This is one of those novels that I enjoyed reading and I cannot pinpoint what exactly it was that grabbed my interest no matter how hard I try. One of...moreThis is one of those novels that I enjoyed reading and I cannot pinpoint what exactly it was that grabbed my interest no matter how hard I try. One of those books where I was annoyed by certain things, but that still didn't deter me from wanting to finish the book, to see what happens next. There is something in this book that attached itself to me, and unlike the soul-stamps that do a lot of attaching in the novel, that is not a bad thing at all.
As always, let's start with my criticism: inconsistencies. Dante Walker, the main character, is a collector, essentially a demon who is granted permission to walk the Earth after death to collect souls and mark them for Hell once those bodies die. The soul marking is essential because if/when judgement day comes, down under wants to make sure it has as many souls as possible to win the battle between Heaven and Hell. A collector gathers these souls by attaching stamps to human souls once they sin, and when the soul is completely covered in stamps, and therefore has no more light left in it, the soul can be collected for the Boss Man. The inconsistencies lay in what exactly warrants those soul stamps. Dante is able to give it to someone for being a rude employee, and for petty shop lifting, but why can't he give them out for people who underage drink, abuse drugs, bully, lie, and have otherwise general "sinned"? I also didn't understand them in reference to Dante's newest assignment. I will not give anything away, but in vague terms, the soul he is sent to collect is collected in a different way. What I don't understand is why that means a.) he couldn't give her stamps when she sinned, and b.) why she could only do one thing per their agreement. That may not make a lot of sense if you haven't read the book, but long story short - inconsistencies. Confusion.
However, I got over it. These things bothered me when they showed up, but the next sentence later I forgot about them for the time being because I was enraptured with the story. I wanted to know what happened next, I wanted to know the decisions Dante made. The writing also has some pretty funny moments, which was an interesting way to lighten up a novel about damning souls.
I also love male point of views. It might just be because I do not have one... but regardless, they are like semi-precious gems in the YA world. Dante is a really fun main character in that way. Not just because he is a boy, but because his internal monologue is beautifully messed up. He is a damned soul who believes he has no conscience left, no lightness, but - shocker - he's wrong. When he discovers this, unlike most people, he tries to convince himself he's been mistaken, that he is not good. Dante doesn't want to be good. He's not a good guy. He's actually striving to be bad. Which was something fun to experience. Call me a cynic, but you do not know how many times I've wished the bad guy(s) would win. Obviously I would like the good guys to win in real life, but in fiction, I want things to be mixed up! I'm not telling you who comes up on top, I'm just saying that seeing life through the "bad side" was definitely a fun ride. (less)
There are some book fads that get old: vampires, mermaids, dystopian to name a few. Road trip stories are not one of them. Doktorski's debut, How My S...moreThere are some book fads that get old: vampires, mermaids, dystopian to name a few. Road trip stories are not one of them. Doktorski's debut, How My Summer Went Up in Flames, is a fun adventure of a reluctant traveler forced by her family and friends to get away from her ex boyfriend and violating her Temporary Restraining Order.
I'll be honest here, I was slightly annoyed in the first half of the book. I have heard from other people who've read the novel, that they felt the same way at first. The main character, Rosie, is... Obsessive? Self-centered? Just annoying? She spends a good portion of the first part of her trip feeling sorry for herself and somehow still finding ways to do everything this trip is supposed to stop her from doing. I told myself that she was in denial, that she's still in her boy-crazy stage, and she'll come out of it. So I ignored all my reservations against Rosie and just tried to enjoy the story. I'm glad I did!
Rosie has quite dramatic character development over the course of the novel. She transforms from that character I wasn't so crazy about into a young woman that I really appreciated. I wish I got to see more of the Rosie 2.0, but I'm really glad she was there. Please do not do what some other have done and stop reading because of beginning-of-the-story Rosie. Stick it out so you can see how much she changes and how each aspect of her trip affects her.
There is one scene in particular when you see Rosie developing right there in front of your eyes. I don't want to spoil anything, but it involved her, Spencer, a broken down car, and a guitar. At first I was thinking, "Who are you?" and then I realized that this was the new and improved Rosie coming out. It is just SUCH a CUTE scene!
Another aspect that I really liked is that something still happens once the road trip comes to a close. Not everything Rosie escaped could be fixed on the trip. The author recognized that, and Rosie isn't at ease until some things get resolved. So perhaps my "road trip" label is not quite correct, and we should add "coming of age" right there along side it. It sounds so cliche, which makes me reluctant, but Rosie is one of the most transformative character's I've seen in a while. The author has such an amazing feel for her characters, which is something that does not go unnoticed. How My Summer Went Up in Flames is a quick, summer read, perfect for that day at the beach you've been planning. (You, not me, because I hate the beach.) (less)