the idea of race in small town America weren’t handled well in this book. They were used as plot devices that were completely underdeveloped. And always, these moments were very stereotypical, borderline offensive. It didn’t sit right with me when I was reading, and still doesn’t upon further reflection.
Would not recommend
Overall, I thought pieces of the book were cute, but I wouldn’t recommend it to other readers. People compare “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” to “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” which irritates me because that book is better in every conceivable way…My recommendation: save your time and skip this. Pick up Guernsey instead if you’re looking for a bookish romance with letter writing involved.