Tonya's Reviews > A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  Smith
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Apr 19, 12


I read a LOT and it takes a lot for me to really dislike a book. I usually can find something redeeming in pretty much anything. Not this book. This has to be hands down the worst book ever written, although considering I haven't read every book ever written, then the worst I've ever read. It may have been good for it's time (although I find that hard to believe), it does NOT get better with age. The rambling disjointed writing style is excruciating and barely readable. The content itself is complete and utter crap. There are maybe a few OK moments (this is another stretch, I'm only trying to justify the single star). I absolutely HATED this book and had to force myself to finish it. I can't believe given the content that it is on the reading lists for schools. I am an adult and even I could barely understand what she was talking about half the time. If I could give a book ZERO stars then I would definitely do it for this one. I only picked one because I had to. AWFUL, HORRENDOUS, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME. A mockery of the term Classic.

Edited: It appears that my review is getting some attention from Tree lovers. I just want to add that while I agree that the book has a good message, the delivery was VERY poor. In addition, like many others I only have so much time to read. That being said, I would rather not waste it on something I hate (which in this case I felt almost forced to). So, if I can save someone the effort, then I feel this review was time well spent.
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Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Donna Whole-heartedly agree!! This is the worst book I have -ever- read!


Lindsay Honestly? I find this review ridiculous but interesting. I love this book more than anything but I read your review based upon my own sadistic habit of reading bad reviews about my favorite books. And as much as I disagree with you, I will admit its interesting to see opinions so radically different than my own and I respect your opinion. Which makes me want to ask you countless questions to try and better understand why you hate this novel so much.


message 3: by Tonya (last edited Jul 01, 2012 08:53PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Tonya I understand the concept of the book and even can admire the whole 'rise above' your roots, have hope (ala the tree) theme of the book. However I think the execution of the message was awful. I could name so many scenes that flabbergasted me. It was not enjoyable for me at all. The book itself was rambling and disjointed to me. She skipped from one awful incident to the next. I seriously could not believe this was on middle school reading lists. I don't even think a middle schooler could understand half of what was talked about in this book....(view spoiler) I could go on and on......seriously it was awful. I read it for a book club book. I was not the only one who felt this way. In the same way that you are astounded by my review, I was equally astonished that 99% of reviews that I looked at after reading it were actually POSITIVE. Ido not understand the appeal. At all. I do respect the opinion of those who liked it but felt since I was in the minority that I should do my part and write my review. I should probably go back and add some concrete examples at some point to my review and possibly articulate better what I felt was so awful.


Tonya Ps feel free to ask questions. :)


Andrew Kiser I'm very surprised that someone who has read as much as you could not appreciate the characterization of Francie. While reading passages, I felt like the author was describing scenes from my life (going to the library the first time, trying to read every single book on every single shelf) exactly. And as for the inappropriate content- I read this book years ago, when I was 13, and I was so glad, so relieved, that the school was finally trusting me with a story about LIFE - nothing watered-down or patronizingly simplified. I felt like this was one of the first times I ever really understood the human condition. I honestly can say the writing was so unobtrusive and elegant that I often forgot I was reading. But hey, if you disagree, I guess in matters of taste, there is no right or wrong.


message 6: by Tonya (last edited Jul 20, 2012 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Tonya Andrew wrote: "I'm very surprised that someone who has read as much as you could not appreciate the characterization of Francie. While reading passages, I felt like the author was describing scenes from my life (..."

Andrew, I feel this book falls into the 'love it' or 'hate it' camp and unfortunately I fall into the latter. I've begun to notice after reading many reviews that a lot of the people that love this book read it when they were much younger. Perhaps I could have appreciated it more then as I would have less to compare it to. However, reading it as an adult I found the writing style terrible and painful. It was rambling and felt like one big long run-on sentence to me. She jumped seemingly randomly from one event to the next. As I've repeatedly stated, I can appreciate the message but think it was very poorly executed. There are so many other things I could read that are much better written and would actually entertain me rather than infuriate me. I'm just glad that I got this from the library and didn't pay for it. In addition, if I hadn't been reading it on my Nook I probably would have thrown the book across the room a few times (like during the Christmas tree incident and Francie's interpretation of what the tree lot owner was really conveying to them by throwing a tree at them and swearing.....he really meant 'God Bless', yes I can totally see that as he practically decapitates you with a tree and curses you out.) I guess since I have read so many other books that I enjoyed so much more as an adult, maybe I just have too much that I think is better to compare it to. Was I perhaps a little harsh in my review....maybe. But that being said, I really did not like it all. I find it equally baffling that 95% of people do. I also find it inconceivable that there are people that can read that book over and over again. I'm a huge re-reader, there are tons of books that I will read over and over again. I would rather pick something that I've already read than read this book again. While I do understand the appeal of the message, I think the delivery stunk. Although I do think that one other redeeming part of the book as you mentioned probably is the part about going to the library and reading. That is about the only part of the whole thing I can relate to. I'm almost 35 years old and up until about 10 years ago my hometown library still had my original library card application that I filled out when I was 5. I wish I could have gotten it before they computerized. Other than that, the rest of the book did not appeal to me AT ALL.


Afsaneh What a life you must have lived! Would you tell us your opinion of the scene where Francie's English teacher tells her that she gets C's on her papers because their about her father because they're about an ugly subject matter and that she should burn them?


Tonya Afsaneh wrote: "What a life you must have lived! Would you tell us your opinion of the scene where Francie's English teacher tells her that she gets C's on her papers because their about her father because they're..."

If you're implying that I'm like the teacher and by saying bad things about it, I'm as bad the teacher then that is your opinion. And I wholeheartedly disagree. I have never and would never say that. I don't hate this book because of the subject matter. I read a lot of books that aren't all rainbows and unicorns. I don't object to the subject matter in this book. I said I found the rambling disjointed way that it was presented was excruciating. I also hadn't read my review in a while and in rereading it I did also say that the content was crap. That may have been a little harsh, but I think I wrote this after having my fill of some of the gushing reviews that are out there. I just couldn't wrap my brain around those and probably was a little harsher than necessary. I will concede that point. What I will reiterate is what I keep saying over and over and over again. I appreciate the message of the book: "Rise above your beginnings" and the symbol of hope that is the tree. I still think the execution of the message was awful. It was painful to read and not because of the subject matter. It was painful because I think the style of writing was terrible and I found myself wanting to edit the book, not read the content. Although I stand by my opinion that the content is questionable for middle schoolers. I also believe that if a child isn't interested in reading then this isn't the book to "turn them on" to reading. But once again this is only my opinion and everyone is entitled to one. Since I seem to be in the vast MINORITY, you really don't have much to worry about anyway, right? And as far as my life, it's overall been pretty terrific. I make no apologies for that. Good thing the time I wasted on this book that I didn't care for at all is only a blip on the radar.


Afsaneh Thank you for that clarification. Considering the repeated descriptions of people who, having risen above their beginnings, look down upon them with cruelty and disdain, it didn't seem to be the central message; rather, that there is beauty on every level of the human condition. That is why I brought up the scene with the English teacher.
However, I have no quarrel with your opinion of the book as pertaining to the writing style and content.


Afsaneh Even if I wholeheartedly disagree =) Hey, different strokes for different folks.


message 11: by Tonya (new) - rated it 1 star

Tonya Glad we can agree to disagree. :)


message 12: by Leah (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leah Tonya, I also agree with you. I had to read it for my book club and it took me the full library rental time to get through this one. I read all the time too, but this book was painstakingly slow. I will never read this book again. I gave it 3 stars because at 56% something finally happened. Dad died. Then it moved a little slower than at 73% it became stagnant again. Predictable towards the end also. I couldn't understand the excitement over this book either.


Crystal I'm a bit confused: what exactly was confusing about what she was talking about?
I read your comment about middle-schooler's not knowing what is going on, but I would have to disagree. In my experience, kids knew all that stuff by the time they were 8. It is just a matter of different perspectives. I think the people that have been closer to poverty get more out of this book than upper class privileged people (not saying you are either, just a thought).
I respect your review even though I disagree completely.


message 14: by Tonya (new) - rated it 1 star

Tonya I still disagree that middle schoolers would understand this book. I agree that they know about some of these things, but this book never actually comes right out and says it. It is inferred or coached carefully in Victorian type innuendo. There is no way that most middle schoolers would understand that. I agree that the message of the book is good however I still firmly believe that the execution was awful and the writing itself was terrible.


message 15: by Phyllis (new) - added it

Phyllis I can relate to this book,I am sixty and I read this wonderful book at least a half dozen times.


Christine I agree with you Tonya. The story started out, I thought, very good and I found some of it very moving,namely the way she conveyed the setting and characters through the eyes and heart of a child. The narrative seemed to degenerate into sentimentalism about a quarter of the way through and I could not go on with it. Having read some great writers, ATGIB is brain candy.


message 17: by Kenley (new) - added it

Kenley I COMPLETELY AGREE!!!! I didn't even rate it because there was no "0 stars" option!!! It was so bad and excruciatingly long!!! So hard to read and it just gets worse as the book goes on! Finally someone else understands. This was the first negative comment I saw and I jumped at the opportunity to like it! Truer words were never spoken!


message 18: by Tonya (new) - rated it 1 star

Tonya I know Kenley. It was pretty brutal. It read like one big run on sentence to me. IDK. It's extremely hard to find a bad review for this book. Everyone seems to love it. SMH....


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