Everyone must to some extent still remember the all-school summer reading book, Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid. I’ve heard two common reactions to this story: “I loved this book!” or “Why did Loomis decide to make us read this?” In most cases the latter was more common. There are a couple of reasons for the general dissatisfaction.
Most of us do not like the feeling when small details don’t reconnect and leave you hanging. Exit West had a ton of mini-stories that were never tied into the rest of the novel! At the end of some chapters, it would jump to another part of the world where someone just came out of a magical door, and that’s all we ever get. Did they live? Where do they go? We never know. Exit West goes beyond typical suspense; you either felt none because you were disinterested or you were overwhelmed by all of the “suspense” and fill-in-the-blanks created by the lack of necessary details. Either way, the readers often ended up confused.
Moreover, many felt that employing magical realism was an awkward decision for this storyline. Hamid spent so much time describing unimportant details (such as the characters’ need for phones and social media, and a random story about a veteran looking at the young officers) but did not elaborate on the most foreign aspect: the magical doors. Where do they come from? Why do new ones keep popping up? We still never find out.
Maybe why we do not like a certain book is because we don’t connect with the characters. When Saeed and Nadia suffer, we aren’t sad or touched, but just feel bad. Especially for the seniors who read two vastly different books, “Reading [Exist West] after All the Lights We Cannot See, a book in which I felt I knew everything about the characters, I was looking for something more detailed and engaging on a personal level,” revealed Anil Anderson, “I was looking for something that would make me feel connected to the characters.” Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen. Maybe next year’s all-school read will be better. I won’t be here to see though!! #yeet