Reviews, rants, and tidbits from an overpassionate novelist

Posts tagged ‘review’

YOU by CHARLES BENOIT: An Original Format is Nothing Without Original Content.

I took a look at this book because it’s told in SECOND PERSON OMG. I think this experimentation is a truly great thing in the world of YA lit.

But I regret to say that if it hadn’t been told in SECOND PERSON OMG, I would not have read beyond the cover. I read thirty five pages of it, then skipped to the end. Here’s why.

The prologue involves some kind of accident involving blood, and the main character trying to figure out where things went wrong. There are hints that he’s on a track toward death. Yet, all of the content you get to fill in these spaces does not involve A) Deep, involving emotion, B) extraordinary, interesting circumstances, or even C) eloquent angst. It’s mostly cliched whining about authority and academic boredom.

The love interest is flat and cliched in every way. The friends are flat and cliched in every way. After thirty five pages, the only glimmer of redeeming character depth is a one-sentence panic attack that culminates in a didactic break of POV in its rush to be quickly dismissed.

This is not how teenagers work. Sure, we can all dismiss and hide from guilty feelings. But if it’s THAT easy, it’s boring.

What gets me is how overwhelmingly didactic the story is; kid hangs out with rough crowd, angst a bit, one things leads to another, then blood. We’ve all seen this horror story. We’ve been forced to endure it in Drivers Ed classes, Don’t Drink Seminars, etc.

Who thought that telling it in second person was a good idea?? It reads like a sermon from the bored; every other sentence could begin with “Of course.”

At least for the first thirty-five pages, it’s downright condescending.

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THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER: THOUGHTS & REVIEW

I’ll admit it. I read this book for the cover:

Come on. It’s gorgeous. Emotional. Thought-provoking. I wanted to know what it was about.

I’m going to give you an important piece of information up front: It’s a cliffhanger in the worst way. Very little is resolved at the end. It is not a self-contained story.

Buuuut I am looking forward to reading the rest.

Strengths:

The story blurs genres and borders on literary. Are we reading about the supernatural or simply post-traumatic stress disorder? Young adults who have been diagnosed with anxiety/depression/bipolar are common and this book exaggerates and begs the questions the many of them are asking: How crazy is crazy?

The love interest is a fantastic character. A modern Mr. Darcy with plenty of style, flirtation, flaw, and appeal. Reading this as purely a love story is very reductive compared to what it tries to be, with the many other elements it explores – but it’s probably the most effective and appealing way to read it.

The letter at the very beginning is pretty cool. You find out that Mara Dyer isn’t Mara Dyer’s real name, but simply the name she’s chosen to work with while she writes out this story. She’s telling this story for a reason – this appeals to me immensely.

Flaws:

Of course, its failure to be a self-contained story is a flaw.

I don’t think Michelle Hodkin really meant to portray anything like PTSD, and the way the story is set up is somewhat misleading about it. PTSD is a disorder which involves a person who is unable to stop thinking about a traumatic event. Mara finds it pretty darn easy to move on. After the first seventy pages or so, it’s easy to forget that this girl’s best childhood friend and boyfriend just died. I understand the author probably felt pressure to avoid angsting but… a girl in that situation would probably, in fact, angst a bit. She has every license to angst a bit. And she doesn’t. She just moves along, pursues new relationships, and comes off as a bit of a sociopath. I was truly hoping that the novel would climax in her realizing all of the emotion she’s been repressing – no such luck.

The quotations on the back are misleading. This book is not that scary! Mara, whose head we are always within, operates under the assumption that the scary things that happen to her are not real, but hallucinations and delusions. They don’t fail to operate in that way.

Hope this is helpful.

DENSHA OTOKO: BEAUTY AND THE JAPANESE GEEK

train-mna-movie1

Last week in my class Japanese Society and Culture through Film we watched the movie Densha Otoko directed by Shosuke Murakami. The subject of the class: the otaku.

I’m not kidding. My college is the best.

I enjoyed the movie for personal reasons and quickly realized I had to blog about it.

As defined by my professor, “Otaku is Japanese geek.” Really, there’s a bit more to it than that. An otaku is anyone with an obsessive and possibly “nerdy” interest, such as anime, computer games, video games, computer software, etc. I have long considered myself a mild anime otaku. So does my roommate, and so do a good number of my friends from Fort Mill.

This movie concerns itself more with the “hardcore otaku”: the type so lost in their own worlds of anime and computer games that they care little for contact with the outside world.

Train Man, the movie’s main character (called Aoyama in the TV show), is based on a 23-year-old Akihabara dweller. Yes, it’s a True Story story. One of my absolute favorite kinds. One day on the bus, he spies a beautiful girl. When a drunk starts harassing her, our timid, nerdtastic little hero stands up, setting in motion a train of events that will change his life.

The things I liked about the movie included the creative approach to creating the otaku’s world. The opening credits and the pixelated fireworks, the ways they portrayed his chat with various people and used the chat messages to creative ends. That much was amazing. So was the movie’s ability to get a room full of college students laughing. When you’re with a group, the boy with the bunny is hysterical.

Then there was the climax, which seemed to take forever. In American and Western fiction, a climax is generally one moment, one scene, one critical point. In Japanese ficiton, I’ve noticed, climaxes drag out. They function less as a point and more as an extended segment. A part of me feels like whining, “Get on with it,” even though it’s probably a more realistic approach to storytelling. In real life, there’s rarely a neat one-scene climax.

Also interesting is the attractiveness of the supposedly repulsive otaku. Even in his horrible getups or his horrible moments of pathetic weakness, a majority of the girls in the classroom were sighing and saying they wanted to hug him. The boys couldn’t believe it. You have more allure than you think, nerds!

To be perfectly honest, this movie is probably not great. But I enjoyed it profoundly. Therefore, I shall grant it:  3 1/2 Stars!

But I love it. ❤

More later!

Prom Nights from Hell ~ Thoughts on The Exterminator’s Daughter by Meg Cabot

I’ve always been a Meg Cabot fan–ever since 5th grade when the Princess Diaries movie became an obsession of mine. It’s been a while, though. I probably haven’t read any new Meg in a couple of years.

Considering that A) I had possibly outgrown her, B) this was a vampire story, and C) it was told via alternating narrators, never an easy trick to pull, I had a lot of doubts I would enjoy The Exterminator’s Daughter.

But I did.

I have to say, I have not outgrown her at all. Yes, she’s easy to read. That’s a strength. Lots of drive in her voice. Okay, her voice is outright addictive. I was impressed with how well she pulled off the alternating narrators. Yes, it’s annoying to get yanked out of one head and into another. But that sense of annoyance didn’t last long. I enjoyed being in Adam’s head almost MORE than I liked being in Mary’s. ‘Twas not a problem.

It was still a vampire story, though. I’m sick to death of those. And it was very predictable. Can’t give it plot points. Le sigh.

Overall rating:  3 1/2 stars.

Ugly by Scott Westerfield – Thoughts & Review

I decided to read this book because I’d heard multiple times that it was good and I have resolved to do the smart thing and keep informed about what’s good and bad in my genre. Yay for me and my step up in maturity level.

uglies

The premise is one of those dystopian “Why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. In this future, every 16-year-old undergoes an operation to make them gorgeous–and exactly the same as everybody else over 16. The main character, Tally, is looking forward to her transformation until she makes a friend with different ideas.

The writing is clear, a nice pane of glass, I suppose. I understand the appeal of the adventure sequence. A city girl can’t embark along on a quest of “evil” through dangerous wilderness without evoking a certain amount of thrill. I love the themes and the way the author uses them.

For me, however, the book was unsatisfying. The characters were not well fleshed-out. Their beliefs are strong and show through their actions, but the writing isn’t intimate for this alone to let them to come to life. I needed more little things, likes and dislikes, quirky memories, elements of crazy awesome reality.

Other parts of the book are told and not shown. For example, on a certain return trip, Westerfield deprives the audience of the development of the love story, saying “Tally can’t remember.” This annoyed me.

It also bothered me that the book was clean enough for a children’s shelf. Not a curse word, a speck of blood, or a raging hormone in it. They’re 16. Get real.

Kids looking for a fun read will like this book. Tally’s adventures are fun enough to show up in readers’ dreams. Those looking for high-level writing or strong emotional connection with characters, however, will be disappointed.

Mollie Glick from Foundry Literary + Media

Sorry for the delay. I have to do my summering sometime. I am 18, after all.

Well, I have an update. I haven’t queried for a month because the literary agent considering my work required a period of exclusivity. Very annoying to someone with a time schedule. However, working with her was a pleasant experience. Around 40 days passed since I sent her the partial, so I emailed asking for an update. She responded quickly with a thoughtful and positive review (strong preface, engaging narrative), and even went so far as to ask that I query her with future ideas. This project, however, wasn’t perfect for her.

Who is she? Mollie Glick of Foundry Media. The cool thing about my experience with this agent was getting to meet her. She was the agent-in-residence at the Southeastern Writer’s Workshop Conference this year, so I got to sit down and talk with her about my writing about the industry. She had not read my chapters yet when I spoke with her, but it was a bonus to get that face time.

Sorry I haven’t posted the review yet. I promise they will come. As soon as the summer funk wears off.

More later! ❤

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