Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Subpar Parks

America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors

by Amber Share

Subpar Parks

America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors

by Amber Share

Review posted September 18, 2021.
Plume (Penguin Random House), 2021. 206 pages.
Review written September 7, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 Sonderbooks Standout:
#6 Nonfiction

I have several friends who have recently vacationed in National Parks, and I want all of them to read this book. I love it! It’s a travel book, it’s a book of beautiful artwork – and it’s hilarious as well.

Amber Share traveled to National Parks from every region of America and made an iconic painting of a scene from each one. Then she superimposed on each painting the words from a one-star review of that park she found on the internet, in the style of an old-fashioned travel poster. The result is wonderfully comical in the juxtaposition.

Here are some examples, though it’s not nearly as good without the artwork:

At Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska: “Mountains not nearly tall enough.”

At Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho: “Not really what I thought.”

At Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii: “Didn’t even get to touch lava.”

At Lassen Volcanic National Park in California: “No idea what people like about this.”

At Yosemite National Park in California: “Trees block view and there are too many gray rocks.”

At Arches National Park in Utah: “Looks nothing like the license plate.”

At Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah: “Too orange; too spiky.”

At Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado: “It’s just a big mountain of sand.”

At Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis: “No real point.”

At Assateague National Seashore in Maryland and Virginia: “Horse poop on the beach.”

I should stop! The gorgeous paintings (always in poster style) of these parks make the comments all the funnier.

Besides the silly commentary from disgruntled visitors, this book is packed with information about the various national parks and gives ideas of what to see and do when you visit, including insider tips from park rangers. I for one have revived a childhood desire to do a big road trip and visit national parks across America. If I ever do it, I will bring along a copy of this book.