After an excruciating hiatus from reading, I decided to brighten up my uneventful Christmas with a Christmas-themed book. A quick read, Dash and Lily’After an excruciating hiatus from reading, I decided to brighten up my uneventful Christmas with a Christmas-themed book. A quick read, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares proved to be mildly entertaining but wholly underwhelming and completely forgettable.
The premise is rather curious and quaint: Dash, one of the eponymous heroes of this story, discovers a mysterious journal penned by Lily. Their mild-mannered dares, orchestrated with a scary efficiency and the help of acquiescent friends and family, lead to an unorthodox relationship fraught with curiosity and yearning.
This book oscillated between being serious and light-hearted, a commendable combination but one that ultimately fell short. Both Dash and Lily had insightful comments to make at certain times, aspects that I quite enjoyed. These perceptive moments, shrouded in a thin layer of sadness, usually turned up when the characters were penning their hopes and desires in their journal. For example: “So that’s why it was my best Christmas. Because it was the last one when I really believed” introduces a level of sincerity to the story. Such a line seems to say that seriousness and sad realities are present even in the midst of otherwise cheerful and intriguing relationships.
However, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, blithe as it is, falls short due to its unappealing characters and their irritating natures. Dash proves to be nauseatingly pretentious, and Lily attempts to be eccentric but ends up as annoying, simply put. The level of realism that the narrative attempts to acquire disappears as we witness the conversations that Dash, for example, has with Great-Aunt Ida. Amusing as they are, I have yet to have heard a conversation actually fold out like that. For every amusing line there is (eg. “Green tea tastes like French kissing that cow after it’s done chewing all that grass”), there is an unrealistic and eye-roll-worthy “It’s not as if I’ve come to take her to the sock hop, or ask her to go double-spooning in some tapioca… my position on dillying and dallying, which right now is chaste with a chance for inveterate lust.” This line demonstrates wordsmithery but is completely unconvincing for the character and detracts from the book’s focus of realism. These occurrences are scattered quite frequently throughout the story, but quickly become irritating instead of endearing.
The overall impression that this story left on me was mundane. I found myself sifting through a fair few paragraphs where my interest dwindled. There were characters that I found to be completely unnecessary additions to the story – Priya, for one, could have been removed without causing much dismay. I found some of Lily’s actions to be borderline ridiculous and out of character, considering her supposed intelligence. Nonetheless, this was a quick read and an entertaining one at that. There were parts of the story that genuinely made me laugh, and parts that I found touching (as aforementioned). Other reviewers have deemed this story as “cute”, which may be an apt description. But in hindsight, it is certainly not without its flaws.
Bonus star because Dash introduced me to Mark Strand: “In a field / I am the absence / of field” ...more
Occasionally, I come across a book and realise how difficult the reviewing process is. Fracture by Megan Miranda was one such book. Despite the amountOccasionally, I come across a book and realise how difficult the reviewing process is. Fracture by Megan Miranda was one such book. Despite the amount of content and drama, I was left feeling thoroughly ambivalent, as though there was something missing, something fundamentally dissatisfying about this tale. All the aspects of this story attempted to make some remark and strike a chord within the reader, but ultimately fell short.
Fracture tells the story of Delaney, a girl who falls through ice and ‘dies’, yet manages to recover from her comatose state and continue living. She is truly a miracle. However, she starts to feel estranged from her life and self. Delaney starts to experience disconcerting ‘pulls’ towards dying and decaying people, sees ominous shadows where they don’t belong, and has awkward, pseudo-romantic urges and tête-à-têtes with Messrs Decker, Carson and Troy.
Megan Miranda introduces an interesting hypothetical. If someone dies and returns, does their essence or psyche undergo some sort of radical transformation? Is Delaney, our beloved protagonist, ultimately a different person than she was pre-drowning? Are we susceptible to change through our unique experiences, or are we static beings? These questions are tentatively proposed in lines such as:
“Words can cut, slice, like a razor. The old Delaney would’ve asked permission. The old Delaney with the normal brain scan. I was someone else.”
However, the ‘someone else’ factor is never given the opportunity to come to fruition. Besides her newly found sixth sense, the reader is rarely exposed to the old Delaney. Instead of the writing itself demonstrating the possibility of the existence of multiple personae, we are told – and that, I believe, is what strikes at the heart of a decent idea and quashes its potential. Instead of experiencing first-hand how Delaney’s rebirth makes her ‘new’, we are only given dull, lifeless lines such as:
“First day of preschool, some girl dipped my pigtail in blue paint. Traumatic. I become decidedly unfriendly to my classmates”
that attempt to elucidate a fundamental difference in self and character. Binary oppositions such as new/old and life/death are almost redefined – almost being the key word. While there was potential for these philosophical musings to break the tiresome mould of YA storylines, they become radically subsumed by the other aspects of the story, unable to truly shine on their own.
Fracture introduces a love-square of sorts. While this is an admirable feat, it comes to a disappointing conclusion because the romantic relationships are somehow devoid of romance. So many boys, which to choose? Delaney’s characterisation, for a start, begs the question of why three such boys are remotely interested in her. Besides being told that she is beautiful and brainy, Delaney is as frigid as the lake she drowned in. While Delaney goes through the motions of her life, I had trouble believing she was truly alive. The only time she deigns to show any emotion is when she experiences her unusual ‘sensations’. Leading on from this, the inevitable romance was utterly unconvincing. The displays of affection were mechanical and unable to create any sort of titillating effect. The display of affection in the line:
‘…leaned over and kissed me, a smacking, wet kiss that landed half on my mouth and half on my cheek. I could feel it, wet and getting colder’
essentially sums up the range of romance offered by Fracture – mechanical and unable to create any sort of titillating or tantalising effect. In fact, this sentiment could be extended to encompass all aspects of this story.
Every story has to have a complication, and Fracture’s anti-hero manifests itself in the form of Troy Varga. As far as ‘bad boys’ come, Troy is unconvincing and somewhat overbearing in his performance of a menace with a God complex. Lines such as:
‘Troy gripped my upper arm. “Why did you do that?” Then he shook me. “How stupid can you be?”’
showcase the sub-par writing and the clunky imagery of depicting evil. I found myself drowning painfully in Troy’s melodramatic anger and desire to one-up Delaney. Instead of invoking a sense of disgust or horror, Troy’s words and actions felt forced and invoked many an eye-roll. I always admire a well-written villain, but sadly, Troy wasn’t one.
This is not where Fracture ends. Besides the aforementioned subjects, it continues on to consider euthanasia, God complexes, family disorders and poor friendships. While all intriguing subjects, the overarching failure of this book was its inability to hone in on one subject and flesh it out satisfactorily. I felt rather disappointed considering the ideas has reasonable potential, but it was simply too difficult to rouse any positive emotion with the story jumping around without direction. Unfortunately, Fracture by Megan Miranda ended up being another lack-lustre YA novel, showcasing mediocre storytelling, characterisation and plot. While I didn’t hate it, it’s the newest addition to the teetering pile of books that will never be read again....more