Laura Martinelli's Reviews > Jinx

Jinx by Meg Cabot
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I kinda need to explain myself here before I get to the review proper: around 2007-2008ish, I started falling out with Meg Cabot’s books, particularly her YA books. I wasn’t really connecting with the characters emotionally (to be fair, I was going into my senior year of college), and the plots weren’t grabbing me, and there was just so much that was coming out that I really couldn’t keep up with and it felt like Cabot was spreading herself too thin. And I read Jinx for the first time, and I…reacted badly. And I hadn’t gone back to it until a few months ago, because I didn’t know if I was going to have the same reaction. But I finally gave in and decided to give this another go.

In hindsight, I will say that my initial rating may have been too harsh. This is an acceptably enjoyable book, that meets my standards for what I expect from Meg Cabot…but I will say it’s still on the lower end. Jinx feels like a weaker version of Avalon High, to me at least. Jean is essentially another one of Cabot’s trademark heroines—geeky, awkward, not really popular or unpopular (aside from being bullied from the one Mean Girl) and while being a flawed teenager, is generally good at heart. And that’s fine, except that this is a really unmemorable book for me overall. Aside from the overall plot, I honestly barely remembered the details about the book aside from “It’s about a clumsy girl and her Mean Girl cousin who are descended from a witch and they’re fighting over a boy.” (Actually, when I was writing this out earlier, I could not remember Zach’s name at all and I just finished rereading this the other day.) I completely forgot that Jean’s a violin player or that she does more magic than just the two main spells that the plot hinges on, or that Jean makes a friend other than Zach when she starts school.

And I’m not saying that this is a bad book because of that, nor am I trying to be dismissive of it. I’m really not. But there’s nothing about Jean that jumps out and grabs me like some of Cabot’s other books have. There’s nothing about the plot that grabs me and goes “This is really good fluff that I’m going to devour in like a day and feel good about.” As I said at the beginning, part of the reason that I didn’t like this book when it first came out was that I felt like Cabot was falling back on safe tropes because she had so much on her plate. (I think she was up to about four books in a year at that point, as opposed to two now.) It’s also why I had such a hard time getting through Airhead those first few times—again, I’ve read this before, I want to see something new.

Speaking of seeing something new, the other reason that I’m largely lukewarm on this book is because the main plot is “Our Heroine vs. Bitchy Mean Girl.” This is the same problem I had with the Airhead trilogy, and it is disappointing to see Cabot go back and use it so many times. Especially since we really don’t know much about Jean and Tory’s relationship aside from they used to be a lot closer five years ago. We don’t really know much about why Tory decided to go this route aside from the implication that she’s going through a phase and/or because of spoiled rich kid problems. And if it’s because of the latter, she doesn’t really convince me as a villain. I do like that Tory’s bullying of Jean is more of the nonmagical mean girl kind, and her revenge backfires not because of any magical foreshadowing, but she’s so shortsighted and doesn’t realize that the people she’s trying to convince will see right through her.

As for the witchcraft angle, I can’t say that I really have an issue with it. It is very much the Meg Cabot school of “here’s the bare details and some stuff you may recognize from pop culture” (I swear, she lifted a scene from The Craft for this) and that she presents it as inoffensively as possible. It’s not as bad as it could be. (My best friend’s family practices British Traditional Wiccan; I’ve been debating giving this to her and watching her implode because I’m evil.)

Again, this is not a bad book, and I do take back my original, knee-jerk rating, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its problems and criticisms. And it is more because it reads to me as very rote, very safe plotting of Cabot’s during a period where she had too much on her plate, and it does show here. I wouldn’t recommend for most people starting Meg Cabot, and would even leave it up for a completist fan.
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