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
After "Drood" I approached "The Fifth Heart" with ambivalence. I loved the premise and the era, but I was so befuddled by "Drood" – which had an intriAfter "Drood" I approached "The Fifth Heart" with ambivalence. I loved the premise and the era, but I was so befuddled by "Drood" – which had an intriguing premise also – that I knew this one could be a disappointment. But to my surprise and pleasure, it was entertaining and satisfying. Dan Simmons does seem to have a habit of trying to throw in every famous person of the era he's writing about into his books, whether they really fit in or not, and this was not different in that regard. He also took long detours into metaphysical musings and a blow-by-blow description of the Chicago's world fair, not to mention some of the social and architectural history of Washington DC, that seemed shoehorned into the story. In other words, some of it was germane, but he went way past the required amount. However, despite those flaws, I thought his Sherlock Holmes and Henry James were well-crafted, and his mystery compelling and sometimes surprising as well. And of course, I do love historical mysteries, so this was right up my alley. Lastly, Simmons is a good writer so I was not let down by the pros or the characterizations. Most enjoyable, and I will look forward to more historical mysteries by this author....more
**spoiler alert** Two stars despite some positive attributes because the characterizations were really lame. The narrator, Hugo, is unattractive, fine**spoiler alert** Two stars despite some positive attributes because the characterizations were really lame. The narrator, Hugo, is unattractive, fine; but his behavior is wildly inconsistent, which is not okay. He's neurotic and delicate, almost fainting on several occasions, but at the end he's able to perform heroic surgery on himself when he's wounded? And that's just one example of the way his delineation doesn't hold up. The other characters are equally erratic. Hugo is madly in love with "savage girl" -- the wild teenager his parents adopt as a way of proving the superiority of nurture over nature -- and she rebuffs him, which makes sense since he is whiny and weak, but at the end she marries him because he noticed she had a blemish in her eye and some soothsayer told her the first man to notice this flaw would be her husband? The parents who adopt this girl are portrayed as strong at the beginning, but once things go south they fall apart and go MIA? I feel Zimmerman makes people act as she needs for them to act in service of the plot, rather than have the plot move forward as a consequence of the characters.
Other people have mentioned good writing and lots of authentic period details, and I concur, but if the characters don't hold together that's the kiss of death for me. Can't imagine reading another book by this author even though the subject she writes about -- history in New York -- is my favorite....more
Well written, if slow-paced, and seemingly as much of a societal description of the era as a mystery. I thought the language and the tone were very auWell written, if slow-paced, and seemingly as much of a societal description of the era as a mystery. I thought the language and the tone were very authentic – quite Austen like, but without the impish humor and with a lot more awareness of lower-class mores.
I liked the characters and was able to stay with the story; but I have to say that the denouement was disappointing, as there was absolutely no surprise or twist to it.
I might try another one, just for the heck of it; but the series apparently didn't fly, as there are no more books in it, and if they're all this obvious, I can see why....more
I was really up for this book as this is one of my favorite plots -- a current day individual solves a mystery from the past, with ghosts thrown in. AI was really up for this book as this is one of my favorite plots -- a current day individual solves a mystery from the past, with ghosts thrown in. Add to that a great setting -- London -- and what could hold more promise?
The good stuff first. Beverly Swerling is a decent writer, her characters are emotionally consistent, she clearly has a good grasp of history and the academia surrounding it. Even the plot, though of course unrealistic and over-the-top, kept my interest, because unrealistic and over-the-top is what I expect in this sort of fiction.
Here is where it fell short: the characters felt cliched, and therefore flat. Annie Kendall, the heroine, is a spunky former alcoholic, eager to redeem her reputation by scoring a historical coup; but somehow she never emerged as a quirky, three dimensional and unpredictable individual. Her boyfriend was an absolute cliche of the romantic hero: a celebrated political talk show star, incredibly handsome and of course sensitive, witty, considerate, AND a great lover. His immediate interest in Annie, soon evolving into love, just didn't feel realistic in a guy who would have had women falling at his feet. And of course there was his spunky mother, another too-perfect character, the wise rabbi who assists them -- none of them sprang to life for me.
Most readers seemed to have preferred the portion of the book that takes place in the medieval era, but I found Dom Justin, the monk who gets involved in the Avignon pope conspiracy, unpleasant and sanctimonious at best. He succumbs once to the attractions of Rebecca, daughter of "The Jew of Holborn" and then spends all his time lashing himself, and her, for his lapse -- basically not caring that she is carrying his child, and protecting himself, as the "superior male" while she takes the risks and does the thinking.
The villain, or villains, are not adequately fleshed out, nor was the denouement the least scary to me, as I had no doubt but what Annie would defeat the bad guys handily and get her man, in the time honored fashion of this genre.
The challenge of a writer in this situation is to create characters sufficiently real that you forget what the rules of the genre dictate and let yourself get swept away in the moment. That never happened to me.
So an adequate, B- experience when it could have been an A....more