I'd never seen The Princess Bride movie until last night when I drove my boyfriend around our entire town looking for a video store that had4.5 stars
I'd never seen The Princess Bride movie until last night when I drove my boyfriend around our entire town looking for a video store that had it because I had finished the book day before and I just had to see the movie now, and, when we came back home disappointed, discovered that Holy Amazon now rents movies for online streaming and basically all of dreams came true because I no longer even have to get up from bed to rent a movie that's not available on Netflix. I know, I know, what kind of reader or child of the 90's I am that I'd never even heard of The Princess Bride until recently? I've never seen Labyrinth or The Never Ending Story, so sue me.
I was strictly an animated Disney child. Ask me to sing you the entire soundtrack to any Disney movie from the 90s and I will do it with pride and probably throw in a carefully choreographed dance routine. But The Princess Bride? I knew about the meme. That's about as far as I went. Now, though? I think I've done nothing but quote Inigo Montoya for the last 24 hours, you know what line. Yup. That one.
I didn't expect to love this book. I was expecting to develop some sort of appreciation for it, there has to be reason why it is a classic, but this book is entertaining and funny and engaging and the pages flew by without me even realizing it. This story reads like a fairy tale, and it might've been written in the 70's but it feels timeless. It is as compulsively readable today and it probably was back there and it doesn't feel like it's aged at all in 40 years. It has all the qualities of the type of fantasy story that prevails the test of time while maintaining a certain modern age that keeps it relevant to the current generations. I was never once bored and I loved the characters. Sometimes they were annoying, sometimes they felt like a stereotype, but they were so funny, so engaging and lovable and surprisingly layered at many points in the story. I had a really hard time tearing myself from the novel.
Goldman did such a wonderful job with the satire in the novel and not taking itself too seriously, which gave the novel the freedom to take some plot lines, give the characters new layers and make them engage in hilarious, totally stupid, but ultimately satisfying and, of course, effective actions that moved the plot along without making it obvious that it was a blatant plot device that relied too much on convenience or too little on sense, because, dammit, it was just that much fun.
Sadly, the book does fall prey to some of the conventions of the time and that is the position of the woman in the story. There were some scenes in there were Buttercup took a hold of her own destiny, showed a backbone and delivered some pretty great lines and insults. But, for the most part, she was a very passive aspect of the story and, of course, she just sat down and waited to be rescued. I wasn't bothered by that as much as it bothered me how some male characters, including the narrator/author reacted to her. They talked down to her, they insulted her, they even hit her and it wasn't only the villain of the story. I'm glad they took that scene from the movie because it was enough of a downer for me to take one star off the rating of the book and I probably would've ended up hating the movie as a whole if that hadn't been edited in the film.
All in all, this was an extremely pleasurable experience, both the book and the movie, and I am extremely glad I decided to give this book a chance. It might've not been perfect for me, but it really felt perfect while I read it. The 4 stars is the result of some consideration of the elements of the novel, but trust me, my heart said 5 stars the whole time I read it. Now, if you excuse me, I have to go annoy trolls on the internet who whine about feminism with this awesome line from the movie. Yes, you know the one.
Tease is a surprisingly nuanced and contemplative novel about bullying and the struggles in the high school social scene that delivers a new3.5 stars
Tease is a surprisingly nuanced and contemplative novel about bullying and the struggles in the high school social scene that delivers a new perspective on the subject that's sufficiently realistic and thought-provoking without crossing the line into after school special or feeling like it's preaching to the reader. Tease is actually a decently written novel that presents a very compelling case through its characters and the careful way it developed the story without passing judgment or taking sides and instead focusing on bringing humanity with all of its complications to all sides of the debate. The effort is certainly commendable and I agree to some extent with Maciel's views, but, while I wouldn't dare to imply that the book feels like an apology for bullies, - because that would be missing the point almost entirely -, there is some degree of rationalization for bullying in this novel that sort of implies that it is not entirely the bullies fault to a point that the punishments are sometimes unfair because some of them do not actually intend to hurt and that some of them are not entirely responsible for their behavior. I love the bravery behind Maciel's message, and like I said, I agree somewhat with it, but every person is responsible for their actions, whether there were good or bad intentions behind it, and that's where I emotionally disconnected from the novel. I am aware that each person is a microcosm of their own, that there are a thousand different factors behind every decision, and that's what I loved about this novel, that Maciel chose to acknowledge that and she did it well, but still, I cannot agree entirely with the message of the novel.
The novel is decently written and it has some passages in particular that were moving, introspective and engaging, but, for the most part, in spite of the intensity of the story, I had a hard time staying hooked in the novel. I'm glad Maciel decided to go with an unlikable protagonist for this story. Sara was a very difficult character to connect with, like or root for, but that made the story feel more authentic and works really well with her development in the story. But still, I didn't exactly care for these characters. Almost all of them were layered and complicated, but personally, I didn't find them fascinating, so it was hard to stay absorbed in the story. Moreover, there were points in the novel that were rather stagnant in development, and towards the later half, the novel started dragging in order to put off the scenes that it had been foreshadowing and building up to for most of the story. There were also some issues with the "teen speak". While I didn't find faults with it for most of the novel, there were parts where the writing tried too hard to sound like a teenager and instead sounded exactly like an adult who watched a couple of teen shows trying to emulate what they'd said there, with came with an abuse of the word "like" and some forced dialogue.
Regardless of my rating, I believe this is a novel that people should read. Kinda like The Truth About Alice, even though the book might be flawed in a technical aspect, the message it carries is way too important and needs to be read. This book gives a very human face to bullying, and instead of making this a conflict of good guys versus bad guys, it reminds us that this is an issue between human beings, a problem that has a root deep within the humanity of the people involved and that can, therefore, be solved by being human. This is a very different, very compelling take on bullying that's brave and achingly human and that Maciel managed to convey beautifully through this novel. It is certainly one I would recommend, specially to YA readers given the genre's infatuation with dividing characters into strict, inflexible and one-dimensional roles of good guys and the bad guys that are bad because they don't like the good guy. I'll certainly be on the lookout for anything else Maciel writes. ...more
Messenger of Fear is basically what you would get if Hot Topic and an After School Special had a baby: from the obvious, cliched bullying, to the seemMessenger of Fear is basically what you would get if Hot Topic and an After School Special had a baby: from the obvious, cliched bullying, to the seemingly philosophical realization that, *gasp*, there's both good and evil inside all of us, and right down to the tight, faux leather clothing, the crazy and totes rebellious colors for hair and cosmetics, tattoos and the cheesy skull buttons in a black, long, Goth jacket, because why not? That's how creatures of the underworld/otherworld/whatever-the-hell-this-mythology-is-supposed-to-be dress, right? When they sign up for the job, they are automatically given a 40% discount on all of their Hot Topic purchases, otherwise, they wouldn't be creatures of darkness.
Grant tried. He did put in a commendable effort in making this more than just the pseudo-philosophical, cliche, stilted, predictable mess it was, but, in the end, this book barely goes over the 200 page mark by being pointlessly long-winded, taking itself too seriously, trying to teach "valuable lessons" about the nature of humanity, and stretching what little is there of a plot that feels like the prequel to the actual story. Basically, the plot of this first novel is what authors nowadays reserve for 30+ page overpriced novellas on Kindle that promise to "explore" the world and the characters before delivering the actual story. What Messenger of Fear does is set the stage, introduce the reader to this world and this needlessly convoluted mythology through a blank slate of a main character with a very predictable story and forced, grating and stilted narrative voice that's supposed to convey the profoundly philosophical dimensions of good versus evil and everything that's in between (hint: us humans) but instead is at once boring and cheesy and definitely trying way too hard.
The story in this novel is so unstructured, so simple in basically every aspect except for the pointlessly convoluted and nonsensical mythology they tried to push in towards the end, that it ends up being kind of painful. It jumps back and forth between a couple of different, textbook bullying situations in the hopes of prolonging what little plot there is and giving new dimensions to the good and evil theme (hint: us humans, we are both good and evil, you're welcome), but it gave the novel a feeling of disjointedness. It didn't feel like it was that way on purpose, but rather because there were only about 15 pages of actual plot and they needed to pump all the filler they could into this novel to inflate it into an acceptable 200+ book, regardless of how messy, jumbled and loose the whole thing ended up being. I will give it this, the novel certainly has a good atmosphere, and I'm pretty sure that's about the only reason I made it to the end.
This is the first novel I read by Grant. I know the guy's a very popular author, so I was expecting something that lived up to that reputation. But Messenger of Fear is so pedestrian and banal, so simple, I have a hard time reconciling the image of an experienced, beloved and best selling author with this product. The novel is not terrible, hence the two stars, and it's certainly not one of the worst books I've ever read, but the book is so unremarkable, so mediocre, it left close to no impression at all. I'm making fun of the novel, but, honestly, I barely remember it all and it's only been about a week since I read it. This was not a creepy novel full of horror and the nuanced exploration of humanity I was promised. This book struggled to be at least engaging for 200 pages, let's not even talk about actually being fun, and being creepy and nuanced and introspective and horrific was entirely out of its reach. I don't know if this is just Grant's trademark style or if it is just one weak novel in a line of brilliant novels, but I'm really not interested in finding out. There was nothing in this novel that made me want to come back to this world or this author. It was far too ambitious in its premise for what it actually delivered and it was capable of delivering. Messenger of Fear is predictable, slow, disjointed and trying too hard, ultimately a weak offering in basically every single aspect....more
I loved the different styles of illustrations, even if not all of the illustrations themselves, and I think some of them were very appropriat3.5 stars
I loved the different styles of illustrations, even if not all of the illustrations themselves, and I think some of them were very appropriate for the stories and helped to evoke the atmosphere of horror, mysticism, and mystery that identified Lovecraft's stories. Unfortunately, some of the adaptations didn't work so well in this format. For some, removing large chunks for the text worked well with the images for they managed to convey what the words didn't, but for others, there was a sense of disjointedness, a feeling that there was something missing, and that made some of them really hard to understand. As a whole, I think this is a really cool effort. ...more
Mistwalker was a complete and pleasant surprise for me. I certainly had some expectations of it; the moment I read the very intriguing summar3.5 stars
Mistwalker was a complete and pleasant surprise for me. I certainly had some expectations of it; the moment I read the very intriguing summary for this book, I knew I needed to read it. I'd been craving a good, original paranormal book for quite a while and this books seemed promising. Still, I was aware that YA paranormal books these days are a gamble that I usually lose. The market is saturated with unoriginal, recycled garbage full of tropes and stereotypes, far too heavy on the romance and far too light in substance. So imagine my surprise when Mistwalker turned out to be none of those things and actually delivered a unique and engaging story, with layered characters and not a single one of those dreaded YA stereotypes that I've come to hate so much. No love triangle, an actual plot instead of a romance-heavy story, genuine and diverse characters that came across as honest and never tried to hard to be either genuine or diverse, a beautifully-crafted atmosphere, and a heartfelt story that I was actually invested in. The book is not perfect, and I did struggle with some aspects of it, but the uniqueness of this book had already skyrocketed it safely into Rayne-approved land.
I never thought I'd say this, being someone who thinks fishing is about as interesting as following the rotations of a fan, and who hates seafood, but holy crap, the world of Broken Tooth was fascinating. I loved the juxtaposition of the realistic hardships of living in a small, poor, fishing town, and the mysticism of the place, the old-fashioned superstitions, the old-timey view of a life on the sea, the mystery of the lighthouse, and the touches of magic and the paranormal. Mitchell did a magnificent job with the setting and the atmosphere in this book. It was rich, mesmerizing and absolutely beautiful, and also kind of eerie. This is not a horror novel, nor is it scary in the slightest, but there's a sort of eeriness to it, something ominous that you can't quite shake, and it was beautiful. Mitchell captured the feeling of a small town and infused it with magic and the power of superstitions and it worked marvelously.
Willa was a main character that was really easy to root for. She was genuine, honest, and pretty clear with what she wanted. She felt authentic to me, and she's a pretty good example of how to write about a character that's different and wants different things from others without going into special snowflake territory or shoving down the reader's throat just how unique and special she is. She was flawed, made plenty of mistakes and had some pretty ugly feelings trapped inside of her, but they all felt realistic and natural to the character. She was a layered and complex protagonist that developed nicely throughout the novel through, not only the events in the story, but also through her meaningful relationships with other characters in the novel.
The Grey Man, for his part, was a very interesting character with an ambiguous morality and unflinching honesty that I came to like really quickly. His narrative also displayed the best of Mitchell's writing and contributed greatly to the atmosphere of the novel. I also particularly liked that Mitchell avoided the paranormal creature/human love affair entirely and opted for developing Grey and Willa's relationship in a completely different way.
I really liked that Mitchell didn't waste a single important character in her story, certainly not on stereotypes or strict roles of convenience. There's a lesbian character in there for whom being a lesbian is only part of who she is and not her entire definition, which is a continuous struggle with representation in many other YA works. She is a perfectly normal girl with ambitions and feelings and flaws who just so happens to like girls. Then there's the ex-boyfriend, who's a sweet, supportive and genuine person during his relationship with Willa and after, and who's not vilified in any way because of a single mistake he makes. And then there's the "mean girl", whose not a mean girl at all because Mitchell effectively deconstructed this stereotyped and humanized her, making her an honest, flawed person that's suffering almost as much as Willa herself. There's really no antagonist in the story, no evil person to mindlessly hate, and that's something that meant quite a lot to me in my reading experience with this book. Every person is a complex and flawed world of their own, and not one of them is vilified in order to make the heroine look better. Willa's a heroine in this book because of her own actions and decisions, and the way she chooses to fight her internal battles.
Basically, this is a book about grief. Almost every character in this novel is grieving in their own ways, and the main story focuses on how these characters can find it in them to move on. I liked the way Mitchell developed this theme, how she seamlessly worked it into the story and into the development of the characters without saturating the plot and making it heavy and depressive. The novel was nicely written as a whole, though I did admittedly struggled with the cohesiveness of some dialogues and some scenes. The book never once felt disjointed, but some parts were slightly hard to follow.
The biggest issue in this book is actually how slow it is. Personally, I didn't think it was boring, but the book has a very gradual development and a very passive pace that feels almost languid. This is not a book to read for fun or excitement. It is a short book, but it is one that takes its time to develop the characters and the plot, the latter which is admittedly pretty straightforward and simple. That resulted in repetitiveness sometimes, but I never felt like this hurt my enjoyment of the book at any point. I know this is where the book fails for most readers, but I think the novel is worth sticking through the unhurried pace of the story.
There are two points of view in the novel, and though I really liked how Mitchell worked the narrative through both of them and how she managed to make both voices sound different, I'm still not convinced they were both absolutely necessary to the plot. I really liked the dimension the dual narration brought to the story and the mythology behind the plot, plus the way they worked to add layers to the characters, but it sometimes interrupted the flow of the story. Ultimately, I enjoyed both POVs immensely, and I understand the need for both in the novel, but I was never quite convinced of the need for both.
Ultimately, this was a very satisfying novel that gave me a whole lot more than I expected and actually resurrected somewhat my hope for the future of paranormal YA. It's not a perfect novel in itself, but Mitchell made it as perfect as it could be, and I really appreciate what she achieved with this story. It is different and engaging in a way very little other PN YA books have been in a while and I look forward to reading more from this author. ...more
This may come as a shock, judging by the mediocre average rating of this novel and the extremely valid 1 star reviews that top the GR page, a3.5 stars
This may come as a shock, judging by the mediocre average rating of this novel and the extremely valid 1 star reviews that top the GR page, and it certainly was a shock to me, but... I actually liked this novel. Quite a lot. Having said that, let me be clear on something: I would not recommend this novel to anyone, because all those 1 stars reviews are completely right: this is an extremely depressive novel that features what's probably one of the most disturbing, despicable and unhealthiest relationships I've read about, along with some pretty infuriating characters to boot. I can see why that wouldn't work for most readers, but, ironically, those were the things I loved the most about the novel.
Most YA retellings of classical works of fiction, - as opposed to fairy tale retellings, which give the authors a lot more room to make the stories their own -, struggle with capturing the essence that made the original a classic, like Great, most of them never actually succeed at convincing the reader of the connection between what they present and the work and author they are trying to honor, like Of Monsters and Madness, and even less do they ever manage to make a good case for the necessity of this retelling, like Thorn Abbey or Ashes on the Waves, but I actually think Hutchinson managed to do every single of these things beautifully. I honestly believe that Hutchinson captured the spirit of Shakespeare's Hamlet because she really understood the work, from the story to the characters, and portrayed them as they really are in all of their twisted glory. She didn't try to break the bones of the story to reset them into what she wanted the story to be, and she didn't reshape the characters to her convenience. She filled in the gaps in the story, rounded up the characters and brought a timeless story into our own times, but it stayed Hamlet from a different and, I would argue, necessary point of view. That is not to say that the story always worked, particularly in this setting, but Hutchinson achieved the impressive feat of capturing the essence of Hamlet and making it feel like Hamlet.
This book is told from Ophelia's point of view. We all know how this story ends, we know the events and some of us even know the monologues by heart, but all of that, in no way diminished my enjoyment of the novel or made me any less excited about reading what would happen next. The book is certainly slow and undeniably depressive. This is not an entertaining book, and definitely not a feel good novel. This is a sad, depressive, bleak work that's heartbreaking and sorrowful every step of the way. Being down in the dumps while reading this novel is not entirely optional. The book is written in such a way that it drags to down to the depths of Ophelia's despair and it is almost impossible to break from that.
This is a beautifully written novel, with a lovely, evocative and lyrical prose that I had a really hard time tearing my eyes away from, and Hutchinson put it to really good use in breathing life into Hamlet's most innocent victim: Ophelia. I felt like the really gave dimension to this character, and most importantly, managed to give her a duality that she lacked in Shakespeare's original. Here, Ophelia was no less a victim than she was in the original, but she was also not as innocent, incapable or foolish. She certainly allowed herself to be manipulated by Hamlet and her feelings for him, but there was a degree of willingness and determination from her in Hutchinson's retelling that painted the character in a new light. I really liked how Hutchinson played with Ophelia's madness and she used it to create a world of impossible things that still felt possible. I liked how the lines blurred between reality and fantasy and how that helped to create the atmosphere of the story.
The novel also attempts to give a lot more depth to the rest of the characters, which I greatly appreciated, for in Shakespeare's original there had been very little space to explore other characters besides Hamlet. Here we get a more introspective look at Gertrude, and maybe get some understanding of why she acted the way she did, even though it can't possibly excuse her, and we see more of loyal Horatio. What I liked the most about the characterization in this book is that, while it went a lot deeper than in the original, it didn't break away from the original, it didn't change the essence of the characters in any way and actually felt quite natural to them. There were a couple of characters that didn't really work for me, particularly Polonius, who felt very inconsistent in characterization and whole actions later on in the novel felt disjointed from the character he had been in the first half of the story. But mostly, the characterization really worked for me, especially Hamlet, who I felt Hutchinson captured beautifully.
There's a bit of an issue with the modern setting of the novel and the narration, dialogues and customs of the characters. This would've probably being an issue for me under other circumstances, but I honestly think it worked well here and that it was done on purpose. It will definitely feel disjointed at points, but I quite liked the juxtaposition of the modern setting with the narrative style, the dialogues and the ideals that the characters embraced. I feel like that helped to maintain the Shakespearean feeling of the novel. Had Hutchinson forsaken that and opted for a more modern style, I feel like the novel as a whole would've lost its appeal, its originality and beauty, and would've ended up being yet another Shakespeare retelling for me. That's particularly strange considering that that's the very reason why I didn't like Baz Luhrman's Romeo+Juliet, for I felt the juxtaposition in that movie grated on my nerves, but for some reason, I feel like the author made it work in this format.
I was a bit uncomfortable with the visualization of women in the novel, but, really, this is a pretty faithful Hamlet retelling, which is an appallingly sexist play all by itself, so I can't praise the faithfulness of this novel one second and then hold it against it the next. But it would also be a lie to say that this novel is sexist in its own right. Quite the contrary, actually. Hamlet's claims that his mother is a whore for marrying his uncle is about 60% of his psychological issues in the original play. If Hutchinson had done away with that, a very important aspect of his madness would've been lost. Countless books have been written about Hamlet's obsession with his mother's sexuality, hell, I wrote a freaking essay on it in one of my literature classes, so it would've done the original a disservice to ignore that part. Moreover, the novel makes it particularly clear that Hamlet is not a character whose judgement is to be trusted, for Hamlet is pretty much the pinnacle of inconsistency and selfishness. Aside from that, Ophelia's comments about being a good girl are nothing but the indoctrination forced upon her by this outdated institution that's trying to cling to the ideals of the past. Hutchinson actually makes a point out of portraying just how wrong these ideals are by mentioning several times in the novel that there's another school trying to get Elsinore Academy to change its curriculum for girls and make it as challenging as the boys so that they can grow into their own people and not somebody else's wife and support, an idea both Ophelia and Hamlet support later on in the novel.
And finally, the abusive relationship. There really isn't much I can say about this, for clearly, it is a sick a relationship as I've ever read about. Normally, this type of relationship would've immediately earned a 1 star rating, maybe a rant, but here it made sense. We are talking about classical characters who are famous for being so very fucked up. It makes sense that the author would've chosen to portray a relationship between the two about as fucked up as them, especially when one considers the fate that awaits these characters. I wouldn't have made sense for the relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet to be portrayed in any other way. And I personally never felt like the author was supporting this type of relationship, like she was trying to paint it in a positive light or to even imply that it was acceptable under any circumstances. Unlike other novels that romanticize abusive relationships, this one didn't try to surgarcoat the ugliness, didn't try to make it sexy or made the characters heroes for going along with it. On the contrary, the most sensible characters, the ones portrayed in a positive light in the novel, repeatedly told Ophelia and Hamlet just how fucked up the whole thing was, and even Hamlet and Ophelia were pretty much aware that this was horrible, that their relationship was doomed and that it was a sick, ugly thing. The novel portrayed the relationship as it was, without any discernible encouragement on its part. Not every novel that features a disturbing, abusive relationship is trying to make it out as a beautiful, positive thing, though that certainly is the tendency in YA and NA nowadays. The author makes the reader aware every step of the way that this relationship is a hideous, abusive thing that spelled the doom for the main character because she refused to walk away from it.
Okay, wow, I feel like I just wrote a thesis on this novel, so if you read this review all the way to the end, thank you for sticking with me. I just had a lot of things to say about this novel because I honestly believe Hutchinson did a fantastic job, and in light of the mediocre rating and bad reviews, I felt like I had to explain myself. This book just felt right to me. I did a wonderful job at capturing the essence of the original Hamlet, and it was honest with how it portrayed the characters and the plot. The author never tried to make out of this characters something that they were not. They were ugly, selfish, weak, cowardly and twisted beings that did ugly, selfish, weak, cowardly and twisted things to each other, and that's what makes Hamlet the classic it is, and I wholeheartedly believe that A Wounded Name succeeded in honoring Shakespeare's Hamlet just the way it deserve to be honored. ...more
Every bit as disturbing, dark, twisted and utterly compelling as I've come to expect from Gillian Flynn. I felt like some aspects of the nove3.5 stars
Every bit as disturbing, dark, twisted and utterly compelling as I've come to expect from Gillian Flynn. I felt like some aspects of the novel were overreaching, and while the plot is threaded together almost impeccably, some scenes and plot points felt like they were too loosely tied to the plot and relied far too much on convenience. Aside from that, this book is absolutely riveting and entertaining in a very sick and ugly kind of way. It has Flynn's trademark razor-sharp writing and a very cutting and fascinating anti-heroine whose brutal honesty I loved. I expected something different, but I was pleased with the final result. ...more
The moment this started to sound like a mix between Ten and They All Fall Down, I knew this had NO BUENO written all over it. But I decided to give itThe moment this started to sound like a mix between Ten and They All Fall Down, I knew this had NO BUENO written all over it. But I decided to give it a fighting chance. True, I'd hated the shit out of the two short stories I'd read from these authors, but what the hell? The book was short, kids were dying all over the place, what did I have to lose? Besides several hours of my life I am never getting back, I almost lost my e-reader because that's how hard I wanted to throw it against the wall in frustration with this book.
This rant review might go on for a while, so if you don't want to stick with me all the way to the end, here's the short version: This book really fucking sucks. It's just awful. Like, gouge-your-eyes-out-with-rusty-spoons-and-pour bleach-on-your-ears-in-the-hopes-it'll-get-to-your-brain-and-erase-away-the-terrible-memory-of-having-read-it awful. For those who want to stick around for the long version, I'll throw in some gifs to make the experience a lot livelier.
This book is just like every other YA thriller/mystery about someone hunting down teenagers and killing them in gruesome ways out there, so there must be a set of RULES out there that YA authors shared amongst themselves. Since I am not privy to that particular information, I'll make my own based on what I learned from The Rules.
Rule #1: Insert every single teenage stereotype in there. The more outdated, overplayed and excessive, the better.
The jock with the heart of gold with the secret love for the quiet girl nobody notices? Welcome aboard! How 'bout the mysterious, kinda freaky-looking, weird guy with a vendetta against all the characters? Oh, how about we make the main character the sweet, shy girl nobody acknowledges but who's smarter, kinder, stronger and better than everybody else just 'cuz? The dumb one who gets easily manipulated by everyone, is revered only by how pretty and "easy" she is and goes running at the first sight of trouble? The ambitious social climber willing to step over everyone to get to the top? The gorgeous and ambitious mean girl with a secret who's really not that bad? A group of douche bros who only think about sex and alcohol? Bring them all in. And they are rich and popular and entitled, so of course they are a bunch of horrible people. Oh, but we need some diversity. Here. Have a guy with a Japanese name and a chick with an Indian name and let's cleverly not say anything else about the ethnicity of any other character, especially the crazy one that's in a gang, even though there might be some hints that he's black. It's not racist if we don't say it.
I don't think I've read about a more uninspired and cliched group of characters since Welcome to the Dark House. Not only that, they were also boring as fuck. Not a single one was in the slightest even remotely interesting. The lack of development or believable growth, the absence of layers to their personalities and the way they were used to check every single box in the stereotype checklist made them impossible to like, much less be engaging in the slightest. I care not a single fuck about any of them, not enough to even bat an eyelash when they were killed. It's a murder mystery! I need to care that someone's killing these kids, even if I don't care for the teens themselves. And yet...
Rule #2: To distract from how stereotyped and unoriginal your characters are, give them some stupid little trait. Don't even think about it. It doesn't even have to make sense. Just throw it in there. It's not like they'll notice. It's a YA book after all.
The psycho ex-boyfriend that's on a gang? Yeah, he has a black chihuahua that he adores and take with him everywhere. See how creative this character is? If he were a normal psycho ex-boyfriend who's on a gang, he would have a more menacing dog, like a Bulldog or a Rottweiler, not a freaking chihuahua! Did I just blow your mind or what?
And the shy girl, you see, she can be a leader and has a really great mind for mystery. You know how? She likes to play Clue. That's right: the mystery authority in this novel got her title by playing Clue with her 8 year old brother. Seriously, hold on to your seats because the character depth here will blow you right out into outer-space.
Rule #3: Make these characters as melodramatic, conniving and suspicious as possible. The more outrageous the better. Give them some really over dramatic rules to live by. Remember, they are teenagers. They need some really hardcore rules to live by. There are social steps to climb, after all. Really important life goals right there. Oh, and start every single chapter with one of those rules. They don't need to make sense or relate to what's going to happen next. Trust me. I write good.
We just don't understand. These kids have been so hardened by life's burdens. Robin has loved Kyle for so long, but she's the coach's daughter and that's against the rules. Romeo and Juliet had it easy compared to them. Oh, and Beth, poor Beth. She had to live outside of the popular group for years. For years, I tell you! She can't trust anyone or all she's worked for will crumble before her. She would not be invited to parties anymore! Think of the parties!
The way this bunch of little shits talk, you'd think they'd gone through the biggest hardships in the history of humanity. Who the fuck has an extremely detailed set of rules to live by? Teenagers at that. And if they do, why are they all based on the one characteristic that's supposed to define them, like the one dimensional chalk outlines that they are? Robin's kind, so all of her rules are about being sweet and kind to everyone. Kyle's all about respecting rules. Larson's a manwhore, so they are all about cheating whenever he can. Beth wants to be popular, so they are all about using people and trusting no one. August has some serious Lannister feelings going on for his dead sister, so they are all about cheesy notions of revenge. Hiro plays the drums, so here's an idea, let's make them all analogies about playing the drums!
Rules #4: Randomly change from POV to POV for no reason at all. The perspective doesn't matter. Just jump back and forth, but for the sake of cohesiveness, keep the same unemotional and sterile and disjointed narrative voice. Nobody needs to care about these stereotypes kids, I mean, they are only going to be murdered, after all.
You have like 14 different characters, might as well use them to see half a page from their perspective, you don't even need a reason. The technique was useful for when one of them was in particular danger at that point, and it was admittedly used in several occasions in the novel, but there were plenty of other times where the narration would shift from one POV to the other for no particular reason, and the interesting thing here is that it almost made no different at all. The writing in this novel feels particularly disjointed because the first half of the novel unleashes this torrent of info dumps about the characters, but by the time the second half comes, the narration, all throughout and regardless of the POV it was told from, sounded dry, sterile and stiff. That actively worked against the characters and effectively erased any interest I might've had in them and their role in the novel. The writing was awkward sometimes, riddled with some really odd word choices and sentence arrangements that made the reading experience rather bumpy and uncomfortable. It was not unreadable, but I didn't like the writing and I thought it added nothing to the characters or the atmosphere.
Rule #5: Whenever someone is introduced, shit exposition and info dumps all over the page. Tell everything. Reveal everything you have from the get go. This is a mystery. Who needs mysterious characters with mysterious motivations and pasts, right? Oh, and make those internal monologues as vacuous and cliched as possible, you hear me? Before I forget, also put foreshadowing everywhere. Have every single character utter some line about feeling like someone's going to die tonight or some other bullshit about death being in the air. Instant tension. You're welcome.
Every couple of chapters, even before the horror started, someone would look into the distance and drop some eerie line about feeling like something horrible was going to happen or that someone was going to die. It wasn't enough that whenever one of these assholes was introduced we learned their entire life stories in a matter of seconds along with their particular ambition (hint: popularity!) and a very one-dimensional look at their one trait, delivered with all the grace and subtlety of an elephant on roller-skates, but they would also end their introductions with some cheesy exclamation of "having a bad feeling about this" or feeling like the night would end badly. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. This is the most blatant abuse of foreshadowing I've seen in a while, going heads to heads with Twisted Fate, a book that introduced about 8 POVs into the story to literally just talk about how awful it was that the three main characters never saw coming the horrible, horrible things coming for them. Extreme use of foreshadowing tension does not make. And I know someone's going to fucking die. It's right there in the book's stupid description.
Rule #6: Is the plot stuck? Just have every character hear one his or her companions screaming in horror in the distance. It doesn't matter that you've used that 50 times already. Trust me, it never gets old. Just let them scream in horror at each other. Or better yet, have a chick in hysterics just randomly run away in terror from the group and safety whenever there's a lull in the conversation.
Every time they split up, which was about a dozen times per chapter, someone would hear screams into the distance. I get it, someone's murdering teenagers, but every single character had a moment when they would hear one of his or her companions screaming in horror in the distance and the trick got old really quickly. It was basically a volley of terrified screams aimed at me every couple of pages. If it was meant to chill me or set me on edge, it failed epically, as things are bound to do when you do them about 500 times in the span of less than 300 pages.
And right before someone screamed in terror, some idiot would just run away in terror, sometimes even randomly and right in the middle of a conversation. And by someone, I mean hysterical women, of course. Who else. Quite frankly, all these morons deserved to die.
Rule #7: The action slowing down? Need to get your characters from point A to point B? Scooby-Doo, my friend. Just steal the basic plot from every Scooby-Doo episode ever.
Oh, no! Someone's missing! You know what that means?
That has worked terribly the last couple of times and has only helped the murderer to kill us even faster. Should we change tactics? Nope.
And then, exactly like Scooby-Doo, a chase would follow the splitting up almost immediately. And predictably. Over and over and over and over again.
Rule #8: Your story could use a bit more tension. Throw wild animals in there. Don't look at me like that. It doesn't need to make sense. Just one more thing hunting down these kids. Pfft, of course a deranged murderer is not enough. What kind of a writer are you? Vicious. Hungry. Wild animal. Go.
I shit you not. A mountain lion. Just randomly strolling around. For no reason whatsoever. I don't even know what the fuck to say about this. They were in front of the ocean, in a very secluded area and nowhere did it say that they were close to some woods or something that would give an inkling as to why a fucking mountain lion decided to crash their murder party. Seriously. A motherfucking mountain lion.
Rule #9: You need some romance in there, some passion. Okay, pick the main girl, obviously, and that guy. Who cares if they'd barely interacted before this? Make it so they are so hot for each other, they can barely keep their hands off each other even if their friends are getting killed one by one. No time like the present for a good make-out session.
You know teenage passion; it comes at the strangest of times and what can you do about it? Does it really matter if all of your friends are dying horribly around you? C'mon. You are the shy girl, he's the school king. This needs to happen now. Blood and guts all over the wall and all. Urges are urges. He's so impossible to resist, with his controlling nature and manipulation, oh, and the way he manhandles you and orders you around to get you to do what he wants. So, so sexy. Wait, is it hot in here or is it me?
Rule #10: Hmmm. It seems like you are running out of possible culprits. Here's what you can do. Pick the most unlikely of characters. Give them the shittiest, most nonsensical backstory you can think of and then chalk it all up to insanity, because, you know, "crazy" is the magic word to smooth away all plot holes.
I just love how most YA author think someone being "crazy" can make up for every single inconsistency, lack of logic or sense or just flat out stupidity in their damn plot twist. Really, not insulting or misinformed or lazy in the slightest. Insanity is YA's favorite Deux Ex Machina, and who cares about your twist making sense or fitting into the story, it's all about the shock value of the twist. Perfect example: the murderer in this novel. Insanity should not be the scapegoat of every single fucking twist in a novel, especially when you base it on a thoroughly absurd and ridiculous psychological state.
Bonus Rule: Some things make no sense, right? Forget about them. Just quickly look away from them, kill some other shitty kids and they'll soon forget all about it.
I'm supposed to forgive how absolutely ridiculous everything in this novel was because I'm supposed to be only entertained by the violence and the mystery of the story. I'm supposed to excuse the vapidity of the characters, the lack of logic in the story and the ginormous plot holes throughout because it's just a short, silly book that's there just to entertain. Fuck that. I see no reason to care for a story that didn't matter enough to whoever put it out there to make sure that the product had some integrity to it, that it offered quality in terms of writing and plotting, at the very least. And I just learned this might be a series.