I really wanted to like this book. I purchased a copy in hardcover @ a debut YA author panel featuring Elisa Ludwig, and a bunch of others. For the reI really wanted to like this book. I purchased a copy in hardcover @ a debut YA author panel featuring Elisa Ludwig, and a bunch of others. For the record, I got a little $pendy-$pendy that day in the excitement of meeting the authors and getting my books signed, and bought more books than I normally would.
I am a book-hoarder for sure (me + library = fees), but, I also have a budget that occasionally needs considering. When I buy a full-price hardcover, I have to
a) know the author's previous work, and love it so hard I just can't wait b) own the rest of the previous books in a series in hardcover first (consistency!) C) buy it for my monthly book club because i can't borrow my friend's library copy for whatever reason
Otherwise, I am a paperback girl through and through. Seriously - my to-read list is absurd (1400+ damn you goodreads!), and I will never pay full-price for all of those books unless I hit the lottery.
Normally, before I buy a book I refer to Goodreads for some guidance. Like the rest of you YA-fans, I can be swayed by pretty covers or interesting-sounding premises that don't necessarily pay off (heads up - Pretty Crooked has both).
Pretty Crooked certainly didn't merit my circumventing of the hardcover policy above. And I'm just gonna say this right now, with a sadface: I regret buying this book. And, I can't even sell it because it has my NAME in it! Gah. Based on all the hullaballoo above, I feel REALLY REALLY bad about the rating and review I'm about to give this book.
O-well. Two stars.
Half-star for a concise and clean writing style. It flowed nicely for the most part, and I was not hung up on the author's choice of phrases or descriptions, even when I found them Seventeen-Magazine-y. I didn't feel "pulled out of the story" by them.
Half-star for Willa's voice, which I enjoyed and found funny. Half-star for Cherise, a character that appeared to have more depth and backstory than the rest of the book's cardboard cut-outs propped up where the real characters should've been.
And half-star for the Mean Girls meets Clueless-themed plot. I loved those movies.
The problem here lies in the fact that Pretty Crooked lacks the satire that made Mean Girls and Clueless so amazing. Cher from Clueless would run around buying designer shirts to "even the playing field" for the "poor girls" in her school, oblivious to her own condescension. And Cher's obliviousness is a definitive character trait - her hamartia. It's all relative to the story as a whole.
But, Willa in Pretty Crooked isn't Cher. We get her first-person point of view and can recognize her character as far more aware of her surroundings than Cher could ever be. She analyzes and breaks down interactions with her classmates (think BFF Cherise, think love-interest Aidan) in a way that shows readers that she is "with it," she "gets it." She is witty and smart and not prone to shallow attitudes. She sees situations for what they are. As a character, we are supposed to notice that Willa is "better" than the shallow, snobby rich girls around her.
Here's where it gets weird. Even with a world-wise attitude and open mind - Willa believes that stealing expensive items from her rich friends and giving designer clothing to the Latino scholarship students will "even the playing field" at her rich, private academy. Does that sound weird to anyone else? What would make a rational-minded person think that giving someone an expensive shirt would change social-heirarchy? Wouldn't you immediately assume that "ghetto girls" coming into school with expensive blouses admist a theft-epidemic at Silver Spoons high school might not have the desired result?
What about when she asks the one black male in the entire school to train her to become a criminal - without ever having more than one conversation with him in her life?
What is going on here: Rich(ish) white girl feels bad for poor Latino girls, asks lone black kid to help her commit crimes to make the poor Latino girls fit in better by wearing expensive shirts. That is the premise of Pretty Crooked. With a romance thrown in. A-hem.
So, you take the down-to-earth, good-nature of the character of Willa and you make her complete these completely asinine no-one-would-ever-do-that actions. I mean, the philosophy behind her crimes was so shallow and simpering. If you're going to have the BALLS to become a felon, Willa, you might as well have a more cogent philosophy about your "Robin-Hood" escapades.
And if you have the author-BALLS to bring up racism and classcism, Elisa Ludwig, you should approach them with a more discerning stance. When one of the "poor girls" emails Willa to thank her after she has been dragged in to a media-frenzy and been blamed and shunned at school even more due to Willa's actions, I wanted to barf. The treatment of race and class was fucking weak - especially for a story wherein the reader wants to feel the main character's call to social justice.
On an end note, I think it is also important to mention that Pretty Crooked just ended. A cliffhanger ending where one needn't have been. (view spoiler)[Willa was a criminal. She got caught. She went to juvie. She came home. She rightly felt like an idiot. (hide spoiler)] Is there any reason to drag this story out any further past the denouement? Something weird had been going on with Willa's mom, and I'm sure it will be interesting to find out what it was... But, I don't think Willa's mom's mystery is justification enough to end the book in the middle of a high-speed chase. So frustrating. I know I probably won't pick up the next book, so I hope someone spoils it for me in a goodreads review next year.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book was okay. Not great. Not terrible. It's a book about an Australian girl of Italian descent and her difficulties navigating teenager-hood witThis book was okay. Not great. Not terrible. It's a book about an Australian girl of Italian descent and her difficulties navigating teenager-hood with all the baggage of being an "ethnic" girl who falls in love with an "culture-less" Aussie guy. Throw a long-lost dad into to the mix, and you get your story.
My problem with Looking For Alibrandi was that Josie Alibrandi's "voice" was inconsistent. Sometimes, it is the spot-on smart, funny teenager-voice that I expect from great realistic YA! Other times, her voice takes on a narrative quality that was very disingenuous and unauthentic - a kind of after-school-special voice that tells - rather than shows - her character making "revelations," and "learning who she is."
I also really didn't enjoy the "love story," presented here. Jacob Coote was a terrible character, in my opinion. I almost couldn't believe ANYTHING that was coming out of his mouth. I didn't "believe" Josie and Jacob's relationship, from a reader's point of view. Every conversation they had seemed forced to drive home a narrative point or theme, and none of them rang true or genuine. For all the "fighting" that the two of them did, and all the terrible conversations that the two of them had, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why Josephine claimed she "loved him." They were literally terrible in every, single scene.
Overall, I was disappointed in this book because I have read some of Melina Marchetta's other work and it is FANTASTIC. And this wasn't. But, you know - this wasn't a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. And it was her first novel, I think - so I don't hold that against her.
I am glad I read it. I bought a copy of this book, and I will keep it. And I will share it. And, someday, I'd let my daughter read it. And she can laugh at all the times the girls in this book teased their hair and listened to U2 cassettes (it was the beginning of the 90's). And she'll like it, too, I bet. And then she'll move on and read a better book. (Hopefully, one of Marchetta's other books!)
Since this was Marchetta's first novel, I feel like she was writing "what she knew," like they tell you to do in "Writing Your First Novel" class. And I can appreciate that. I feel like Looking For Alibrandi probably has an Italian-Australian niche due to the subject matter. I bet the Aussie girls of Italian heritage loved it. And maybe even some American girls of Italian descent would love it. I didn't love it. But, it had little to do with the heritage-plot and more to do with the voice, characterization, and "love story."
What it comes down to, though, is: there's better books out there with similar themes....more