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
Under normal circumstances, this book's rating would've fluctuated between an underwhelming 2 stars or a merciful and mediocre 3 star rating.1.5 stars
Under normal circumstances, this book's rating would've fluctuated between an underwhelming 2 stars or a merciful and mediocre 3 star rating. Six Feet Over It is a strange and quirky read - not exactly enjoyable, but weirdly compelling. It is very slow, the plot is nonexistent and the narrative is frustratingly choppy, but there's still something about the book that's peculiarly charming. Not exactly an explosive debut, but a contemplative and mildly engaging one that provided me with a very different reading experience. Had I been another reader, this book would've probably amused me for a while and then would've proceeded to be promptly forgotten. That would've definitely been better than the boiling irritation I am experiencing every time I think about it.
Incredibly, what bothered me about the book wasn't that it was admittedly unexciting, mostly uneventful and dangerously near to boring, nor was it the depressive atmosphere, the generic, stereotyped and underdeveloped bullying sub-plot, the haphazard way in which events occurred in this novel, the broken narrative that made it so hard to follow what was actually going on or the feeling of pointlessness that the whole story exuded for me. It wasn't even the complete lack of hilarious dark humor I was promised in the blurb what killed the book for me, which was mostly half-assed throughout the story and barely spiked on my radar. I think I could've actually handled all of that perfectly considering the inexplicable allure of the story, the quirky characters and the unexpected interest I had in Leigh's depressive way of looking at life (even if her actions did annoy more than interest throughout the course of the book)and the way living/working at a graveyard was used as a metaphor for how poorly she dealt with death. What really crushed any of this book's potential for me is something that might not represent a big issue with most other readers but that was a huge strike against this novel for me. Two words: cultural appropriation.
This book made it its life mission to butcher my language. Long passages in the novel were dedicated to entire conversations in Spanish and it very often read like the author had simply copy/pasted what she wrote in English into Google Translate and then copy/pasted back into the novel, patting herself on the back for being so culturally conscious. That last comment is not me being bitchy, well, not entirely. After her main character blundered her way through almost every single Spanish phrase she uttered through the entire novel, "Spanish speakers" in the story would flock to her to congratulate her in her amazing skills at speaking in Spanish. Never mind that I am supposed to believe that she acquired complete fluency in Spanish, that she got to a level where she could understand perfectly what some native Spanish speaker was saying and that she was able to have entire conversations in the language after a single semester of Spanish in a small-town American high school, but what really bothered me if that the author didn't care enough to make certain that the actual native Spanish speakers spoke their language correctly. I could've understood Leigh making mistakes, but every single Mexican character as well?
If you are going to incorporate the use of another language in your story, if the nationality of some characters is really important to the book and it is one you are not entirely familiar with: Do. Your. Fucking. Research. How hard could it have been to find someone who actually knew Spanish throughout the entire process between writing the book to actually having it hit bookstores? It's just so infuriating that writers think they can take elements from other people's culture, from their way of life, and half-ass the whole thing in and then congratulate themselves on being edgy and diverse and different. Beyond the brutalization of my language, this novel took elements from Mexican culture and tradition and presented them solely in relation to the white American main character. Nothing about their culture was ever explored in depth or elaborated, it didn't even actually play a role in the story at all. It was only a touch of color in the main character's road to acceptance, for which several colored people were used as well as their experience with a horrifying situation (crossing the border), all so she could feel pain and start living life. Are you fucking kidding me?
I'm Puerto Rican and this shit even bothered me. It made it impossible to enjoy this novel. Every time I would start to actually get into it, another butchered Spanish conversation would be forced in and I would just rage inside. You are not honoring another culture if you take whatever bits you like, force them into your narrative in the most shallow of ways and just use it, not to explore their meaning or give depth to the characters that actually belong to that culture, but to make the generic white main character "interesting" or to further the understanding of herself.
Leigh's psychological conflict was actually sort of interesting, but the narrative refused to go deep into anything. This girl was obviously anorexic and dangerously depressed, but the story never even mentioned those terms, never mind actually trying to push Leigh into acknowledging them and doing something about it. She was being neglected to an abusive degree by her parents, but no, they were just quirky and they cared about her once about a dozen years ago, so it's okay. These things are not funny. If I was supposed to be amused by this, well, maybe I'm not the right audience (which I doubt because I adore dark, morbid humor), but all this bordered on sick some times. I could honestly understand Leigh's grief, and her contemplations and inner monologues resonated with me more times that I expected, but then it would feel so manufactured and blown way out of proportion. Whatever emotional connection I could've developed with this novel was instantly killed with its pathetic attempts to be exaggeratedly funny.
Moreover, this book was just so fucking inconsistent. Leigh would claim she did nothing but read, her own teachers actually asked her not to read so much (what?), and she didn't even know what the fuck Lord of the Rings was or even goddamn King Lear. I think the author missed a huge chance here by not making her an unreliable narrator, which I think would've improved the novel tremendously.
This book just made so angry and I hope this review shows how disappointed and indignant I feel about this novel. It could've been a perfectly decent one, definitely forgettable but safely above the "fine" line, but I took many of the issues in it personally and I simply refuse to push aside my feelings for whatever minimal enjoyment I could've derived from this experience. I am pissed, plain and simple, and that's definitely not the feeling I wanted to take from this novel. ...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
This is the third book I've read this year with analogous style and premises, the other two being The Boy Meets Girl Massacre and Diary of a Haunting, both of which similarly employ the diary/journal device to tell the story of an unreliable girl's horrifying paranormal circumstances, and for the most part, I think The Dead House is marginally more successful than the previously mentioned because of the better quality of the writing and plotting. But while The Dead House provides with a much more satisfying and technically superior execution, it loses control of the story halfway into the novel and ends up being far too long-winded for its own good. By the time the climax rolls around, my excitement had dwindled considerably, almost to the point of exasperation and boredom.
All in all, The Dead House is a decent novel as far as YA horror goes. It provides a unique angle to the tired journal device by layering the storytelling with interviews, notes, video transcriptions, psychological and police reports and newspaper cut outs, effectively providing an interesting clinical and seemingly objective tone to the entire narrative and allowing the story to expand beyond the narrator for a more complex cluster-fuck of a read. The downside to all of this is that it becomes repetitive, and after the techniques lose their newness as the story goes on, they become fairly tedious to get through as well.
I understand and commend the author's intention in wanting to develop her main character's insanity/horrors and to give space to all these background information to settle and provide the reader with a dual perspective on the story that could easily go either into psychological or paranormal explanations, which, for the most part, worked pretty decently. But I think the novel is far longer than it needs to be and that worked against the quality of the story because it started to rely on the same devices, character interactions and actions over and over, turning the scenes that were supposed to be disturbing, unsettling and horrifying into crutches to move the story forward.
The Dead House does provide with fairly entertaining thrills and nicely-written scenes of terror and violence. But the in-betweens make the story drag and ruin the effect of some of the scenes, plus, it over-complicates what is a fairly simple story that doesn't want to settle in what exactly it wants to be, jumping far too much from psychological thriller to horror without as much cohesiveness and conciseness as it should've had. It's weird, but by the time I finished this novel, I felt like I had read about 4 book's worth of content.
And for a novel with so much time spent on seemingly meaningless character interactions, most of them ended up being little more than puppets as far as their complexity and definition went. We had vague descriptions of who they were physically, a handful of lines dedicated to their emotional and mental states, and so their actions throughout the story felt jerky, pulled only by the strings of the author's desire and needs. There isn't much reason why anyone in this novel do the things they do. We are supposed to just label them crazy, damaged, disturbed or simply slaves to their teenage desires and that's it. Two fairly important secondary characters, Naida and Ari, always appeared ridiculous to me, their characterization, motivations, actions and conversations far too outrageous and forced into the narrative of the story. The romance, likewise, felt strained, forced and underdeveloped.
For the first half, this book was actually very enjoyable and engaging, but as the story dragged, the pages went on and on and on with basically the exact same scenes and conversations, my feelings for the novel changed drastically. There are some really decent plot twits in there, but the novel is so single-mindedly focused on delivering twist after unexplained, underdeveloped twist that even that grows tired after a while. Moreover, some sub-plots were left hanging and no clear answer is given at the end for, well, anything at all.
The novel is okay, entertaining to a degree and surprisingly engaging. It's too much of a cluster-fuck, too needlessly convoluted and complex, and it drags too much, but still, a decent read, all in all. ...more
I don't think I've read a book this harrowing, a story that handles so perfectly and unflinchingly the topic of rape, consent and rape cultur4.5 stars
I don't think I've read a book this harrowing, a story that handles so perfectly and unflinchingly the topic of rape, consent and rape culture since All the Rage, and this one goes even deeper than Courtney Summers' brutal account of life after rape because What We Saw focuses on the hell that immediately follows this barbaric act on the victim, when she has to see her life transformed from one second to the next into an open book for all to see and judge. This book is the perfect representation of rape culture, which at this point, most people insist it doesn't exist.
This book is not an easy experience, not an enjoyable read in the slightest. It is brutal, honest and doesn't shy away from throwing at the reader the multiplicity of facets and repercussions that a rape has. A rape is never just a violation of the integrity and autonomy of one's body, is an assault on the mind and the heart, a vile thievery of anyone's dignity as a human being, and it stains everything about that person. I waited so many weeks after reading it to even think about writing a review because of how horrified this book left me. I read it only a few days after finishing a one-week course on feminist law theory focused on Race, Class and Gender where we read The Story of Jane Doe. If you think that what this book portrayed is nothing more than just exaggerated fiction, look up that book and read what that woman had to go through, how she was repeatedly victimized and dehumanized by the very government that's supposed to protect her and every other woman from going through this, how she was consistently blamed for her own brutal rape and how, in the end, nobody cares about these women as anything more than 5 minutes of scandalous media and how, even in today's supposedly advanced society, we still see the rape of women through a misogynistic, objectifying and thoroughly patriarchal gaze. In fact, go to YouTube and check out the comment sections on the music video about campus rape that Lady Gaga launched a couple of days ago. Read through those victim-blaming, sexist, insensible, vitriolic spiels of sub-human viciousness and tell me there is no such thing as rape culture.
What I loved the most about this book is how it chose to tell this story from an outsider's perspective, someone initially reluctant to be involved, to look deeper into things and be forced to come to the realization that the people she knew are not who they are, that things are rarely how most think they are, and most importantly, how the social politics in our society will inspire people to come together to systematically destroy a single woman when she dares to go against a man or a group of them to decry their abuse of her autonomy and dignity. What's more horrifying about this novel is how realistic it is, how damaging gender roles and internalized misogyny have already proven to be in cases like the Steubenville High School rape case and so many others where the victim's have been blamed, harassed and brutalized to the point where many of them had ended up in suicide. All because people refuse to look closer.
But this novel hardly remains focused on the rape culture behind actual rapes and actually goes out of its way to have the characters engage in dialogues and conversations that highlight the careless way with which we objectify and sexualize women, how we perpetuate oppressive and outdated notions about sexual behavior and how they are supposed to diverge according to sex and gender, and how women are conditioned into allowing men to feel entitled to their bodies and to feel vindicated when adopting damaging attitudes and behaviors. Moreover, the novel includes the lyrics of several wildly popular song and even discusses in painstaking detail a very popular movie and Broadway play that are mindlessly promoting the use and abuse of women as nothing beyond blow-up dolls and male entitlement over them.
Was it all a bit ham-handed sometimes? Truth be told, yes. But that matters very little when one considers the near flawless way in which this book delivers its intended message. It is a compelling and deeply engrossing read that lands blow after blow, brutal realization and brutal realization, with an accuracy and impact that will knock the breath out of you, even if you are aware of how realistically portrayed this rape case is in the novel, how seamlessly Hartzler has blended reality and fiction. This book is, in all likelihood, the most important book I've read this year, a book that needs to be read by everybody so that we can finally begin to move together towards a future where this is not allowed, where rape is treated with the same seriousness and severity as every other crime and the victim is never once brutalized by the public with more viciousness than the criminals themselves.
It. Is. Never. The. Victim's. Fault. NEVER. ...more
The Weight of Feathers is an achingly lovely and highly imaginative story that fuses Romeo and Juliet with the tale of The Bird and the Fish,3.5 stars
The Weight of Feathers is an achingly lovely and highly imaginative story that fuses Romeo and Juliet with the tale of The Bird and the Fish, and gives them a setting that reminded me of The Night Circus and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. Full of entirely welcome racial and ethnic diversity, splendid magical realism and pretty writing, The Weight of Feathers makes for a delicately enchanting novel. Too bad for me, then, that I was bored most of the time.
This novel should've been a a perfect hit with me. During the last couple of years, I've come to the realization that magical realism is the quickest way to my heart and this novel had in abundance the mesmerizing atmosphere and wondrous qualities that makes me love the genre. However, for some reason, I had a really hard time staying focused on the novel, and thus, I was never as captivated by the novel as I wanted to be. The novel has an admittedly slow pace, the plot progressing at a measure pace that worked pretty well with the air of the story, but that failed to make it all that enthralling to me. I must admit, however, that I think the fault resides on me this instance, for the novel was exactly the way it was supposed to be and very easily measured up to other quality novels of the kind, it seemed I was simply not in the particular mood for it, for this is definitely a novel you must be in the mood for because of how heavy on romance it is.
While the romance angle takes a while to develop, it has a very strong presence since the beginning, and though there's not much kissing and touching until later in the book, from the first 50 pages, the romance pulsed through the story, becoming the orbit around which everything else moved, including the characterization and plotting. Subsequently, most of the technical aspects of the novel faded to the background in order to make space for the developing romance between the main characters. My biggest problem with that is the resulting lack of world-building, which got in the way of understanding most about these two clans and their particular characteristics beyond what the author chose to impart on the reader to make more dramatic the relationship between the star-crossed lovers. We hear a lot about the defining traits of these two clans, the feathers and the scales, the shows they put on, but most of their development rests on superficial notions of the cultures of France and Mexico the author expects the reader to just know. The narration is also constantly intersected with French and Spanish aphorisms and words, depending on whose perspective that particular scene was being told, which effectively added a mystifying quality to the whole affair, but quickly lost its appeal because of its relentlessly repetitive use.
I did enjoy very much how the two main characters, Cluck and Lace, were characterized. It's strange to read a YA novel where the two main characters aren't perfect (and completely oblivious to the fact) and where their entire relationship is based on a very shallow physical attraction. It's strange because, while I never actually felt like I knew either Cluck or Lace too much (probably an effect of the 3rd Person POV in this case), I genuinely believed they liked each other in a very emotional level and because of how each of them became a soothing balm to the internal wounds of the other. These are two very damaged characters, physically, emotionally and psychologically, and I really felt like they got each other in a very profound level. That's really important to me in a romance-focused novel, and I think this novel achieved it to a very commendable extent.
This is a rare and lovely novel that I honestly wish I could've love as much as it deserved to be loved. A heavy reliance on romance is not something I'm usually partial to, especially in magical realism where intense magical world-building and deep introspection are very strong preferences of mine, but the truth is that, in all likelihood, I just read this novel at the wrong time and I'm almost certain that, under different circumstances, I probably would've loved it. This is a very strong debut novel that foretells of a very sensitive writer with imagination and talent to spare. ...more
If this book had been a parody of the tired YA post-apocaliptic/dystopia/romancepocalypse genre I wishThe best laugh out loud book I've read in 2015!
If this book had been a parody of the tired YA post-apocaliptic/dystopia/romancepocalypse genre I wish someone would just take out of its misery already, this book would've been utter perfection because it captures almost effortlessly all that's pure garbage about the genre and then presents it to the reader in the most abominably infantile and histrionic writing I've read in ages, and through the most pathetically shallow and stereotyped characters I've ever had the misfortune to read about.
The 100 reminded me a lot of my experience with The Maze Runner, which is, in my opinion, the perfect book to exemplify what happens when you have a really fantastic idea for a novel but don't really have the talent to write yourself out of a children's coloring book. The 100 goes even further than that because, at the very least, The Maze Runner limped its way through a decent plot, whereas I'm being exceedingly generous by using the words "The 100" and "plot" in the exact same sentence without adding "absolutely had no" in the middle. This novel had no idea what it wanted to do, no direction or clear cut path of what it was supposed to be besides some generic "evil government" and angst-riddled shitfest who abused the words "beautiful" and "heart" to such an extent that I wouldn't be surprised if the words were to disappear from all dictionaries because this book drained the available quantities for them for eternity.
So there's this girl, who's beautiful and perfect and nice and is supposed to know something about whatever, but fuck it, who cares because isn't she just so beautiful? There's this guy who would do anything (anything) for a girl who hates him, because why should a NO or "stay away from me" or the lives of thousands of others mean anything when it's true love, right? This other guy who would do anything (anything) for his sister, except perhaps pay actual attention to her and all the shit she's doing. There's the aforementioned sister who, because she's not the main character, is not beautiful, perfect or nice. And then there's this other chick who has it really tough because the love of her life is poor and nobody wants them to be together, even though nobody is actually going out of their way to stop her from being with the guy. And they are all in love with each other, because of course.
Sorry, should I have written that with spoiler tags? I literally just gave away the entire plot of this novel. The worst part is... Okay, so I can't even settle on what the worst part of this novel was, but one of the equally awful parts of this novel is that, for a story so intently and brutally pushing the romance angle, not a single one of these characters had any chemistry whatsoever with each other, there wasn't a single spark or connection between them. It was all so ridiculously superficial and over-dramatic, the romance here felt less like the characters wanted to be with each other and more like the author forcing Barbie dolls to kiss each other. None of this was romantic. Quite frankly, it was uncomfortably stale and it bordered on creepy several times.
The storytelling in this novel was so insufferably lazy. There's 5 different third person PoVs that shift back and forth between present and past, each scene jarringly forced to remember some unnecessary memory about something mildly related to what's going on because telling your characters' past in a way that does not abuse this technique or disrupts the narrative flow of the story would be too much work. Essentially, the 300 and something pages of this novel consists on what happens when someone throws water on an anthill and the ants just scatter and start running around in circles for an extended period of time. Not that I can actually blame these characters for having absolutely no idea what to do, in this poorly-planned, nonsensical dystopia, not even the adults or Evil Goverment(TM) seemed to be having the slightest clue about what they were supposed to be doing or the reasons behind their actions.
Everything about this book is regurgitated from a hundred different other previous books, there's very little originality or uniqueness to the story to keep one focused, interested or entertained, and in any case, the poor writing, shallow characterization, forced romance and anorexic plotting take away from any small ember that could've burned this book's way into a better rating. I haven't seen the TV series, but I'm told it's really good and nothing like the book. I'd be interested if I wasn't already aware of a blatant instance of racism in how the characters from the book were given life in the series, so I can say with all confidence that I am done with The 100 in all its forms. ...more
Dumplin' is an exceedingly difficult book to talk about because, while there's a side of me that's ready to throw parades to celebrate this b3.5 stars
Dumplin' is an exceedingly difficult book to talk about because, while there's a side of me that's ready to throw parades to celebrate this book's social perfection, another side of me is still shrugging her shoulders apologetically with a very contrite look on her face because she feels like she should ask the world's forgiveness for not really loving this book. That's the problem with books that are just "okay" on a personal level, but that are fantastic on an objective way and extremely important because of the message they carry. The same happened to me with The Truth About Alice and even The Last Time We Say Goodbye, both of which ranked barely above decent for me in execution, but are still books I'd recommend to people in a heartbeat because of the importance of the message they were written to convey. Dumplin' now firmly positions itself at the top of my "Why can't I love you?!/What's wrong with me?!" category.
This novel is not exactly what I was expecting. It still is as body-positive as I hoped (and surprisingly sex-positive too!), but it took unexpected turns along the way to the point that I felt sometimes like the novel I started reading and the one that manifested itself after the first 50 pages were not the same. Body image is certainly the core of the novel, but the love-your-body thing and even the Dolly Parton and the beauty pageant parts of the plot, which I thought would be the central aspects of the novel, were relegated to the background a lot more than I expected. They hung on the periphery of the story, always there and guiding the story to a certain extent but rarely the focus of what was going on in most scenes. The novel is a whole lot more focused on Willowdean's relationships with others and day-to-day livings.
I am very pleased with the way some of the relationships were developed in the novel. They were nuanced, complex, flawed and meaningful, particularly those Willowdean had with her mother and her best friend and even those she developed with her new pageant friends (though those felt forced sometimes). But I can't say the same for the romantic relationships in the novel, which are arguably the main focus of the story. The romance here was handled in a very odd way and I am stuck between admiration at its unconventionality and exasperation at, both, the forced inclusion of a love triangle and the way the author decided to wrap up Willowdean's romantic complications. While I greatly admire the author's decision to include a main love interest that's flawed, but ultimately, not shallow in spite of his social standing, I never really felt much chemistry between Willowdean and Bo, and most of the time, the whole thing felt a whole lot more like wish-fulfillment than actual, genuine romance. Similarly, I respected the author's decision to portray Willowdean as a flawed character by the way in which she behaved with Mitch, but whatever respect I have is vastly outweighed by the dislike Willowdean provoked on my through the thoroughly selfish, shallow, corwardly and hypocritical way she dealt with him.
Willowdean is not a perfect character, she sometimes even crosses the line into downright unlikable, and I can understand how bold of a choice that was for an author trying to promote body-positivism and self-love. You want readers to see this message reflected on a character and feel it themselves, which is more easily (and lazily) achieved through a perfectly lovable and charming main character. Willowdean is charming, definitely fierce, but she's far from perfectly lovable. The entire story is about her learning far more than self-love (which she was already in possession of well before the story actually started), and actually has her considering about many other factors of who she is as a person. And she is, most definitely, selfish, self-centered, insensibly stubborn and cowardly. I'd like to say she grew out of all of them by the end of the book, but that's not true. Willowdean learns some things throughout the course of the novel, but she's hardly a much better individual towards the end. Sometimes I couldn't help feeling that, while the novel made a point of Willowdean learning Important Lessons, it sometimes went out of its way to justify her shitty actions or downright refused to address the fact that she had been, in fact, shitty to others. Still, she was a pretty good lead for this type of book.
I deeply enjoyed that, for the most part, no part of this story felt manufactured and forced to jackhammer body-positivism into the reader's mind. Perhaps with the exception of the romance, this book has a pretty believable and realistic story that conveys a message that's easy to accept because of its honesty. I never actually laughed out loud with the book, but I must admit it was a fairly entertaining one. My biggest problem with this novel is probably that it took far too long to get anywhere. I like that it took its time to develop meaningful relationships which are usually so deliberately ignored in other novels, but at certain points it felt too round-about, too willingly stuck in order to halt the progression of things. By the time it decided to go anywhere, my excitement had diminished exponentially.
All in all, Dumplin' is a very special book that deserves to be read. It delivers a very important message with great success and makes for a very entertaining read as well. I'm sad I wasn't able to love it, but this one of those books that I'll definitely recommend for many years to come. ...more
For a while now, I've been starving for some good YA circus fiction, so I imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon this one and that gorgeous cover.For a while now, I've been starving for some good YA circus fiction, so I imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon this one and that gorgeous cover. The blurb made me wary, though, because it seemed like the book would take a more paranormal romance kind of path, not to mention that it feels like someone should've reined in whoever wrote it because it gave far too much away from the plot. I was write on both accounts.
My biggest gripe with this novel is that the circus is only a plot device that barely figures into the story. It could've been a school or an academy, and it wouldn't have made a difference in terms of the setting's importance, so I felt a bit cheated. Admittedly, close to the first hundred pages take place in the circus, but that's only until the actual story starts. And once it did, it went from zero to a million in .05 seconds flat.
To say this novel has a breakneck speed is an understatement, but that’s not necessarily something good for me in this case. The story jumps into hyperspeed seemingly out of nowhere, starting with a very passive beginning and speeding away into a dangerous race for survival that gave the story a very disjointed feel to it. Moreover, I can’t very well say that the fast pace of the novel made for an interesting or exciting read. These characters were just running around, scattered like ants, waiting for something to happen and having very petty and repetitive conversations with each other until someone swooped in and forced the story to move along.
The simple and basic plot structure of the novel contributed even more strongly to that, as well. The plot is too loose, which gave ample space for repetition and boring and flat introspection, instead of sorely-needed world-building and characterization. The characters, including the “heroine”, never grew up from semi-stereotyped sketches, remaining static all throughout the novel. They were predictable and shallow to the point where you could pretty much guess what they would say or do in every single scene, not only because they did it time and time again, but also because there wasn’t much to them besides that particular attitude reserved uniquely to them. You could tell Jett would always say something supportive and loving and Pru would say something “bitchy”. These characters were given absolutely no room to grow, and then they were used shamelessly like props to satisfy some emotional need of Flo’s, the main character.
I liked that the author had no problem with multiplying the body count. Most authors these days contain themselves when it comes to killing characters, and more often than not, that affects the narrative. But the deaths in this story were done in a very callous manner than was aimed directly to playing with Flo’s emotions. The story would kill off someone she didn’t like, just so that she could rise above it all and show herself to be so sad about someone who was generally horrible to her. Then the climax of the story rolled along and dealt a pretty awful death to manipulate both Flo and the reader, immediately followed by a twist that left a very sour taste in my mouth.
Flo was a pretty generic main character, the sort of blank slate heroine we are supposed to empathize with and root for because she experiences some generic insecurities, is generically bullied by some generic mean girls who are jealous of her specialness and the attention she receives from some generic nice and “gorgeous” guy, and who’s just such a good person in her thoughts, even though she never actually does anything good or heroic. I hated the way the story kept shoving in my face how great Flo was, how brave and good and kind, when in the story itself, she was none of those things. And then you had this dull guy after her for no reason whatsoever, brought together because the author deemed it so and not because there was any chemistry or noticeable bond between them.
There was little to no world-building in this novel, and as a result, the plot feels forced and full of holes. Things never quite made sense to me, and the “bad guys” were so prosaic and unimaginative, their actions and their mission so banal, it was hard to care at all about their trite contribution to the novel. There was barely an explanation for their existence, and the one that was offered was so patently absurd, it was exceedingly hard to take seriously any aspect of this story. And I won’t even mention how preposterous the idea of shifters is within the context of this world, as nothing is said about them or the whole point of their existence, and no aspect of it is explored aside from some generic “getting carried away by the animal instincts” BS.
The potential was there all along and Ormond seemed like a talented enough author to take this story further, but the novel remained static and banal all the way through. All in all, the novel is just generic, not terrible on any account, but definitely mediocre. Perhaps with more tailored expectations, the fast-pace and high stakes will be enjoyable and provide the necessary excitement to make this a worthwhile reading experience, but that was not the case for me. ...more
The Suffering is the perfect example of how much an author can grow and learn between books, how experience can be a wonderful teacher if the person iThe Suffering is the perfect example of how much an author can grow and learn between books, how experience can be a wonderful teacher if the person is willing to develop and work their craft. About a year ago, The Girl from the Well left me feeling disappointed. It showed promise and was a decent debut novel as a whole, but there was potential wasted and it ended up being a slightly underwhelming novel. So it was with no small amount of apprehension that I approached The Suffering. As it turns out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
With a more structured plot, more focused storytelling and meticulous writing, Chupeco fulfilled with the Suffering the promise her debut novel had, ultimately delivering with this one the great novel that The Girl from the Well should’ve been. Instead of shifting back and forth between multiple points of view, The Suffering concentrated on the narrative of Tarquin alone. Of course, reading from the perspective of Okiku sounds more appealing, but the flow of the story worked a lot better this time around by fixating only in Tarquin’s POV, and stranger still, Okiku was even more compelling a character through the eyes of Tarquin as well. The result reminded me of Anna Dressed in Blood to some extent, as they are both told from the perspective of a teenage boy with a mystifying connection to a girl ghost that enjoys tearing people apart – not to mention the inclusion of the infamous Aokigahara forest in Girl of Nightmares, which is the setting of most of the action in The Suffering as well – but that’s where the similarities end.
Tarquin is a decent narrator, perhaps not as compelling as Okiku was in the first novel (ignoring the slightly frustrating and repetitive bouts of fractured narration, which are successfully contained in this novel, resulting in a more satisfying use of that technique), but a very engaging and solid point of view nonetheless. He carries the weight of the novel well, and what’s interesting is that even he is aware that he’s hardly the most important or fascinating point in the novel, so a lot of attention is given to Okiku, their relationship and the horrors they are experiencing, as opposed to a more introspective look at his life and what he feels. There were certain points where he failed to come across as a believable teenage boy to me, but it was still a commendable effort on the author’s part, and in any case, fulfilled its intended point extremely well. His voice conveyed beautifully the confusing, disturbing but ultimately touching nature of Tarquin and Okiku’s relationship, which I loved to see developed in this novel. The writing, likewise, is fantastic, a bit repetitive a handful of times, but perfectly suited to the style of the novel.
The Suffering is legitimately creepy and a very well-executed YA horror novel as a whole. It was chilling and disturbing, and it delivered flawlessly the Japanese horror atmosphere while maintaining the due respect and loyalty to the culture. Unlike the first one, the introduction to Japanese culture didn’t take over the narrative and plot, and instead was worked seamlessly into the story. Chupeco never left the reader blind to what was happening and dealt important – and very fascinating – information about the customs and background that shaped the atmosphere of the novel without it ever feeling like info-dumps. Moreover, it was all so mesmerizing. I love Japanese culture and learning about these dark bits of history (real or inspired by reality, both) was immensely fascinating and riveting.
This novel kicks off strongly and it remained a thoroughly gripping read from beginning to end, never once relinquishing its complete hold on my attention or lagging in any way or form. The story is fast-paced and wildly entertaining, but never is the complexity of the novel sacrificed in exchange for breakneck speed and enjoyment. It dealt twists into the story that melded together almost perfectly, and I didn’t even mind the seemingly disjointed first third of the novel that deals with a situation in America rather than Japan, because it all fit together so well. Chupeco managed to keep the intensity of the story all the way through, keeping me focused and entertained even in the most passive of moments in the story. This is a book that I positively did not want to stop reading, and I can’t remember the last time that happened to me.
The entire half of the novel dedicated to the Aokigahara forest, the dolls, the Hell’s gate and the ritual was very near perfection to me. Chupeco didn’t hold back with the horror, death and disturbing brutality, and still, somehow she managed to intersect legitimately touching moments of love, friendship and bravery. The climax and ending of the novel were amazing. I had my doubts about it when I saw it coming, but the result was unexpectedly satisfying, very different from what other novels would’ve done, and provided for a perfect ending to this series, perpetuating the morally ambiguous and anti-hero air of the novel that set it apart from others in the genre from the very beginning.
In spite of the rocky start that was The Girl in the Well, I am very sad to see this series come to a close. The Suffering was a fantastic book in its own right, but it excels as a sequel because of the way it managed to take the good from its predecessor and deliver a superb continuation to the story that tops the original in every single way. Chupeco’s growth as an author is palpable all throughout this novel and firmly positions her within the group of authors I am keeping a very close eye on from now on. In all likelihood the best Japanese-inspired YA horror novel I’ve read, The Suffering is an excellent conclusion to a solid duology and one of my favorite novels of the year. ...more