It certainly made me wonder: perhaps my reaction to the book is based just as much on my own world view and prejudices going in. It's definitely possible that my response to this MC's circumstances (which continued to stink throughout, right up to the very end when finally the MC caught a break) was negative enough that it colored everything else I read.
It takes me back to question(s) on Verla's where people ask why we write and read what we do. I answered jenny_moss's question there as such: I write what I want to read, the stories I feel haven't been told in a manner which drives me to read them. Certainly I would not be compelled to write a story similar to this "bitter book". I hear all the time that I need to make like horrible for my MCs, but for me, this doesn't mean heaping a world of circumstantial trouble on the person throughout. Instead, it means keeping what my MC wants most just out of reach -- kind of like the whole carrot before the rabbit idea.
When done well (which, I might add, is definitely something I'm still working on in my books), that dangling carrot, whatever it might be, not only keeps the MC moving forward, it also engages the reader and keeps us going. In the "bitter book", there was a carrot, imo. But that's where my perception clearly differed from other readers: I felt that the carrot was the MC learning to accept life's challenges without them making her vengeful and bitter -- and I felt she never got that carrot. Clearly others disagreed. Or perhaps they saw a different carrot ;)
What do you think? Are the best stories those which have multiple carrots, perhaps? Something which will engage as many readers as possible? What books do you feel have used the 'carrot out of reach' the best?
Answering my own question, I'm going to use the example of Tracking Daddy Down, by marybethkelsey. I'm using this for a couple of reasons -- first, I recently read it so it's fresh in my mind. Second, it's MG, as was the "bitter book", so for me, it's a better comparison. Anyway, in TDD, I felt the main carrot was Billie's desire for a good father. This carrot definitely got my interest, because immediately there's the pulling the carrot out of reach: Billie's dad just robbed a bank.
Even though I suspected how the book would end ;), I wanted to see how it was done. (mild spoiler here -- though no specifics) I was engaged enough in Billie's struggle that I truly wanted to see her work through it all -- and when Billie finally gets her carrot (though in a way she certainly didn't expect), I celebrated and rejoiced right along with her (tears and all, for me).
In the "bitter book", I was also engaged in that struggle. I wanted to see the MC work through it and find a better place (emotionally speaking) -- but for me, although she did make some strides, it was as if the main carrot (imo) was never reached.
So perhaps my entire problem with the book is that I chose the wrong carrot as my reason for reading -- don't you love all the possible ways to consider these things? :)