Why I'm not going to finish The Finisher, by David Baldacci

I tried.  I really did, to read The Finisher, by David Baldacci (Scholastic, 2014, upper MG/YA).   But I can't go on--119 pages was plenty, and I just could not press on toward page 497. 

Here's what didn't work for me; of course, your mileage may vary and this is all just Personal Opinion.

The World Building.   The story takes placed in an isolated community ringed by a wilderness full of scary monsters, who seem, for the most part, to stay in their wilderness (there are exceptions, like the two that mysteriously show up in the factory at night, or possibly they lived in the factory and only came out at night?  But then whose job was it to shut them in?  But if they came from the wilderness,  why didn't they monstrously rampage en passnat as they made their way to the factory?  or perhaps they appeared and disappeared magically.  If any of you all have in fact read the book to the end, let me know).   

But in any event, if you are offering me a fictional closed community, I want to rest assured that you have have thought out all the logistical implications of education, family structure, supply and demand, and how big your community is. Is inbreeding a problem?  what are the sources of raw materials?  that sort of thing.   If you offer me a priest-equivalent, I want some assurance that you have thought about just who the gods (or whatevers) are, and if you call your community Wormwood, I'm wondering if that's a reference to the Book of Revelations (waters turning bitter, and people dying thereby), because nothing should be just chance in creating a world such as this, but though here are lots of bits of Strange Things all thrown in the pot together, there is nothing as thematically coherent as this as of Page 119.

 I do not think that saying "canine" instead of "dog," and other such substitutions, actually in and off itself makes a world beautifully fantastical, even if you tell me point blank that the horse-equivalents once had wings.    Having the women referred to as "females," as in "his female," doesn't go all that far to convincing me you are constructing a rich and deeply textured fictional society.   And just a minor point--calling your beautiful anti-heroine of great power Morrigone makes me think you haven't read enough King Arthur stories, or Celtic-inspired fantasies, because otherwise you'd have realized that this name has baggage.

But above all  I couldn't stand that the people are called Wugs.  I was not sure they were human for quite some time (and there are still lingering doubts)--I was picturing greenish simians that looked a bit like carpets.

The Writing.   Now, maybe some of the infelicities of tense awkwardness were caught and changed.  But sometimes the writing is short sentences.  That go like this.  And sometimes there's more verbosity in describing things than necessary, and sometimes the Wug female who is the heroine, Vega Jane, uses kind of contemporary slang, and sometimes less so, and to put it in a nutshell, I was burning through a lot of post-it notes.  Once I start noticing that someone's writing isn't working for me, I just start noticing more and more things that kick me out of the story.

The Difficulties of Suspending Disbelief.  There were lots of moments when this just wasn't possible.

Example 1 (fairly minor point):  Vega Jane, in her tree top retreat, draws a map on herself.   Problem 1:  where did she get the pen? This is not the sort of place where Wugs of the lower sort have lots of pens on hand (I think).  Problem 2:  I have written things on myself with Sharpies, and there has been no trace of them  within a few hours, no water applied.  Problem 3:  She's able to read the map, and books she encounters, because she is literate--why are lower order Wugs being educated?  It doesn't make sense. (See World Building, above).

Example 2 (much more major):  I am actually just fine with a main character suddenly and with no explanation being washed out of a building down a secret tunnel thing in a river of blood and being saved by a magical chain, and then the blood becoming imaginary or something.  These things happen. 

But I expect the main character to wonder a bit about the whole ensemble.  Though porcelain toilets are nifty when you've never seen one before, are the hygiene standards of the wealthy really enough to make you not wonder about a river of blood (the Book of Revelations again?) that almost drowned you before disappearing just a few pages ago?  The chain she does think about (because with its help she can fly!), but as of page 119, it was as if the blood never happened and we've moved on to the threat of attack from potentially invasive outlaws (who didn't get eaten by monsters), with concomitant Rabble Rousing and community wall-building etc.  As well as Vega Jane's visit to the house with the nice bathroom. 

Basically, I did not feel the plot and the characterization were meeting my needs as a reader.

Final thought: 

Writing a good middle grade or young adult fantasy is not easy.  The ability to write best-selling adult thrillers doesn't mean you'll be able to pull it off successfully.  

But of course I did not finish the book, and maybe it would have all made beautifully coherent sense at the end, and so feel free to disagree with me  utterly and completely.

Here is the Kirkus Review.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.


  1. Argh. Hard, when this happens. I am trying to gracefully tell someone I can't blurb a book with some of the same issues. I finished it, but I wish I were as articulate as you in saying all the things which were warning bells and waving flags for me - but I think the nice way of putting it is that it "kicked you out of the story."

  2. A main reason I didn't finish it is that I was so busy being articulate out loud to my family as I reading it that it was interfering with the quality of their lives......and yes, "kicked me out of the story" is a tactful standby I'm rather fond of.

  3. Hmmm. From your post, I can see why you didn't finish this one. I would have wondered about many of the same things too.

  4. I think you gave it a chance (and then some)--DNFing it was the best option. I wonder how this book even happened, though--was it Baldacci's idea? An enterprising agent or editor's? Hmm.

  5. Yes, yes and YES. I did not get much further than you did. Anamaria-- there's a preface by Baldacci telling how this book stayed with him for a long time and just begged to be written, and that he's so very fond of it. That made it even harder to read, since (like Charlotte) I had trouble investing myself in the world, the characters, or the story. It looks like the book is going to get a lot of hype as well. Something just did not click for me.

  6. I'll be the first here, it looks like, to say that I honestly loved this Book. I suppose that, being in high school, I'm exactly the kind of person that he's catering to, but I believe that this was a pretty damn well crafted story. I really enjoyed it. I'm not going to go into why, because a lot of what stayed with me happens around, I think, after you stopped reading.
    I would advise finishing the book, it might make you think better of the book.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and speaking up in favor of the book! I do hate not finishing a book, because I do think it's possible for even the last few paragraphs to change my mind about it....but in this case, I just wasn't enjoying it at all, and I have so many other books to read....Maybe someday!


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