As someone born and raised in Puerto Rico, I am more than used to seeing my island fetishized by outsiders. While this is my home, for innumerable peoAs someone born and raised in Puerto Rico, I am more than used to seeing my island fetishized by outsiders. While this is my home, for innumerable people this is their paradise away from home. And that's it. For so many, Puerto Rico is reduced to beaches, sunsets, dancing and beautiful women. Which is why it hurts doubly to see a YA book do the same, then claim it will do otherwise, and end up portraying Puerto Rico in an even worse manner. Because, yes, having my country reduced to party and fun and vacation is bad enough, but being portrayed as an ignorant, regressive little island stuck in time and full of superstitious, uneducated and rowdy people is even worse.
Coincidentally, I divide my time here in between the two settings that the author chose to carry out the story: San Juan, where I study, and Rincón, in my parents' home which is about 15 minutes away from there. I can tell you, right off the bat, that the only accuracy this book can claim when it comes to these two places is only geographical localization. That's about it. Oh, I don't doubt the author Wikipediaed the shit out of Old San Juan, as she name dropped location after location to the point where it lost all meaning. Maybe she even visited it, but that would be even worse because that would only sustain my conclusion that she did it as a tourist. The way she described my home goes in tune with the fetishistic way in which most people describe it, and not even the generous kind. This author would have you believe that we are stuck 30, 40 years in the past. That we are all languid days and nights of party and passion. That we, the women, are uneducated, naturally sensual beings that always wear sundresses and flowers in our long, wild hair to look for men to trap. There is not a single complex or flattering representation of Puerto Rican (or even Latina) women in the entire novel. According to this novel, we are all flirty, fickle, untrustworthy and spiteful beings, said so by her male characters and reinforced by the representation of the women in this novel. The male characters themselves are boring, unremarkable and predictable as hell, but at least their representation didn't paint their entire races and genders in such a generalizing and unflattering light.
Like in this book, people see the way in which we protect the mixture of Taíno and African traditions and conserve the Spanish fortifications and architecture that identify Old San Juan, and immediately assume we are stuck in an idyllic time where it was all farming and fishing and languishing under the heat. The Puerto Rico that this author describes as modern is the Puerto Rico of decades ago, stretches of villages and cottages, superstitions and seemingly conflicting beliefs. Is the Puerto Rico that tourists prefer, the one they would have us be forever. One that affects all the cultural and social progress Puerto Rico has achieved for decades.
Not only is the general representation of my island and my people, both of which grated on me til the point that I got genuinely furious, inaccurate, but the use of cultural elements, traditions and history was also done in a very irresponsible way. First off, the bits of Spanish scattered over the book rarely matched the Spanish actually used in Puerto Rico. To assume that every Latin American group speaks the same Spanish is preposterous and, quite frankly, kind of offensive. Never, in my 20-something years of living on this island and traveling all around it, have I ever, ever encountered a native Puerto Rican using the word "pinche". We do not do that. That is a thoroughly Central and South American word. Not a Puerto Rican one. Moreover, some of the Spanish was grammatically, semantically and syntactically incorrect. If you insist on incorporating bits of a language you do not speak, the least you could do is find someone who does to make sure you are not writing a string of errors all throughout your novel.
This author borrowed haphazardly from Taíno culture and then decided to throw it unceremoniously 500 years later with ridiculous incongruity into unrealistic settings that fail to resemble in any remotely accurate manner Puerto Rico in any way or form. When I got to the part where she began to describe some random indigenous village in the southern coast of the island - in the second most cosmopolitan town in the entire island, I must add - living in a societal structure that mirrored the Taíno's, all this set only about 40 or 30 years in the past, I genuinely screeched and had to restrain myself from throwing the book out a window. Not only were the Taíno elements used however the author felt like with little respect to accuracy, they were presented in the most preposterous scenario within relatively recent Puerto Rican history.
I know the author has some Puerto Rican heritage to claim, but what she wrote into her novel represents a degree of ignorance and complete disregard that infuriated me to my very core. I can talk about the flatness and overall pointlessness of the very thin plot that can be found in this novel. I could write about the shallowness of every single character, the exasperating concentration of generic and boring that was the main character and the infuriating way he treated Puerto Rican girls like they were his harem to take and use, or I could even mention how the elements of magical realism in the novel failed to impress in any way. Even if I hadn't felt offended to my core because I am Puerto Rican, the book would've been supremely mediocre in every single way. But, in the face of what it did make me feel for having shamelessly abused my country and my culture, I seriously do not give a fuck. I hated this book, not for its shitty story and main character, but for the hurt it gave me as a Puerto Rican. Seriously, fuck this book. ...more
This book sets out to be a sort of homage to old-school horror films. As an ideal, it is certainly appealing, but I don't think the book succeeds. ThaThis book sets out to be a sort of homage to old-school horror films. As an ideal, it is certainly appealing, but I don't think the book succeeds. That is probably due to the fact that it is nowhere near as well written and clever as, let's say, the movie Cabin in the Woods, to be taken as a serious homage, nor is it campy and self-aware enough to be a more tongue-in-cheek kind of tribute.
I can appreciate the originality that went into the construction and development of this book. The authors' creativity really shone throughout the entire reading experience. But originality can only take you so far when, in all honestly, everything about the book is just plain bad.
Is it intentionally bad precisely because it is meant to imitate old-school horror films that are, by today's standards, kind of cheesy? Maybe. It's certainly a possibility. Still, even if they are cheesy today, what we like about watching all of those monster/slasher films is that they are fun. And guess what this book isn't?
Overall, this is is a difficult book to get through. The narration is insufferable. Winnie's voice is grating, whiny, immature, pretentious and hateful. And there's no purpose to her rampant, dismissive condescension and contempt. This is not some complex narrator we have here. She's just really that poorly drawn. And the narrative style itself is irritating and almost impossible to take seriously, never mind enjoy. At first, the use of visual aids through the novel was an interesting gimmick, but it got old really fast and it disrupted the story.
Moreover, the books spends sooooooo long setting everything, building up the anticipation for some big climax, for some spectacular reveal and then... nothing. Not only was it anti-climactic, by the time the end rolled around, I was as bored as I had been since the beginning. And it wasn't worth it. Not the overly dragged set up, not the eternal passages about nothing at all.
Plus, not a single one of the characters was even remotely interesting. Same with the ominous promise of a monster, the cliche horror, the contrived romance. The whole idea behind this novel was either to horrify or to entertain. In my particular case, it failed on both fronts. ...more
If You Wrong Us was a surprisingly gripping, quick paced and entertaining novel that, while not entirely original and certainly not without flaws, hadIf You Wrong Us was a surprisingly gripping, quick paced and entertaining novel that, while not entirely original and certainly not without flaws, had some unexpectedly decent writing, a remarkable understanding of criminal law (over which I was excited, that being my favorite class last semester and all the material still fresh in my mind) and a lot of potential for a great YA psychological thriller. Unfortunately, the novel quickly unraveled during the second half, ultimately delivering very messy and underwhelming climax.
This is a very short novel that flies by and makes it very hard to tear your eyes away. The subject, the careful delivery and the approaching trainwreck makes for a highly entertaining read, which I certainly never expected. The dual narrative worked pretty well with the thrilling atmosphere of the novel, though I did struggle with differentiating Johnny and Becca's voice from one another. Each voice was infused with a certain degree of personality, in one of the cases it was obvious one of the POVs was entirely unreliable, but it didn't made much of a difference in the tone of each of this character's, which made it hard to keep track of who was telling what part of the story sometimes. Another two nameless POVs were added in there, one concerning a website for confessions which was initially intriguing, but ultimately contributed nothing to the story and tended to drag on, disturbing the flow of the action. There is an crucial plot twist concerning those two perspectives, but it was still not important enough to disrupt the nice rhythm Johnny and Becca had going on with the narration.
I understand unreliability was key to one of the POVs, but even facts were hard to follow with the characters, particularly when trying to understand the timeline. I originally liked the jumpiness of both narratives, mostly because they started their stories at different times in the chain of events, but soon enough it became hard to place the actions and events, especially because they didn't keep a straight timeline in their narration.
The tension was well handled in the story and it was consistent throughout the entire novel. I liked the way the characters presented themselves, and though a bit generic sometimes and not entirely deep, they were successful in conveying the type of personalities that worked well with the story and the atmosphere. I did struggle with trying to connect the methodical nature of one of the characters and the constant talks about the effort they've placed into planning this situation with the overall half-assed plan they ended up trying to make work. Much of the novel hinges on the unpredictability of the character's motivations and actions, and I can't honestly say that worked often in favor of the book. They sometimes felt like they came out of nowhere, other times inconsistent, and others were just a tiny bit predictable.
The biggest flaw in the novel, however, is the rushed ending. There was barely any built up for it, and worst of all, for the sake of the pace and a supposedly unexpected twist, several sub-plots were forgotten. Several things the characters said ended up amounting into nothing, some of their actions made no waves in the plot whatsoever, and that ended up hurting the impact of the novel and its credibility as a tightly woven and tense thriller. The abrupt nature of the climax made it underwhelming and it almost felt like not much thought had gone into it. Though it represents a great leap in character development, it doesn't feel that way. For a story that felt so convoluted throughout most of the pages, the ending was too simplistic and it ended up reveling just how underdeveloped and underwritten the story, the characters and the plot were.
This is one of those novels that are mindlessly entertaining, their strength lying on how easy and quick it is to read them. There's nothing profound or complex, not much in the way of stellar storytelling. It's just morbid fun. In terms of quality, this novel is pretty much a 2.5, to be honest, but the fast pace and strangely compelling story made it a surprisingly enjoyable reading experience....more
We'll Never Be Apart is a fairly standard psychological thriller that would've ranked safely close to the decent line had it not relied almos1.5 stars
We'll Never Be Apart is a fairly standard psychological thriller that would've ranked safely close to the decent line had it not relied almost entirely on a twist that has been over-abused by authors recently, especially this year. I can think of about 4 different books released in 2015 alone with the exact same premise, one that's certainly sensationalist and has its roots deep into overblown and far too often misinformed ideas about psychology, but that's entertaining nonetheless - except when one has been forced to read about it in just about every "edgy" new YA attempt at a psychological thriller.
Aside from the monumental suspension of disbelief needed to overlook all the holes in the plot and setting, this novel also requires extreme patience from the reader as everything is revealed in a very self-indulgent and frustratingly slow pace, all so that we can be left with little else besides a lukewarm feeling of detachment and indifference. This is not an exciting novel nor is it compelling in any way or form, either. For such a short novel, it dragged far too much, almost like it was embedding its nails on the ground to try and prevent the whole thing from moving on. The worst part is that it is not so much the slowness that bothered me, but the lack of reward for my patience. I can handle slow books, and in fact, most people would correctly argue that most of my favorite books are actually very slow paced. But there's a difference between slowly building a complex world or well-developed characters, and just being slow for the sake of delaying the "big reveal" over which the entire point of the novel depends. This book firmly positions itself in the latter category.
Moreover, there's very little substance to the novel, no depth whatsoever. A book that hinges entirely on a psychological theme desperately needs more than some Wikipedia article's worth of depth and profundity. I don't doubt the author has experience dealing with the topic of mental health, but she chose one of the most complex psychological problems for her story and then delivered little besides the hugely overblown and sensationalized aspects of the issue that the media has been promoting for years. That, mixed with a thin thread of a plot, deliberately shallow characterization and flimsy relationships based entirely on superficial conversations and generic character traits, made it really hard to take anything about this novel seriously. Twice in the novel, the main character laments the absence of her roommate and new friend, bemoaning how much she needs her and wishes she were there to help her through the current problems, and twice she's only capable of mentioning two small and generic topics over which they shared similarly small and generic conversations that we are supposed to believe led to a deep and emotional bond. Similarly, we are supposed to believe the bond between her and this new guy, particularly the lengths he's willing to go for her, because they claimed something clicked between them when in fact the whole thing was strained and forced.
The book is not original and it offers no rewards to readers already experienced in the genre - or anyone who has read one or two YA psychological thrillers, really. It is frustratingly predictable and it bothers me when authors pull a later-years M. Night Shyamalan and hope the audience will forgive the painfully slow and uneventful 90% of the work because of that one "twist" that takes place towards the end (which is the very same complaint I had with Twisted Fate). It's not clever and it is not enjoyable. It is simply lazy writing. In spite of all this, the author did a decent job with the atmosphere of the novel overall and writes well enough, so I'll round my rating up to two stars. Besides, the book can be enjoyable, but it depends entirely on how well you predict the twist. If you do it from the first line, like me, maybe it's better for you to move along. ...more
The Unquiet is an eerie and bold sci-fi/pseudo-dystopia that is a lot more concerned with introspection and the emotional impact of an invasi3.5 stars
The Unquiet is an eerie and bold sci-fi/pseudo-dystopia that is a lot more concerned with introspection and the emotional impact of an invasion and war than with the action, romance and fast-paced adventure that becomes the priority in YA novels about alternative universes and the training of soliders/assassins. This novel is surprisingly poignant and touching, told in a very haunting and sensitive way that resonated strongly with me. In all honesty, I don't think I've ever read a YA novel quite like this one within the sci-fi/dystopian genre and I don't think I ever will again.
Unlike any other book within the same genre, The Unquiet takes its time to develop, slowing the pace almost to a crawl in order to painstakingly detail the psychological and emotional weigh these characters must carry because of the mission they had been raised to fulfill that contrasts starkly with what they have seen with their own eyes. This novel is an examination of morality, loyalty and love, and how all of those can be twisted depending on the perspective one takes and how it can all change from a second to the other. It's fascinating to see in action the clever techniques Everett employed as an author to highlight just how important the repercussions rather than the actions were to her characters on a very emotional level. For example, it's common throughout the novel for scenes of death and violence to be brushed over, not even detailed in real time, but recalled by the character so that she could spend the narration going through the aftermath on such an event, so that we could witness the development the characters derived from such an action. I thought all this absolutely riveting.
That undeniably means that the novel is extremely slow, almost to the point of being boring. Personally, I was never bored, but that was because I was so hooked in the way this character saw the world and dealt in a very psychological level with her two different realities (what she had been taught and what she experienced). If you cannot connect with this kind of introspective storytelling, with this sensitive a story and these emotionally complex characters, then it is pretty likely you'll be bored out of your mind. This novel is not concerned with being entertaining and action-packed or even fun. This novel turns the whole YA dystopia/action/sci-fi theme and magnifies into it, focusing on the development of the characters, how they learn to cope, to live and understand the brutal reality they live in, how they handle becoming their own person with their own thoughts and ideas and morality when they have been trained to follow orders and not ask questions.
I was so intrigued by how we usually see our heroines and heroes doing brutal things for the sake of "the good side" and our minds brush over the fact that those things could be considered bad from a whole other perspective, something other heroes and heroines never seem to be bothered by. Here we have characters who struggle with the moral complications of everything they've been thought and everything they do. We witness how they battle with themselves, their own thoughts and try to find themselves amidst it all. We see how there can be a duality of good and bad in who you are and how that may not entirely define you. This novel never actually passed moral judgement over its characters and allow them to showcase their moral and emotional complexity, a very profound and sensitive touch that speaks greatly of Everett's skills as an author.
This is a very emotionally mature novel, especially within this genre in YA fiction. I certainly never expected it to be this way. Truth be told, I wasn't even aware that I had liked and enjoyed this novel so much until well after I had finished it. For most of my reading experience with this novel, I thought I was just mildly invested in it. It wasn't until the last few pages came around that I realized how much of an impact this melancholic novel had on me. This is not a happy novel nor a fun reading experience, and it's not interested in being either of those. A haunting experience, The Unquiet might just be one of the most original and touching novels I've read this year, one that took me entirely by surprise and still refuses to let me go. ...more
Sometimes, your instincts are right and your first impression is spot on. Sometimes, granting second chances only serves to reinforce what you alreadySometimes, your instincts are right and your first impression is spot on. Sometimes, granting second chances only serves to reinforce what you already knew from the start.
My relationship with Veronica Rossi extends for only two books and a short story, and it's already been rocky enough to demand an immediate and permanent separation. Apparently I'm in the minority when it comes to her stories, but I seriously don't see the appeal. My impression of her books has been pretty consistently reinforced by every story I've read by her: the promise of a wildly imaginative and original idea used to disguise what is, in reality, a generically (and barely) plotted and uninventive narrative full of generically appealing characters that ultimately leave barely an impression behind, fading away almost immediately upon reading the last line.
Riders is very different from Under the Never Sky, at least thematically. But my feelings for both can be succinctly summarized with "that's it?" Quite honestly, the only sort of impression this book made on me is how aggressively, violently male the novel was. I understand the need to make sure that your male character sounds like an actual male, which is something some authors struggle with when adopting a narrative told by their opposite sex, but there is certainly a level of too much that this book blew right past. It felt like being stuck for hours in a conversation with one of those guys who need to constantly remind you how much of a macho man they are. It was relentless, distracting, and very off-putting.
But aside from that intense (and abused) form of characterization, the book puts little to no effort in fleshing out any of the other characters in the novel. They are all given vague stereotypes (the charming Latino; the studious British boy; the angry African American) and then left to pointlessly roam around until they are needed. Their interactions never seemed authentic to me, and the immediate hatred that the narrator felt for the only black guy in the novel upon meeting him struck me as slightly racist.
The one girl in the novel is no different. She has no personality, no characterization. She's literally only there to sort of give whatever plot's in there some direction and to be the object of the main character's affection. It was almost painful to read about the main character's developing feelings for this girl, when really, there was nothing there. I was actually surprised when something did develop between them, because it was obviously forced by the will of the author and not because it flowed naturally from the characters. They had zero chemistry and barely given any time to get past their own names before they were falling for each other. I can put two water bottles next to each other and get more chemistry out of that than what I got from these two characters.
In fact, there was no emotional depth to anything in this novel. It was exceedingly hard to engage with any aspect of the story when the story itself failed to summon any shred of convincing emotion for whatever happened to the characters. It is also especially hard to care about anything at all when nothing actually happens. The story moves from point A to point B without much fanfare, without any interest in making the progression interesting or engaging. The pointless of the plot itself - first the road trip, then the hiding - made it really hard to stay focused on the story, because there really wasn't anything to hold my attention or to justify any interest in my part. If you, for some reason, really enjoy watching ridiculous displays of manliness and pathetic pissing contests among testosterone-overdosed teenage boys, then congratulations, you've found your new favorite book.
Towards the beginning, the narrative style of the novel really caught my attention. The main character tells the story as he is being interrogated, and that was a pretty awesome way to kick off a story, but shortly after that, the effect fizzled out and, once the flatness of the plot and characters became evident, the novel lost whatever little appeal it held for me.
As I read, it felt like the novel itself failed to summon any sort of excitement for what was happening, like it was perfectly aware that it was flat-lining and it couldn't have possible cared less. That makes me care even less, and for anyone keeping score, my caring levels were already pretty down in the negatives. And that's the worst part: I don't hate the book in the slightest. I just don't care for it at all. And if a book can't make me care for it, well, then that's a book that might as well had been left unread. ...more