There are a few things in this world that are just too horrendous to think about, unless you want your brain to explode like that guy from the movie SThere are a few things in this world that are just too horrendous to think about, unless you want your brain to explode like that guy from the movie Scanners. One of the most frustrating things as a nerd is the "nerd girl" stock character. There's this weird stereotype that there are no such things as nerdy girls--obviously untrue--and that girls who claim they are nerds just want attention from desperate people who are too afraid to accept a human being based on all their merits as a person. You know, superficial people.
While I hate that stereotype in real life, I think this book is literally a fake nerd girl.
This book tricks you with its trappings and exterior and title. It makes you think that it's going to be about nerd culture, or what it's like being a girl in the nerd culture. Maybe she's awkward, maybe she has social anxieties, maybe it'll be a diamond in the rough, like that book Fan Girl I keep hearing about.
But it's not.
The nerd girl elements are tacked on about fifty or so pages in when they casually throw out nerdy concepts out of context without any grounding in the reality of these concepts. Like, she likes drawing "anime" and playing online games with her dad. While the drawing "anime" thing feels lazy, the online gaming thing might be cool, if it actually mattered. But it doesn't. It feels like the writer just threw that stuff in to keep nerds who want to like this book a little invested, as though they're getting their money's worth with this one.
Thankfully, I stole this book from an orphanage, and I think the orphanage wants to thank me for saving them from this nightmare. The point is I didn't waste cash on buying this trash.
Now, the problem with this is that the characters, from the get-go, are defined by their label--a gamer girl. Yet, not once does the gamer girl component come into play. This may sound like a nitpick, but, let's be honest, why else would you buy this book unless you were expecting a gamer girl? In fact, it just takes you out of the shitty story when you think you're getting one thing, but really get this cringeworthy fanservice that doesn't feel genuine. It's like expecting a rich steak and getting a deflated dollar menu burger.
Now, to draw a comparison, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare are contemporaries of Mari Mancusi, having published far more successful novels in the YA market. Take Clary from Mortal Instruments. She's a nerd. She actually references specific anime. You can tell it comes from a genuine place, as if Cassandra Clare actually likes anime and stuff. It doesn't define her as a character, though. It's just an element, an interest. It never feels exploitative, but just a natural part of the character.
So the nerd girl thing we've confirmed lures you into a false sense of security, and makes you think that maybe you'll like it. So what else is there?
Cringe worthy scenes that feel contrived just to be awkward.
It follows the paint-by-numbers teen drama story, except incompetently written and dull. You've read this story fourteen times already. It's the same as it's always been, except badly written. Every character reads like a stereotype with no humanity or genuine behavior. The main character is an insufferable whiner who complains about everything, talks like no human being has ever talked before, and generally makes you want to burn the book.
The plot is slow, stupid, and there are no surprises. It's not predictable in a fun way, either. It's just predictable in a "Oh, that's what's happening. Okay, let's get this over with" kinda way. The whole thing feels like raking leaves. You don't want to go out and do it, but you feel you're obligated to. It sucks. I can't think of a single good thing about this book.
On the whole, this book feels like it was written by an advertising agency, trying to catch in on every fad of the late 2000's. I've reread other books that tried cashing in on the fads to see if maybe the fads died out. I reread the American "manga" Aoi House after finishing it, which also incorporates tons of nerdy references as its primary selling point, just to try to see if the book was bad because the fad died or if it was just a bad book. I enjoyed Aoi House, so I guess the book just plain sucks.
...either way, I know I shouldn't burn books, but I kinda want to burn this one so no one else has to slog through this piece of crap....more
I wanted to like this, but...dear lord, this was hard to read. I mean, I read the whole thing in about four hours. It wasn't a long book. I just had tI wanted to like this, but...dear lord, this was hard to read. I mean, I read the whole thing in about four hours. It wasn't a long book. I just had to put it down for weeks, read about four books in-between, then come back to it.
Both authors are talented ladies. They've written really solid, really fun YA novels that I've enjoyed. I knew going in this was going to be heavily inspired by Harry Potter. After all, most everyone knows Cassandra Clare is a huge HP fan girl, and Holly Black, presumably, is one too. We know it. I have no problem with a work deriving from something else.
My problem is that everyone in this story is an asshole.
Poor Call is bullied and belittles by everyone in this story. Everyone, from adults to kids, treat this kid like a monster one scene, then, miraculously, are supposed to come across as sympathetic in the next scene. Nothing is consistent. The way the adults treat this boy is horrendous. In the try-outs to get into magic school, Call does some remarkable things during his test. Rather than praise him for his performance, they treat him like a monster for being magical! The adults are so immature it's kind of startling.
The other kids are all assholes too, though it's less distressing with them because they're kids. The problem is that, as the story goes on, we're supposed to believe these characters just become best friends overnight. Nothing feels authentic. When the characters reveal their depressing back stories, there's no sense of foreshadowing, no sense of weight. The back stories, rather than be gradually unveiled, are dumped without any care in brief exposition dumps that affect nothing. No impact, no relevance. Tragedy is a flourish rather than anything meaningful.
As for the plot...there is none. The kids train, develop, and, in the last forty pages, the bad guy shows up. It's so random that it doesn't feel meaningful at all. More time is spend moving sand around than the final confrontation. It's so utterly devoid of any pathos or emotional pay offs. It uses the same twist used in Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and just about every story like this, only without any foreshadowing. Hell, I was rooting for the bad guys by the time they showed up, seeing as how they were the only characters who realized how horrible the magic school was.
This book is pretty not good. The only reason I read it was, while it made me cringe and rage the whole way through, it wasn't boring...and it was over fast. I guess that's something....more
True story: I actually met Natalie Standiford before buying this book. She came to read at my MFA program, and all she read was the scene where BeatriTrue story: I actually met Natalie Standiford before buying this book. She came to read at my MFA program, and all she read was the scene where Beatrice and Jonah go to that luncheon for the radio station. That was all it took for me to love this book.
And damn, this book is good.
Like, really good.
Maybe my standards are lower after reading the first two books of the Mortal Instruments series. Maybe I'm just surprised that a non-fantasy/sci-fi/horror turned out to be such a page turner. But damn. This is the best YA novel I've read in awhile.
The plot is pretty basic. Bea is a weird girl. She goes to a new school, and meets and even weirder boy named Jonah. The two form a very passionate friendship over their last year at school. Every night, the two of them listen to a local radio broadcast, where the two go by the aliases of Robot Girl and Ghost Boy.
What makes this book so good is how real it feels. This isn't just some silly YA romance or a dumb little story about the power of friendship. There are good stories that deal with that topic. This is not one of those. While there is tons of cute stuff that happens over the course of this narrative, the simple truth is that this story is really, really, REALLY fucking depressing. It's not depressing in the way you think, though. This isn't some sappy, dumb story with crying scenes straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel (btw, not a Sparks fan). This is the kind of book where you see a bunch of really depressed people being depressed together.
A large complaint with a lot of YA is how they idealize very toxic relationships. Jonah and Bea, despite how cute they can be, have a very toxic relationship. This is clear, but, within the context of the narrative, this isn't glossed over. Jonah can be a jackass to Bea at times, and Bea can't imagine life without him. She misses a lot of opportunities to be happy because she's waiting for Jonah to show her some attention.
However, unlike lesser works like Twilight or Hush, Hush, which presents this as an idealized relationship, this relationship isn't perfect. It really sucks, but that's kind of the point, that even sucky relationships can make people happy. Lonely people can be lonely together. And that's really sweet, in that special way that kills you on the inside.
Now, aside from that, the book flows really well. The writing is superb, in that simple way that relays a ton of personality and warmth in a few words. Or cold. I literally read it in a day. It's a fast read. And light reading, too. Despite how heavy this book is, it feels like light reading. The book's short, but the subject matter's heavy--you get it.
The supporting characters are very memorable, despite having small roles. The real focus is on Bea and Jonah. You expect the characters calling into the radio station to be awesome--and they are--but the other characters are great, too. The parents have a very interesting storyline that hits that weird cord between melancholy and comedy. One thing I'm impressed by are the other students in the school. A lot of stories pull this stupid cliche where the other classmates are a bunch of jerks or superficial, all to highlight how perfect the primary relationship is. But no, again, not the case at all. With one exception, the characters are all very likable and endearing. You just love 'em, for one reason or another. Hell, a couple of them I wanted to give a hug after awhile. (Seriously, Walt is such a fucking awesome guy it's not even funny).
Of course, what holds the story together is Bea. Easily one of the most interesting, well written ladies in a YA book in some time. She's not Katniss or someone like her, who's badass and cool. No, she's just such a fucking dork. She's adorable, precious, but also very sad. She walks that thin line between tragedy and humor, and embodies it. She is a character with her own arc, and you REALLY feel sorry for her when shit hits the fan.
I know I'm saying fuck a lot in this review. But that's the one word hanging in my head after finishing the book. Fuck. Just...fuck......more
This book really drove me up the wall for a while there. If I could, I'd really rather rate it as a 3.5, but that just isn't a thing I can do. There wThis book really drove me up the wall for a while there. If I could, I'd really rather rate it as a 3.5, but that just isn't a thing I can do. There were things I enjoyed about this book...and other things that just rubbed me the wrong way.
I'll start positive, because that's how these things should go. This book is paced very well. Clare clearly worked out some of the pacing kinks from the last book in the series this time around. The story rarely deviates from the main plot, and the conclusion, rather than seeming oddly removed from the rest of the narrative, feels complete and fleshed out. It's a fully involved climax where the main characters actually do have an impact on the whole narrative. There isn't that awkward point in the middle where you question where the plot went, and there are enough turns throughout to keep the ideas fresh.
Clary has more to do this time around, which is very nice. I didn't think she was a Mary Sue the first time around, but now especially it's clear that she is a pretty flawed character. Sure, she has that whole "the whole cast likes her" element about her, but count all the times she screws up this time around. Her slut shaming, while not necessarily called out, is acknowledged as a flaw, as are a whole host of other things.
Alec and the Lightwoods actually do get a good deal of development this time around. We do see the family dynamics, their struggles. Same with Luke and the werewolves. Maia is a new character who I actually thought showed a lot of promise early on. She doesn't do a whole lot, but even that little chapter from her perspective at the bar is enough to get a full grasp of her character.
Even Valentine feels distinct this time around. He feels like an actual threat with a distinct perspective on the world that is as compelling as it is twisted. His interactions with Jace are some of the book's high points, as he does really seem like a charismatic, genuine character who genuinely believes he's doing the right thing. He isn't just a Voldemort-clone.
...but then there's Simon's story.
Simon was in my opinion the best part of the first book. For the majority of the book, I was on-board with him. He had a few moments with Clary, it was cute, and he still was a sassy nerd.
And then that thing halfway through the book happens.
It bugged me for the same reason that thing halfway through the last book with Simon bugged me. There's no build-up, it's too stupid of a mistake for this supposedly intelligent, genre-savvy nerd to fall into, and the whole book grinds to a halt when it happens. I seriously do not understand why that was written into the narrative.
Not to mention it demolishes the awesome dynamic the group had. I mean, now there's no muggle character to ground Clary and everyone. It's all magical, without any link to the normal world. It just really put a sour taste in my mouth that almost ruined the book for me.
And don't get me started on the Inquisitor. Another character who adds useless, tedious conflict that detracts from a narrative. We know she's wrong. We know she's a jackass. Her plot just adds pages to an already engaging narrative, and, in doing so, is a chore to read through.
This book has a good core idea, but it's just bogged down by ideas that hurt the book and series. The fact that I finished a good half of it in a few hours says something, but that doesn't change the fact that half of the time I just threw my hands into the air, and asked, "Book? Book? What're you doing...?"...more
Forgotten Realms novels are pulp novels. If you don't know that going in, and you're expecting the second coming of Tolkein, you will be sadly disappoForgotten Realms novels are pulp novels. If you don't know that going in, and you're expecting the second coming of Tolkein, you will be sadly disappointed. This novel is fluff. It is the equivalent of a bacon cheeseburger. You know this is a waste of time, and probably not very good.
...but it's still fun.
This is light reading between your heavy, intellectual reads. This is the kind of book you need after finishing a heavy book for class--heavy either literally or figuratively. It's just a chance for you to read a page turner that's fun, engaging, and familiar enough to keep you interested, without any complex ideas or philosophies thrown at you to overwhelm you.
In short, it's safe.
The plot is your basic evil bad guy with a magical thingy wants to take over everything plot. There is little that really differentiates it from any other novel out there. Save for supporting character, Drizzt. A badass drow--dark elf--who rejects his societies sadistic nature, he goes out with his pet panther and kicks all sorts of ass. He's a badass in a cast of badasses.
The action is excellently written. It's stylized in just the right way, without being too detailed. Even though every action scene ends with the heroes kicking someone's ass, boredom rarely settles in.
That said, the characters are kind of one-note. Don't get me wrong, they're lovable when you're reading it, but, beyond Drizzt, these characters won't take a place alongside the heroes from other fantasy novels. These won't be the characters people cosplay at nerd conventions in mass.
However, while the heroes are at least cool, if not a little vanilla, the bad guys are lame. The big bad of this novel is an idiot who stumbles upon an artifact of doom. His henchmen are the weakest orcs and goblins in fiction, frost giants who go down way too easily to be a threat, and a few trolls. Oh, and a badass demon who, while powerful, goes down pretty easily. The only adversary who really puts up a huge fight is this dragon who pops up in one chapter. That, and the barbarian king, who is probably the most nuanced of the villains in the story.
That said, this is still a lot of fun. It's fun in the same way that Commando is fun. It's dumb, stupid, and you know that the whole way through. But...you just can't help but have a big, stupid grin on your face the whole way through....more