Selena Paulsen's Reviews > Immortal City

Immortal City by Scott Speer
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Jun 06, 12

Read in June, 2012

IMMORTAL CITY - A Masterful Mix-up
What do you get when you combine a YA romance, crime thriller, paranormal suspense, and cultural critique? Scott Speer's IMMORTAL CITY. And, can I just say, "supercool?"
Speer is a music and video director who takes his first turn at fiction with a story about Angels in Los Angeles, a forbidden interspecies YA love affair, and a creepy serial killer. Are you following all of this? Along the way, we get a glimpse of the superficiality and utter nonsense that is American celeb culture today. Now, I'll start off by admitting that Speer isn't some sort of masterful writer. He's adequate, and writes in a style probably most in alignment with crime novels. However, he is a fantastic storyteller and a master of genre mix-up.

The story centers on teens Jackson and Maddy. He's THE hot Angel of the moment, and she's an eternally suffering high school student with all the typical YA problems - she feels like an outcast, she's poor, her parents are dead...the list goes on. There's nothing particularly exceptional about Speer's treatment of Maddy or Jackson: Maddy is sometimes irritatingly lacking in self-esteem, Jackson is way more perfect than even an Angel could ever be. However, where things go beyond these cliched characters is the fact that Jackson is mired in the life of a young super-celeb, and both he and Maddy become part of an eerie LA Confidential style serial killing spree investigation.

The descriptions of the Angels and their high-flying (no pun intended), cult of celebrity lifestyles provide some of the novel's most interesting moments. Jackson and his family and friends show us the daily life of the Hollywood elite and it leaves us and sometimes them feeling a little slimy. It also raises issues of what makes those we idolize worthy of the idolatry. At least the Angels provide protection for some humans. I'm not sure the entertainment provided by real world movie and pop stars is equivalent to the saving of lives.

The crime spree and subsequent investigation are not written in great depth. Like many other things in the novel, it is handled in a formulaic way that makes it easy for us to fill in the colors ourselves. We know what the gritty, down-on-his-luck Police Detective is like without a great deal of character development because he is a stereotype. We don't need details of the investigation because we know it's proceeding like every CSI or Law and Order we've ever seen. However, in this case stereotypes and somewhat superficial treatments of things is fine. Speer has packed so much into this book, both in terms of storylines and genres, that broad strokes of the brush are all there's time for. This is fun, fast, scathing pop fiction at its best, and I can just see the movie version running through my head now.

I've been enamored of YA fiction lately, and it's no wonder with the huge influx of the genre into the market - beautiful covers, sexy boys and all. However, 99.9% of these jewels are written by women. Don't get me wrong, as a reader I almost always prefer women writers (former English major with Jane Austen as my Senior year focus - sorry!), but, I have found myself growing restless, and wanting to discover the next fun thing with which to entertain myself. Little did I know that what I needed was the shake-up provided by a male writer. Even though the details aren't unique, the way in which he approaches them is. For example: like most other YA protagonists, Maddy has a best friend who's more outgoing and confident than she is. Unlike most other YA novels, Speer doesn't idealize Maddy and Gwen's relationship. They aren't attached at the hip like lesbian lovers without the sex, Gwen gets pissed at Maddy, Gwen goes out to eat with other friends, and really, Gwen isn't all that essential to the plot. It's a guy's view of friendship, and it's refreshing.

IMMORTAL CITY ends in a way that while not a cliff-hanger, leaves the door open for future books. If Speer can continue his creative take of what's pop in the moment, along with some added depth to the characters and plots, I will definitely be interested in reading more about Angels, mortals, celeb culture, the crime-ridden streets of LA, and silly teenage girls.
Four Fun-filled Stars to IMMORTAL CITY by Scott Speer.
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