Marg K.'s Reviews > Hemlock

Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
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Aug 06, 2015

did not like it
bookshelves: 1-star-rating

If I wasn’t previously convinced of the existence of an instruction manual on How to Write a YA Book and Market It to the Masses, I most definitely am now. Yep, I’m pretty damn certain that it’s out there, and it’s filled with ready-to-use stock character profiles, plot templates, story formulas, picture diagrams, flowcharts, and checklists...lots of checklists.

Listen, I realize that the writers who have ventured into the YA publishing arena and have managed to get their hands on copies of this manual have probably been forced to sign (in blood) iron-tight nondisclosure contracts that if broken will result in the loss of their souls followed by lifelong banishment to a desolate prison camp in Siberia. So, I don’t expect to ever be able to possess and present to you actual concrete proof, but what I can do is engage in some adamant speculation with Hemlock as evidence.

Let's first examine the book's heroine. Whatsherface (sorry, but I can't for the life of me recall her name or be bothered to look it up) is the not-so-ordinary ordinary girl. As such, she has obligatory average looks and a Plain Jane fashion style that consists of jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers all obtained from a thrift shop of some sort. She wears absolutely no makeup and never styles her hair. In fact, she barely ever even brushes her hair because she cannot permit herself to do anything that might indicate that (unlike most other human beings on the planet) she cares about her appearance in the slightest. She must, at all times, remain immaculately modest and completely oblivious of her potential attractiveness. This is because, according to YA fiction, caring about your appearance is bad. Very, very bad. Only the mean popular kids do that and we’re supposed to silently judge them for it.

Now, Whatsherface also happens to be parentless. This serves two purposes: (1) it allows her to repeatedly & stupidly put herself in dangerous situations that involve lots of tripping over things while running for her life, fainting, and being rescued by hot love interests and (2) it leaves her emotionally scarred which in turn allows for lots of pointless angst to be forcibly injected into an already melodramatic romance.

Speaking of the romance, there is of course a love triangle...'cos what teen girl hasn’t had two hot guys madly in love with her for no apparent reason and willing to do anything for her including lose their pride & dignity fighting over a chick who can’t decide which hottie she prefers to make out with loves more, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Anyways, unsurprisingly the love interests come in two varieties: (1) hot broody bad boy with a self-destructive streak and (2) hot boy-next-door with a white knight complex. Unfortunately, in YA fiction, variety is not the spice of life, and us females are not only superficial but also attracted to only two types of guys with one-dimensional personalities and zero purpose or ambition in their lives other than to protect us (and stalk us a little).

As for the plot, well, it’s simplistic & linear with an anticlimactic climax and a predictable ending with a contrived pseudo-resolution that blatantly sets up an unnecessary sequel that will undoubtedly focus even more on the soap opera-like romance than its predecessor.

The end.
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02/27 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-18)




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message 18: by Midnite (new)

Midnite Imagine the wonderful books some of these authors might write if they'd just write from the heart? I've read a few paranormals that would have been pretty decent contemporaries and it makes me kind of sad.


message 17: by Yael (new)

Yael Itamar I was wondering why this book was getting so much hype when even the summary didn't sound the least bit original.


message 16: by Marg (new) - rated it 1 star

Marg K. I hate this tendency in YA to dress things up in the latest fad and try to pass it off for what it's not. Half-heartedly tacking on a few elements from a genre that is more popular just to make the book seem more appealing doesn't add anything of substance to the story. On the contrary, it makes the story seem disjointed and/or underdeveloped.


message 15: by rameau (new) - added it

rameau Waiting for your full review but taking this off my to-read list.


message 14: by rameau (new) - added it

rameau We need to find that manual and destroy all copies of it. The world will thank us later. Also, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one having trouble remembering main characters' names.


message 13: by Marg (new) - rated it 1 star

Marg K. rameau wrote: "We need to find that manual and destroy all copies of it. The world will thank us later. Also, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one having trouble remembering main characters' names."

For realz. Ugh. Why are so many YA authors so damn afraid to think outside the box and be different?


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I don't have the impression that it's YA authors that are afraid - but that the publishing industry as a whole is more comfortable with trying to find a formula in the recent successes than they are with the idea that, for a while, YA was the awesomest and most exciting thing in publishing because people were trying new things and genre-bending all over the place.

Part of the problem is that with the stand out books - like, say, The Hunger Games - you get all this "Team Peeta" and "Team Gale" stuff, and so the people in charge are like, "OK, so the secret to the Hunger Games is...LOVE TRIANGLE!"

Instead of realizing that, like, "I appreciate smart social commentary in my YA" doesn't look as good on a T-shirt, even if that's at the heart of all the enthusiasm.


message 11: by Yael (new)

Yael Itamar Your review makes it sound suspiciously like the-book-that-must-not-be-named. Why was this book getting so much hype again?


message 10: by Yael (new)

Yael Itamar Also, I am grossed out by the thought of a girl who doesn't brush her hair. (And I'm the sort of girl who doesn't even care enough to shave her legs most days.)


message 9: by Marg (new) - rated it 1 star

Marg K. @Mlle - I see what you mean, and I agree. Actually, I think the problem lies with both authors & publishers.

@Yael - I don't get the hype. The three words that pop into my mind when thinking about Hemlock are mediocre, generic, and derivative. Btw, I was exaggerating a bit about the lack of hair brushing. The book never described her brushing her hair, but it also never said that she specifically avoided it. Nevertheless, it did seem as though the reader was supposed to get the message that she didn't pay attention to or care about her appearance because she was oh so incredibly modest.


message 8: by Kristen (new) - added it

Kristen @Mme - I would totally buy and wear that T-shirt.


message 7: by Aleksandra (new)

Aleksandra I LOVED your review! So so true!


message 6: by Anna (new)

Anna You managed to point out all of the things that annoy me in the recent YA books. Couldn't agree more with you. It's getting so difficult to find a book with decent characters and NO love triangle!


The Bibliophile This made me laugh so hard. It's so true. All of it.


message 4: by Em (new) - rated it 1 star

Em lol. I haven't even started reading the book and I totally agree with you. This definitely seems to be the pattern for all the YA book coming out… Nicely said ;)


message 3: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Mohon @Margk.....u certainly have a gift for writing. If u write a book, I will read it!!!


message 2: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Mohon Here's a great book....mrs. p eregrines home for peculiar children . His second book Hollow city just came out. Cant wait to read it.


message 1: by Adrienne (new)

Adrienne -kocham czytać- Dude...if I could like this review--or love it (why don't they have a damn "love it" button?)--500 times, then I totally would.

You hit the nail on the head. Thanks for saving me the trouble of looking further into this book :)


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