I was not prepared for the reaction I had to this book.
I read it, as I read a lot of YAs, because I am writing a teen book and was researching fifteenI was not prepared for the reaction I had to this book.
I read it, as I read a lot of YAs, because I am writing a teen book and was researching fifteen year old girl voices. Anika, the narrator, is a sophomore, so I decided to give it a try.
At first, I was put off by the bad language, as were some other reviewers. On page 2 Anika informs us that her best friend is a slut who has been told by a boy that “she has the biggest pussy he’s ever fucked.” That almost made me stop. Not so much because I was offended as because this girl sounded way wilder than my own protagonist, so was not much use as a prototype. But for some reason I kept reading and I’m glad I did. Even though the character and the book were not really useful research-wise, I found them stunning and unforgettable.
Anika’s voice is amazing. Many reviewers have complained about her trashing other kids, her sisters, her step father, her own father, and Nebraska (just to name a few) but I soon understood that it was fifteen year old extremism, a wild use of vocabulary and emotion that needs to be discounted in the name of teen immoderation. Complaining about her over-the-top use of language/feelings is like complaining about Holden Caulfield swearing a lot. Teen angst, teen insecurity, teen judgementalism, that’s the point, y’know? If you don’t get that, you’re not going to get this book. Or “Catcher in the Rye”, one of the great teen classics of all time, for that matter.
Under all that dramatic excess, Anika is actually a very decent person. Yes, she is best friends with the mean diva. But high school is a battle she is trying to keep afloat in, and she isn’t kidding herself about her compromises. At the same time she has enough depth to recognize the specialness of the class outsider, a poetic but damaged youth she falls in love with. She reaches out to an African American co-worker at the fast food place where she works, a gesture that in her small and very white town in Nebraska has real meaning. She loves and appreciates her mother (who I have to say is pretty amazing, but doesn’t get much notice from her other kids.) She struggles with her less-than-perfect behavior. In the end, her values are real.
There are ways in which “Misfit” is completely outlandish, like when the boho poet boy arranges a fire-drill so he can let loose a swarm of butterflies into Anika’s art room as a gesture of love, but in a way that fits with the slightly fantastical tone of the book. Clear away some of the fairy-tale over-the-top-episodes, and you have something that is very true. And the ending, which is life changing for her, both comes out of nowhere and is completely predictable, which is the way the best endings should be.
So in sum: some people may hate this book. Some may simply not get it. But if you get it, it will be a heart-wrenching experience. And yes, it might just change you a little bit. ...more
**spoiler alert** When I finished this book I felt extremely annoyed, because it was such a rip-off of "We were Liars." (I notice that E. Lockart prai**spoiler alert** When I finished this book I felt extremely annoyed, because it was such a rip-off of "We were Liars." (I notice that E. Lockart praised the book, which amazed me. If someone had lifted my surprise ending, I would not be so generous.)
How can such a talented, well-regarded author like Lauren Oliver simply copy a twist in a recent best seller? It feels brazen.
I also tired of her unending flow of similes, as well as her endless descriptions of people's breath (Lauren Oliver must have an incredibly acute olfactory sense, because unless someone has outright bad breath or has recently swigged mouthwash, I don't give this matter a second thought.) It got to the point that when Nick was physically close to someone, I would wonder: "I wonder what his/her breath will smell like to her?"
The metaphors, similes, descriptions and memories (constant flashbacks to experiences Dara, Nick and Parker shared) are all effective, but their sheer quantity lessen their power.
But here's MY twist, after all these complaints: I still loved this novel.
First of all, Lauren Oliver is an incredibly gifted creator of characters. (Having read many YA's, and having waded through endless shallow, wooden, clichéd, and just plain inconsistent protagonists, I can attest to how many writers are not.) She knows her stuff. She is a master at plumbing the human psyche and the human heart. Even when there are apparent inconsistencies in her characters, you soon realize these inconsistencies make sense given who the characters are.
She is also a terrific wordsmith. I know, I know, I complained that she overdoes it, and she does, but each individual simile or comparison works works individually.
And even though the ending -- which despite having read "We were Liars" I didn't expect, because who would have the chutzpah to use the same twist so soon? -- annoyed me for its imitativeness, it still WORKED. It was psychologically apt. I'll now probably feel compelled to go back and revisit all the inconsistent narrator clues and hints, but my bet is that Oliver will have done her homework and I wont be able to trip her up.
So on the whole, I was gripped and compelled all the way through, particularly the second half, and I found Nick and Parker poignant protagonists that I wanted to follow, rooting for a positive ending. Which, despite the sad aspects of the book, it was.
Four stars because Anthony Horowitz is a good writer who keeps the pace moving and creates characters you care about. Another critiquer mentioned – riFour stars because Anthony Horowitz is a good writer who keeps the pace moving and creates characters you care about. Another critiquer mentioned – rightly – that this is not up to the standard of the iconic "Foyle's War" and maybe someday Anthony will replicate that artistic triumph in a novel. (Though I have to say that "House of Silk", his Sherlock Holmes, was very satisfactory.)
In the meantime, this is an entertaining if mindless read, and I'm just glad that writers are producing good, flowing, exciting prose in the service of the young adult genre. Because while it may seem the story is superficial, making it exciting and descriptive and flowing is not that easy! (I know, I've been struggling with a Y. A. myself!)...more
I love Y.S.Lee. She does such a good job with her characters and her era. She does such a good job of creating this female detective who could never hI love Y.S.Lee. She does such a good job with her characters and her era. She does such a good job of creating this female detective who could never have existed in the real Victorian era, and making it perfectly plausible nevertheless. The mystery wasn't as good in this one as in the first, but I love the interplay between Mary and James and I just bowled along, thoroughly entertained....more