First off, if you’re anything like me, you wrote this book off based on the title and cover. Still not surOh!! This one is a fun one. Yes, yes, it is!
First off, if you’re anything like me, you wrote this book off based on the title and cover. Still not sure why Dutton decided to err to the side of bland/not special/sorta stereotypical instead of appealing to us, fabulous, smart readers this book just YEARNS for. So what I’m asking you to do is to put it back on your holiday shopping list. You NEED this book. It is SPARKLY. (Although I promise you’ll get something more substantive than that in just a sec.)
Anna’s bestselling author of commercial fiction father decides he needs to look more cultured to the world at large, so he forces a year of The School of America in Paris down her throat. Yes, forces. Unlike you, me, and pretty much every other girl in the planet, Anna isn’t sure about this. Not when her crush has the potential to be something more. Not when she has a fantastic job. Not when she’s got friends. Think about it. Would you want to spend a year abroad in a place where you don’t speak the language, when everything in your life is going perfectly?
That’s right about where she was. But no matter—she’s being forced, remember?
So when she gets there and bawls her eyes out when her parents leave her at SOAP (love this), a girl knocks on her door and is pretty nice and awesome and that’s Meredith for you. (Couldn’t help thinking of The Office Meredith every time. Not a good picture.) She quickly finds herself situated in Meredith’s group of friends—wherein a guy named St. Clair is also located.
Three inches shorter than her and possibly all the more charismatic for it, St. Clair is just…wow. And that’s when the plot thickens. Because although her heart races, and although it’s obviously something special, and although THEY. ARE. SO. PERFECT. FOR. EACH. OTHER--
He has a girlfriend. She has a love interest back in the States. Neither wants to rock the boat, and neither wants to let go.
All this is the makings for my third favorite romance book ever (behind these two). Now we’ll get to the why.
You know how we’re always talking about how YA books have that tendency to make love based on looks pass off as something normal, or love based on the author’s insistence that love exists even when it clearly doesn’t, or some weird mixture of the two? You know how it’s almost always said too soon or without reason?
Guys. Their friendship is just—wow. You know? Think that person you just connected with. Think the closest thing to a soul connection. Now imagine that coming off the page so strongly, imagine it seems like they’re your friends and you’re the third wheel.
And here’s the hallelujah for friends first.
I loved how this novel handled things. Honestly, it’s truly and divinely romantic, in a subtle way that goes about without trying to acknowledge itself. This is just the best sort of feel-good book that inspires you and makes your heart long for the feelings it brings, so much so that it aches. I couldn’t get it out of my head—not St. Clair, not Anna, and not their story, which is meritorious of all the praise for it’s received.
If you like romance, if you like contemporary, if you’ve lost your faith in love in books, then this one’s for you.
And here’s a bonus reason to check out the book: Anna’s father is totally Nicholas Sparks and Ms. Perkins did something REALLY clever there, which, if you disliked this interview as much as I did, you’ll appreciate.
Also—Stephanie! Namesake! And Perkins! As in perk-ins!
I love a good name.
Who’s waiting for Lola and the Boy Next Door?! You gotta love Julie Strauss-Gabel’s (the editor) taste in books. The woman never fails....more
It’s epic in the way that makes you feel different, like you’ve aged, and tiCopied from my blog review, located here.
It’s epic in the way that makes you feel different, like you’ve aged, and tired, like you’ve trekked down a single road with no end in sight, and accomplished, like it’s made a ripple in you, affected you in some way. It makes you feel.
I came out of it not exactly crying, but kind of heaving a bit. The urge to cry was there, though. I just couldn’t make any tears come about. It hit me in a way that’s never happened before, like a huge emotional blow but not hugely emotional.
In The Hunger Games, Mrs. Collins creates a world we’re all captivated by, populated with characters we either love or hate, it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s clear that we clearly care.
In Catching Fire, she keeps us on our toes, pulls the rug from under us, and ends in a high note.
In Mockingjay, she recreates that world. She gives us more access to it. She spares no gruesome detail, makes not one thing neat, cuts no corners. She reshapes the characters, making them deeper and messier and more human. She breaks our heart, tugs at the strings of our imagination, makes it impossible for this world to not come alive.
She’s pushed the boundaries yet again here, and I am sure this will be hailed as one of the best series YA has to offer.
Mockingjay feels different from the other two. I’m immensely pleased with it, and yet it was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting something a little more…straightforward. Not that the previous two are straightforward in a linear way (not so), but they’re usually more earnest. This one’s careful, calculating. More mature in a way. Nothing’s light, nothing is inconsequential.
It also demanded my attention in a different way. I wasn’t reading for the action in and of itself, although that’s always a great motivator and there was plenty of that; I was reading because it was impossible not to. As I said on my Twitter, I love this, but not in a squealy and fangirly way. In a deeper way.
I’m not sure if I’ve said anything here, anything that entices anyone to read, as if there are many people at least in the blogging community who haven’t read it yet, but…there’s really not much to say. It’s useless trying to sell someone this book with an enticing summary because if you’ve come this far in the series, you’ll want to know what happens, and if you haven’t, you really should.
It is a GREAT read. It is a MONUMENTAL read. This is an example of how a novel can have a great ending without selling out, or making things too bright, or being stale to not cause waves. It’s an incredible example of an author whose imagination and whose work exceed her grasp. Who creates something so…wondrous.
Really, I’m in awe. This is a fucking powerful piece of work. Unexpected, breathtaking, hilarious, heart-wrenching, all the while graceful. Sometimes you get lucky to come across something like this.
Well, well, VERY well done, Mrs. Collins. And thank you, for a time well-spent, in a world I will be sure to revisit and, as much as I want to keep it to myself, will end up giving one-way tickets to, to anyone I can get to. Once in...never out. ;)
Well, if nothing else, Kristi is a fantastically funny and witty narrator. She’s got wonderful, unique traits, like the fact she makes her clothes out of the most absurd materials--such as umbrellas!--and is great at it. Or how she’s obsessed with opera to block out people’s thoughts. Reading her account of what happens is oftentimes hilarious and I stopped MANY times to mark down quotes I like. Just so you have an idea:
*Jacob’s parents are English, but that’s not the reason they’re weird. They’re so pale that when you first see them, you think they’re dead, and when you get to know them, you wish they were.
*“Oh?” Brian asks, raising one eyebrow in delight. I guess he isn’t delighted enough to raise both eyebrows.
*David leans over Hildie and looks at her work. I’m pretty sure he’s smelling her work. He’s a teacher? Mallory asks. [in a note:] He seems to think so, I write back.
*“You have a nice house,” Gusty says. I shrug. “It keeps the rain off my head.”
That’s really, really great voice.
And yet…this novel was rather weak. It felt half-done, uncooked, not left out to marinate enough--whichever sounds best.
Right off the top of my head, the thing that most bothered me was that everything had this stereotypical feel to it, and in a really unpleasant way, to boot. It honestly felt like the school and some of the main characters were pre-made for cutting corners on creativity so as not to dig too deeply and thus complicate an otherwise very neat story. Like Jacob, one of the only students who was friends with Kristi. He’s so categorically nerdy: annoyingly overeager, spits too much, uses too big words to be cool and is naïve-bordering-stupid. Or the principal of the New Age-y high school, who’s a total hippie caricature and only seems to pop up to get students to “express themselves” or do some other--again with this term--New Age-y exercise. Or Hildie, the ex-BFF, who is evil and slightly slutty and whose motives for being evil are…never explained. Or The Father, who apparently suffers from Peter Pan Syndrome. This wouldn’t be such a problem if they weren’t defined by only those listed traits.
Bottom line is, almost no character is given nearly significant screen time so as to come to life.
And then the other very, VERY tiring thing in this novel is the amount of times we hear about guys staring at Kristi’s huge-ass boobs. And when I say huge-ass, I mean what I gather to be C-cups. Like I said, everything is so stereotypical that there doesn’t seem to be not even ONE guy who doesn’t drool over them. Of course, there is also not a chapter that goes by in which we don’t hear about how huge they are.
She seems to get more success with her C-cups than I get with my D-cups. What I’m saying is, that’s not exactly how it goes down. Not every single guy on the face of the planet--especially not your good friends whom see you every day--will be thinking very explicit thoughts about you 24/7.
Aaaaaand… there’s a lot more I could list that bothered me. How all of Kristi’s thoughts seemed to be about how ugly so-and-so is and how beautiful (and therefore stupid) so-and-so is and how this guy who happens to really like her is so ugly she can’t stand looking at him and how it’s okay for her to think like this but the moment one of the popular girls brings up his skin it’s “shallow” and how her father’s big revelation isn’t treated carefully enough and he comes out looking like a total ditz and that really cannot be how he is and it’s just another example of the stereotypes/too-simple-characterizations here.
Or I could bitch about how Kristi’s remorse progresses unevenly and culminates in a very lame and not meaningful enough way to be a hallmark of this novel, or how the Bad Skin Dude develops a sort of bond with one of the popular girls that is never fully explained, or how disgustingly Kristi’s ignorance of the seriousness of anorexia is excused when she admits she didn’t know “it could kill you”.
And then there’s the issue with the hearing voices thing. The idea of WHY is only very briefly presented and it’s quite interesting, but the author just kinds of leaves you hanging at the end in a very un-cool and frankly too-lazy-to-tie-this-up way.
All in all, loved the voice, but the execution could have been done MUCH better. I did finish the book, and since I did say it felt half-cooked, I will give it 5 out of 10 stars, which is what, like, a C-? D+? Hmm. I'd read more by this author for the voice alone, though. Like I said: funny!
I cannot do Rachel Cohn anymore. I just--I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve read most of her books, I even enjoyed one or two, but the latest ones were tI cannot do Rachel Cohn anymore. I just--I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve read most of her books, I even enjoyed one or two, but the latest ones were torturous to get through and just--ARGH, I’m on the edge, BIG TIME.
Quick assessment: the first part is kind of really jumbled up and sometimes boring and if you're anything like me, you'll have no desire to go on but only do so because you must finish the book to be fair in your review. Nothing really happens; the characters are just...there...and they're not there to entertain or intrigue or compel, they're just there to exist and only sheer force of will moved that portion of the book forward for me.
But then, the second part is much, much better. At first. Then it's just--oh, we'll get there when we get there.
So, in the second part, Very's in rehab and she decides to commit this time, even though El Virus may be out there. Now, this is something I didn't really understand: Why, if he was such an obsession before, was she so readily able to let go of him and of her hopes of finding him over the summer? You have to understand that in the first part, this girl didn't so much as breathe without imagining him doing dirty things to her and then, when he's finally back on her turf, she just goes...click! What???
Moving on: she works on her addiction, reluctantly at first, in this place that has absolutely NO electricity. In the rehab, she talks to a much-needed shrink and those scenes are the best parts of the entire book. Rachel Cohn did a BEAUTIFUL job with Very's character. That is the one huge highlight in the book. Her motivations are complicated but well-founded, her character arc is great, and her voice is natural and for the most part consistent. I didn't really LIKE her as a person, but at least I, the reader, viewed her as one.
And then it went bad again.
HUGE SPOILER ALERT
. .. ... .... ... .. .
Very meets El Virus at the camp. They're all soul-mate-y but she's become less promiscuous so she holds back on putting out and then, when she gets her one night out near the end of the program, she sees her college roommate who's going to a nearby camp at the same joint she goes to and somehow they kiss and she realizes she's in love with HER and--GAH.
I mean, it's implied that the roommate is lesbian before all this happens and Very is an open bisexual who's been with other girls, so at least it's not all that ~OUT THERE~, but WHY, GOD, WHY?
WHY did El Virus need to show up? And why did he need to be, quite frankly, a little bit...creepy?
And WHY did there need to be a cheeseball conclusion to an otherwise down-to-Earth book about a cynical girl who DOES NOT DO CORNY?
This is where this book becomes a train wreck. God.
Without mentioning that from the depiction in the book, it's really hard to make up your mind about whether you believe in technology addiction or not.
And beyond this, I didn't like this book because I didn't like its tone. I mean, Ms. Cohn is very adept at world-building and YES, she's definitely got a huge talent for voice. But...there's something intangible that just sets of me off. There's the fact I didn't like the structure of the book or how it dealt with sex, but this goes much deeper than that. It just--
This is why I can't read Rachel Cohn anymore. I think her books are all wrong for me in terms of essence, never mind the other stuff that goes into books (characters, plot, etc) and I can't explain why. It's unsettling.
But anyway--D+. Very, at least, was well-done....more