Let me say this before anything else: I think would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I was a twelve year old boy. Or just a twelve year old in general, but judging by my deep and abiding love for The Saddle Club and The Babysitters Club (hey, I was a social child, I liked the idea of friends in a club) I don't think I personally would have enjoyed this book even at that age without a gender adjustment.
It's not that I don't think it was well written - it was. It's not that I don't think the story is incredibly creative - it is. JRR Tolkien has described an enchantingly vivid world, filled to the brim with creatures other authors would address barely one at a time, explaining their complexity and backstories and interactions while retaining their humanity so the reader can identify with their words and actions.
And yet...I didn't love it.
My biggest problem with this book is just that - I didn't love it, and I could never for the life of me figure out why. I have so many friends (male AND female) who are completely entranced by this book, who tout its myriad accomplishments, and who would probably think I had brain damage for choosing almost any other book over this one, but its just not there for me. That love for the written word does not encompass all words in all combinations and certainly does not encompass this arrangement.
I think the problem is my lack of attachment to the characters, and I'm not sure exactly where the blame lies in that regard. On the one hand, maybe I didn't form an attachment because I've seen The Lord of the Rings (yes, I am aware that is also a book. It's on my list ok? Get off my back! Cough.) so I knew that SPOILER ALERT Bilbo survives long enough to pass the ring on to his nephew. I never really feared for his safety because I knew the book would end with him intact, and therefore never truly cared what events transpired around him. That doesn't explain my same lack of caring for the others - for the Dwarves, for the elves, for the culmination of their journey's various obstacles in the form of SECOND SPOILER ALERT a dragon guarding their treasure. At one point I had forgotten what their journey even was. Where's the fun in reading a story about a ramshackle group of tiny travelers if I can't even remember what their goal is?
AND THEN. When you finally do work up the energy to dig deep into the recesses of your prefrontal cortex (ok those are just words I know, they may not correspond to actual brain parts) and pull out the tiniest shard of information about the dwarves mission, when you finally again remember the purpose of this shared adventure that dragged Bilbo so far from his cozy hobbit hole, when you finally understand why they had to go through the Gremlin mountain (oh wait, that part had Goblins) to kill the evil dragon and regain control of their Dwarf treasure, you know what happens? Do you?
Someone else kills the damn dragon. He gets all cranky, flies over the village, and some guy who is not a very well explained character shoots him down into the lake. FOR REAL TOLKIEN? Poor Bilbo and Kiri and Fili and Gili and all other dwarves don't even get to take him out. And then there's a war over the treasure that, in a completely round-about way, brings peace to the land. I'm not making this up.
To sum up, I'm glad I finally read it. I'm glad I can feel justified in criticizing its major plot holes because I actually finished it. And I'm glad I know the prequel to LOTR, which I also plan on reading eventually. But it was a battle with boredom to get there and I can't see myself rereading or recommending it anytime soon.
The Hobbit: I wish I liked it more.