09 October, 2014

Five-second reviews

Every Ugly Word, by Aimee Salter (ARC)
I want to like this book. I thought the concept - bullied teenage girl talks with her older self in a mirror - was an intriguing way to explore the topic of bullying. I also, perhaps naïvely, thought it was promising that the book was initially self-published and then picked up by a traditional publishing house.

Or so I thought. When I opened the ARC on my iPhone, I saw that the publisher was Alloy Entertainment, the same "book packager" involved in the scandal over the publication of then-teenager Kaavya Visnawathan's heavily plagiarized novel (click to read my dad's great post on cheating and plagiarism). I know nothing else about Alloy, or the concept of book packaging, but it made me skeptical.

Unfortunately, the book fails on multiple levels. The narrator's horrific experiences don't ring true and it's not because I don't believe that kids can be cruel enough to tell someone they wish she was dead, or that a parent can be dysfunctional enough to care more about her child's popularity than happiness. It's just that the portrayal doesn't feel real. There is a depth missing to the events. In particular, the narrator's sole friend doesn't gel - his actions, his relationship with her, the fact that they are both extremely gifted artists - none of it ever quite feels right. The final straw is that metaphysical/surreal aspect of the "Older Me" in the mirror, which comes to a nonsensical conclusion. Even if you accept that there are phenomena we don't understand, the conclusion is simply not internally consistent.  It's one of those cases where the author had a brilliant idea that she couldn't pull off. (I suspect I have a lot of those, but I haven't even gotten to point of trying to pull them off.)

By the way, for those who may be interested, Roots of Empathy is a very cool, innovative bullying prevention program. It started in Canada and has spread around the world - but is far from reaching every school and child. Check out the website and think about whether you might be able to bring it to your community.

Atlantia, by Ally Condie (ARC sneak peek)
Promising! (even though I didn't care for the Matched trilogy, which I barely skimmed) I'll be coming back to this one when the book is released.

I'm just going to paste part of the description, since there isn't much more to say from the sneak peek: "For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below."

Could be fun.

The Fifth Wave and The Infinite Sea, by Rick Yancey
These two books form what I sincerely hope is a trilogy. I mentally can't take if there is more than one book left.

Reviews were glowing and praised the poetic language Yancey uses to bring to life his vision of an post-apocalyptic Earth, humanity extinguished in cataclysmic waves by a mysterious alien race. Honestly, it will be awhile before I have the nerve to go back and re-read slowly enough to appreciate any poetry. The books are fairly fast-paced and the characterization is mostly strong (I need to re-read to say that confidently) but they are insidiously creepy, and I read faster and faster just to find out what happened before my skin crawled off my body.

"Gets under your skin and inside your head" is the best phrase I could use to describe these books. I had frank nightmares after the second one.

What I'm reading now: Far from the Tree (Andrew Solomon), On Immunity (Eula Biss), and Catch Me When I Fall (Vicki Leigh - ARC)

ARCs in waiting: The Walled City (Ryan Grauden) and We Are Pirates (Daniel Handler - have I mentioned how much I loved Why We Broke Up?)

I have some catching up to do.