Let me be completely honest.
If I were to rate my book, I might rate it 7/10.
There are some aspects of the book that don’t settle with me but it’s not because I think they suck, it’s just that some scenes were uncomfortable to read (and even more uncomfortable to write). There are some scenes I wish weren’t in the book as a reader, but as a writer, as the one entrusted to tell the story of my characters, it just felt like it needed to be written. And then at some point, I found that the story was emotionally heavy. But it is. No matter how fun college can get, actions have repercussions. Even the ones you think are harmless might affect someone else in a drastic way. And given all the ideas the story tries to convey, one main idea is that life is a circle.
I do find the story entertaining. But to thoroughly enjoy the story, the reader has to know a little bit of Indian culture or is at least open to accepting the notions of the Indian culture put across in the book. Because there are some things in the story that are uniquely Indian. I realise I might have ruined my market reach with such a story, actually I ruined a lot of things because of that. Firstly, my chances of being locally published in Singapore. Secondly, reaching my own circle of friends since most of my friends aren’t of Indian origin. Not having a circle in India at all. Issues.
But here’s the thing. I wasn’t really thinking of publishing and I wasn’t bothered about all these issues when I started writing this story. Hell, I didn’t even realise setting my story in India and having Indian characters would be an issue. (Technically it isn’t. The issue is that I’m not based in India, which makes this harder for me). I was just really interested in writing about Sara. By the way, if it wasn’t obvious, I’ll say it explicitly, no part of me is Sara. Sara’s reflects qualities I dislike. I actually don’t recognise myself in none of these characters. So there’s that?
Moving on to my next point: the actual god damn writing. In the spirit of honesty, I will confess that I’ve got no actual formal training in writing.
I do like it though. Like I constantly blog in my English and Singlish. I like writing essays for school. I like stories. But liking writing and writing a lot don’t mean I’m any good at it. I get it. And I severely underestimated the ability to put down a well-thought-of story with plot twists and bread crumbs all the way. It was hard and my first draft was hella terrible.
Maybe I’m trashing myself too much because some of my friends did plough through the entire rough first draft and they were meh about it. They thought the story was fine. I thought so too but they didn’t hate it like I did. But maybe you should take their opinions with a pinch of salt, some of my friends ate slices of overburnt pizza I made even though I had spat out mine. Meh. I digress.
But point is, the very first draft was hella boring and heavy. I overdid the explanations for everything. There were not much plot twists. When I redid it, I dropped a lot of explanations. And I mean it kind of made sense to me. Because the book’s in Om’s point of view. He’s narrating his story but he doesn’t realise there’s an audience, you see. So it makes no sense for him to be explaining things that are a common occurrence to him.
But anyway, the writing style is not what people are used to. I will agree to that. It’s to the point and it gets the scene going, scene after scene after scene. And I think that has got more to do with me as a person than anything else.
I personally… don’t like details and descriptions that much. If there’s paragraphs and paragraphs worth of descriptions, I’m skimming through all of it to where the action is, which is why I couldn’t stand my first draft. I couldn’t read past the first three freaking subchapters of my very first draft. Too much bloody description and I took most of ’em out. I’m cool with some descriptions. Give me an idea of the place, of the person and how they are feeling, but all I really want is what the person is going to do. If you feel like shit, you feel like shit, fine, what next? I don’t like a paragraph about the person feeling shitty. I’m really more interested in what that shittiness makes the person do. And I mean the only time a whole paragraph is spent on a character feeling shitty is when the character is not going to do anything about it. And I dislike characters like that. I dislike characters that are drowning in their emotions. Because life goes on. Shit will pile up if you don’t do something. I know that because I’ve let myself drown in my emotions before and things didn’t get better. When you address the issues that overwhelm you, things might not get better, but it prevents it from getting worse. But I guess those books that focus on those emotions are a different genre of books altogether. But anyway, I hate too much description and details. And so once the story starts, The Final Year Project keeps going and going. It’s an endless excitement over the course of a college year. Of course, in college not every day is full of excitement. There are boring, generic days. These days are skimmed through the book. The story is divided into semesters and each semester is divided into a few chapters which are a period of one to five consecutive days. These ‘one to five days’ are the days where shit goes down. But of course, how the characters spent the rest of the semester is also mentioned to assist with the transition. Is this way of writing good? Idk. It might be exhausting. But I think I laid the traps right? So even though you’re exhausted, you want to continue on, because there’s something there? Hahahahha. Maybe. Try the book and let me know?
For other positives, I’d say the story is realistic. Like this was the most important factor I considered going in. It had to be realistic. I wanted things to be as crazy as they can get without book magic (*book magic: like movie magic when a subplot/scene goes unaddressed/unexplained, but you’re supposed to think all went swell). Anyway, I wanted them to be able to do the most craziest of things within their means. Get in as much crazy ass trouble as they can get and get out while within their means. This is actually one of the most important reasons why the story is set in India. See, there are a couple of things that can work in India that will just not work elsewhere. A couple of things that I can get away with because it’s India. Like the scene where one of the character bribes someone. In most other locations, the act of bribing calls into question the morality of the characters involved and the scene that is being created will be diverted to address a different issue. And that’s terrible. I do not endorse bribery bytheway.
I’m just saying, because bribery is so commonly mentioned among people in everyday conversation in India it’s not made to sound as serious as it is. Imagine if someone bribed someone in Singapore. That’s it. The one giving the bribe – is he a good guy or bad guy – the guy accepting the bribe – is he a good guy or bad guy – will these people get caught by the law? What are the characters backstories, is it that they are in need of money? How serious is the issue that it requires a bribe? All these subplots when seriously all I want is for the scene to move on to what happens after the bribe because the issue which required the bribe is not THAAAT serious. You can argue that I can just not address these subplots. But I can’t leave it hanging either if the context is Singapore. Because you don’t get away with such shit in Singapore. Bribery is so serious, that there better be a good ass reason for it and your characters better be staking their lives or their careers on it. But yes, this is why the book is set in India.
Moving on. What I really love about the whole story though is the nuances in most of the scenes. I mean despite the writing being to the point, Om’s voice is very particular. He narrates in a very specific manner. As much as you pay attention to how he sees things, you might want to pay attention to the things he sees for what they are for that’s where the real story is. The most beautiful qualities of the other characters in the story are revealed in the things Om chooses to leave unexplained. And you get to understand the type of person Om is, by the way he sees things (hint hint: he’s not an unreliable narrator, he’s not hiding things on purpose). But the thing about the nuances is that you also have to have some basic understanding of Tamil culture references.
But another positive would actually be the characters. They’re all a little fcuked up. They each have their own issues they’re grappling with throughout the story. But because we can only see things from Om’s point of view, no matter how observant Om is, we only see the actions of the other characters without so much knowing the reasons behind them… until it’s too late. And I find that it only attests to the realistic nature of the story too. Because everyone’s going through shit.
Let’s see… how else can I upsell my book… I don’t know. It’s one hell of a ride. From start to end. There are so many ups and so many downs but it does grow significantly heavier and heavier. Because hello? Someone’s going to get hurt. No one gets hurt during good times. Question is, who? And why?
So my verdict is 7/10. It’s as enjoyable as it is exhausting just as life is supposed to be.