Because I write both YA and adult in an array of spec fic sub-genres, I let myself believe that I was self-moderating my reading in order to toe that line. I tend to switch things up a lot. A YA paranormal, an adult steampunk, a YA dystopian, an adult urban fantasy... It means I read a little of a lot of things, but not a lot of anything. It seemed like a brilliant way to do things. (Note: The book covers used for this post are just a few of the YA books I've read over the past year, and the one in question is not included--because I'm just mean that way.)
Until someone in the know read my manuscript and said (paraphrased) "It feels really similar to _________, but I'm sure you've read that." Uh... no. I hadn't. The book in question was in that spot on my TBR Pile where I'd looked at it, held it in my hands, and then someone (I honestly can't remember if it was a review or a direct comment from a friend) said something that made me think I wouldn't like it. So it was shuffled down the pile to be lost with dozens of other books I haven't made it to yet. I moved on to something newer and shinier in the same genre.
But when the comparison was made, I dug out the book. And yeah. I never read it, but there are a lot of similarities, both with regard to some characters and some world-building issues. The stories themselves are different, but the parallels are there. Fortunately, parts of it will be addressed in the changes I'm making to my manuscript, but it begs the question of how to find that perfect balance between reading enough and not reading too much.
Obviously this time, I erred on the wrong side. As soon as I have some breathing room between reviews, I'm going to spend it filling the gaps in my dystopian reading. Because just knowing the premise of the other books out there doesn't tell you the smaller things that matter--the little bits and pieces that might be too close to your manuscript.
Plus... I didn't hate the book. It wasn't my favorite, but I enjoyed the writing and the romance angles. (I like more action than this particular book had in it. Plus, the fact that no reasons were given for why the society had become so regulated bothered me the whole time. I don't need a lengthy reason, just some hint as to why this is considered so much better or necessary compared to what came before.)
So, since I need more... anyone know of any great dystopians coming out soon so I can grab a galley to review them? :P