Ann Carpenter's Reviews > Wrapped

Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury
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F_50x66
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Dec 15, 11

bookshelves: historical, audio
Read in December, 2011

Where do I begin with this book? I don't think I would have even finished it if I hadn't been listening on audiobook and in the car for a long ride anyway. It was so frustrating! Agnes, the main character, was never convincing as a member of her era. The book is set in 1815, yet Agnes repeatedly (as in over, and over, and over!) comments that museums should not be appropriating artifacts from other countries because the items should remain in their original countries. Um, that is NOT a period concept. The author tries to pretend that Agnes is just a rogue thinker by having other characters react to this with various degrees of outrage and scorn, but it doesn't work. The viewpoint is far too modern to have any place in this book. Agnes also disdains the ways in which wealthy women marry for money and prestige rather than for love. I'm sure that some girls did question this, but for Agnes it is never really a question, more an obvious worldview she has a hard time seeing past. Why doesn't everyone just agree with her??? She throws all propriety out the window in her quest to solve the problem, which is good for drama, but is not in keeping with her time period. Yes, all ends happily, but in real life she should have been far more anxious about the consequences. in real history she would not have been rewarded the way that she is, she would have been locked up by her parents. Reputation was far, far more important for wealthy young women in that era. In real life there simply were no other options aside from marriage. If you ruined your chances at marriage, you were a burden on your family. Yet Agnes never even hesitates to ditch her chaperone, run around at night with strange men, or dress inappropriately. And apparently her father is okay with that???

Agnes is also extremely self-absorbed. She is supposed to be nearly 17, but she acts far more like a 13 year old. An immature 13 year old. She's impulsive (which is not always a bad thing for a character) but she also refuses to admit her own mistakes. She's sullen and petty on several occasions. For instance, she knows that there is a threat to national security during a time of war, and yet she doesn't tell her father the minister anything about it because she's pissed off that he brushed her off while conferring with others over something he saw as both extremely important and not a concern of hers. When he later found out that it did concern her, he apologized, but she didn't forgive him. She was too intent on solving the mystery and getting all of the glory to "prove herself" to consider asking for help from people who were far more qualified to figure things out. Later she purposefully picks a fight in public with the socially impossible boy she likes essentially because he is doing a great job of staying poker faced when she shows up with the man she's supposed to marry. It is hugely important that their relationship stay secret, both for social reasons and for national security, and yet here is Agnes throwing a tantrum because the boy is not making it obvious that this is awkward for him.

Agnes is supposed to be this great scholar, and yet we never ever see her do anything smart. She can translate in several languages, which is a nifty skill, but she never uses any reasoning or logical thought at all. Even the villain, in his stereotypically bombastic reveal, is all "How could you not figure this out sooner? You're so self-absorbed!"

I won't even go into the bizarre fact that the entire book revolves around finding something paranormal, despite there being no other paranormal element in the book. Something that all of the relevant characters accept as a paranormal artifact essentially without question. (Agnes does question it, very briefly, twice, and both times different people say the exact same thing "Of course I believe this! I've seen things that couldn't be explained before!" But exactly what they've seen is never mentioned and Agnes never asks.) Yet the artifact is never used. If you're not going to make the book a paranormal book, why even introduce that element at all? It just makes the characters seem silly, running around trying to get their hands on mystical juju based on no evidence whatsoever. Instead of the artifact it could easily have been some other important tool, such as a codebook or secret plans.
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