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