This is my first review this year. So, let's make it an angry one, shall we?
The Dolls is, without a doubt, one of the biggest wastes (of time, paper,This is my first review this year. So, let's make it an angry one, shall we?
The Dolls is, without a doubt, one of the biggest wastes (of time, paper, money, etc.) I've read in my entire life. I'm trying to remember a more spectacularly insipid, preposterously vapid, profoundly shallow and endlessly frivolous novel and I simply can't. By the end of this self-imposed torture, I simply could not understand the why: why I have chosen to read this book or why had possessed me to pick it up and buy in the first place, and I, especially, could not understand why this book was even published in the first place.
Harsh, I know, but seriously, this is the type of idiotically pointless, flat and hollow and trivial crap that flooded shelves after Twilight. You know which type I'm talking about: super special, perfect, clueless girl is abruptly moved somewhere else where she meets a perfect stranger who seems to hate her for no reason, because it turns out she's strangely connected to some bizarre thing that only happens in this particular new, mysterious town, and there's some stuff going on in the background (usually an endless parade of murdered girls) and there's some paranormal crap that's supposed to be guiding the plot and some generic antagonist that threatens everyone's existence, but who cares because Makeover! Love triangle! Mean girls! Prom! Longing gazes! Stolen kisses! Taciturn, borderline bipolar love interest who is forbidden to love the main character for some half-assed reason that usually has to do with some selfish notion of honor or self-restraint!
The Dolls ticked every single item in that checklist. The paranormal aspect was nothing but a flimsy excuse to disguise, not even subtly, what is simply a "forbidden romance" cliche between one-dimensional perfect people who are remarkable in no way whatsoever and yet so, so special. Every single character in this novel was painfully forgettable, the plot dragged on and on, meandering with no clear direction in sight, the twist was entirely too predictable and, I kid you not, 75% of the entire novel was spent describing "fashionable" clothes. And it is so. freaking. boring. Repetitive to the point where I actually had to look at the page numbers several times because I actually thought I was going back and reading the same part over and over instead of moving forward.
Forgive me for thinking that YA had grown out of this stagnant, painful phase of vanity, shallowness and total meaninglessness. It's not that every book I've read since has been fantastic, but at least the criticism I leveled against them didn't go straight into the basics of simply being so utterly pointless and trivial and flimsy. This is outright generic, uninventive, and insufferably mediocre. The Gothic setting and atmosphere and theme are wasted, because nothing else matters in this story besides the contrived forbidden romance.
Another thing that bothered me immensely about this novel is the racial politics at play here. Don't get me wrong, I don't think this book is profound enough to deliberately present any sort of racial message, but, being the impressively dumb and senseless thing it is, this book actually does accidentally represent how racial politics still work in YA.
In this book, we have a New Orleans setting, a voodoo theme and a link to slavery, and not only is the main character extremely white, but she's also the leader "Queen" of a circle that deals in a branch of voodoo. And out of the three members of this circle of voodoo practicing "Queens," 2 of them are white, both described as having strictly white European characteristics. Only 1 (ONE!) of them is black. Think about that for a second and tell me it is not preposterous to even imagine a voodoo legacy story set in New Orleans where only 1 out of 3 characters is black, and where this single black character is not even the most powerful or central one. Look at this book and then dare to tell me this book doesn't perpetuate the terrible tradition of stealing culture from minorities and giving them to uninspiring white characters who are still better than every other colored character in the novel itself.
And there's the romance. It is particularly upsetting for me that interracial romances in YA are exceedingly rare, and it's even worse to think that most of them do not happen outside of "issue" novels where the races of those involved is crucial to the point of the novel itself. So, trust me when I say that interracial romances usually earn the novel I'm reading a lot of brownie points in my book. I know it was the intention of the author to showcase an interracial romance in this novel, but I personally didn't see it like that because of how whitewashed the love interest was. Do not give me a "black" guy with skin so light he passes as white with sky blue eyes, a guy people actually refer to in the novel as the "light-skinned black guy," and then pat yourself in the back for your progressiveness and openness. And this is not the first time I've encountered this type of love interest. Quite frankly, most of the times I've encountered a colored love interest, it was under the same description, because apparently, you cannot conceive the idea of your precious lily-white main character kicking it with anyone of color who is not an exception to the rule, who is special precisely because of how little he resembles his racial group and how much it resembles your own.
This book is so bad all by itself that its mediocrity almost overshadows the problematic elements it presents. Ultimately, there's little to no redeeming elements that make this novel worthwhile, much less that would make me even consider picking up whatever sequels this storyline can vomit into existence. It's one thing to offer a generic, mediocre story, but it's another entirely to present a product so unnecessary, so pointless and unremarkable, that is nothing short of a waste in basically every aspect possible. ...more
The only thing I want to know about this book is: who bribed/extorted/threatened/blackmailed Diana Gabaldon into, not only providing a blurb for thisThe only thing I want to know about this book is: who bribed/extorted/threatened/blackmailed Diana Gabaldon into, not only providing a blurb for this book, but praising what is, for all intent and purposes, a blatant ripoff of her series - and a vastly inferior one at that?
It's not just that this book is as generic as they come within the sub-genre, it's also that there's legitimately nothing even remotely original about it if you've ever been within throwing distance of a YA novel. The only redeeming element of this mess of a book is that, for absolute crap, it's actually surprisingly entertaining crap. But seriously, this book could easily work as a point-by-point guidebook on how to write a YA novel because it has every single regurgitated character stereotype, character interaction, plot point and plot device known to humankind.
Of course Hope (very subtle, author) is super special and unique and misunderstood and Not Like Other Girls(™), and just generally clueless about how special and unique and perfect she is. Of course she gets thrown into mysterious circumstances because of some special link she has with [insert random paranormal phenomena] and she is the only one who can do [insert special thing here]. Of course there's a special, perfect guy solely focused on her for no discernible reason who decides to throw absolutely everything away for some random, unremarkable girl who he met 2 days ago and had 1 conversation with. Of course she's going to befriend the lovable manic-pixie-dream-girl who makes the political statement that the author wouldn't dare have the main character make (usually being a lesbian, but here we'll apparently settle for dating the only black guy in the book). Of course the line between good and evil is clearly drawn between the characters, because you will have no trouble identifying the good guys (the ones with the main character) and the bad guys (the nonsensically sadistic and violent ones that will, for some reason, throw their heads back in laughter and cackle evilly whenever something bad happens or they do something bad). And, of course, our main character will be too focused on loving this guy she cannot be with instead of focusing in the amazing new reality she is living right now or generally getting things done in any way whatsoever.
You know this book, I know this book, literally everyone knows this book because it is the exact same book we've had to slog through hundreds of times in order to find one that doesn't make us want to pour bleach all over our eyes.
It is hilariously depressing how much this books lacks any self-awareness and how that permeates pretty much everything about it. From the concept to the execution itself, this novel would have you think its cursory knowledge of history is enough to be perfectly believable as a story set for a large portion of the book almost a millennia ago. Some random clipped words, the overuse of certain letters and a shitload of apostrophes, along with some wigs and dresses, and suddenly a couple of teenagers are prepared to take on the 12th Century and pretty much succeed in passing for someone who lived then. And the time travel itself was made out to be so ridiculously complex in order to cover up how stupid and nonsensical the whole thing is. This is so patently absurd, so hilariously preposterous, I don't even know how anyone proof-reading this novel thought that any of this was anywhere near enough to make the whole thing convincing considering, you know, that the time travel is only the very backbone of the novel.
Moreover, not only does this novel not seem to realize it is derivative drivel, it actually thinks it's a feminist, girl-power kinda novel because it's centered around a super special girl, meanwhile ignoring entirely all of those instances of clear and outright slut-shaming and rampant misogyny. The book goes out of its way to bring an obscure female historical figure that was apparently super important for the promotion of women's rights, actually makes a point of detailing just how progressive this woman was and how much it had inspired the fictional women in the novel, all the while having its Strong Female Protagonist(™) talking about how she's not like "all those other sluts" cheerleaders with blonde hair and big breasts.
Hope is a treat, really. Between all the super special garbage she was born with (not trained or anything, she was just literally born being more capable and better than everyone ever), the whole not knowing how beautiful she is, the holier-than-thou attitude, the rampant slut-shaming and general condescension, it's really shocking I did not fall as hopelessly in love with her as everyone else did.
The only remotely positive thing I can say about this whole thing is that it is, quite frankly, strangely readable, in spite of dragging on and delivering the promised time travel far into the novel and generally being concerned with focusing on literally everything besides the truly fascinating or important bits. But being slightly readable doesn't make up in any way for the disaster that the rest of the novel is, because as mildly entertained as I may have been, the entertainment that kept me going did not make the effort of reading and now having this story in my head worthwhile in any way. ...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
I started this novel with some pretty low expectations. The blurb had led me to believe this was yet another half-assed YA thriller that woul3.5 stars
I started this novel with some pretty low expectations. The blurb had led me to believe this was yet another half-assed YA thriller that would focus entirely on the romance and semi-love triangle and then deliver a predictable and underwhelming conclusion, patting itself on the back in undeserving, smug self-satisfaction for a derivative, mediocre work while I raged all alone in my room. I was wrong. The Devil You Know is a very strange novel. Not in content, but in the way it deals with the story. This is the type of narrative that makes for some cheap movie thrills on a horror blockbuster during October, the type of story that might've easily felt familiar, recycled and uninteresting, but due to Doller's commendable writing skills, it was none of the sort.
The Devil You Know certainly offers the tropes and cliches of the genre, but Doller wove them into the story so masterfully, it made for a very engrossing read, regardless of predictability. Moreover, in a small amount of pages and with the weight of the story actively working against her, we were given an unexpectedly engaging and capable protagonist that I could root for in spite of the amount of stupidity behind her choices. It's a strange thing to see yourself liking someone who makes such monumentally idiotic choices, to feel actual dread instead of self-righteous satisfaction to see her struggle against the terrifying situation she placed herself in. Acadia's characterization was done so well, I never actually held against her the consequences of her choices. She certainly makes terrible decisions, but they never felt forced or uncharacteristic to her character. Every stupid choice she made actually felt natural within the context of her characterization and what we'd seen of her life. It was truly incredible thing and it perfectly shows the skill this author possesses, that I am actually praising a character that deliberately placed herself in this situation without a care.
I was actually pretty stunned as well by the way the romance was handled. Sure, it was insta-love to a certain degree, but I believed the connection between Noah and Acadia and it was all due to the palpable chemistry between them. The intensity of their connection felt natural, never forced. And the fact that they never tried to play it as love, as anything other than intense attraction made their bond feel even realer. Moreover, this novel had some pretty progressive things to say about just almost every important female topic right now. It was refreshing to see Acadia talk so maturely about women's issues, about the effect of the patriarchy on the perception of women and how it inhibits their sexuality and its healthy expression. Sure, I wouldn't go out of my way to declare Acadia a feminist icon, but after all the rampant girl-on-girl hate and slut-shaming I see in YA fiction almost every day, it felt good to see a character, and therefore an author, advocate so strongly for the liberation of female sexuality.
I do think the novel was a bit too forgiving with some of the male characters, particularly one whose behavior bordered on sexual harassment far too often, one Acadia forgave for thinking of him as a brother. But I think Doller handled the two main guys pretty well and gave them believable psychologies that were crucial to making the mystery in the novel realistic or believable enough. She did, however, sort of painted herself into a corner when it came to the mystery and it all ended up being far too predictable, in spite of her best attempts to make the plot twist a big surprise.
This novel is surprisingly engaging and entertaining. It's not perfect, of course, and it is slightly problematic, but it's very well-written, unexpectedly so, and Doller made it all work, tropes, cliches and deliberate character stupidity aside. This was a pretty enjoyable thriller and the fact that I get to say this at the end in spite of my initial underwhelming expectations, makes this novel deserve those rounded up four stars. ...more