I used to be the blogger called YAL Book Briefs, but I grew bored of the handle and changed my name to Howdy YAL. I also respond to MJ. I like to read, write, eat truffles, and watch bad Lifetime movies.
Once upon a time, I would’ve forced myself to finish if not at least read most of Stray. But I’ve grown up a lot since I started regularly blogging (circa 2012). And I’ve grown fed up with books like Stray.
I’m going to be frank, this book should’ve never seen the light of day from an agent’s slush pile let alone a publishing house.
It’s that bad.
However, it’s a perfect book to talk about the craft and some common mistakes in writing. So, I think I can do a somewhat decent review on discussing these issues.
Problem One: There is WAY Too Much and Not Enough Going On:
This book is sort of like being on an acid trip. Or what I imagine being on an acid trip must be like since I’ve never been on one, unless you count drinking three bottles of grape soda and singing “Yankee Doodle” very loudly in rural Illinois when you’re nine an acid trip.
I don’t. Watching Sponge Bob would probably be a better comparison.
The point is, that nothing that happens in Stray really makes sense despite Sussman is a huge fan of info dumping and telling rather than showing-it never works. Even with these info dumps, I’m sort of left in a case of other confusion. Because the world in Stray is pretty isolated save for the fact that we know our dumb ass heroine (better known as Aislynn) likes to bake and still has a heart despite the headmistress going all Once Upon a Time on her.
Oh, and something about how there’s lots of kings and queens, while there’s really like one reigning queen who’s like the Evil Queen from Snow White but called the Wicked Queen.
Does any of this make sense?
If you’re like me, just get a glass of wine at this point.
At the same time while you’re confused with this big old mess, don’t expect anything to happen except for Aislynn to eat lots of things and complain about the color coordinated clothing system.
Problem Two: Did I Mention that Aislyn is Dumb?
Dumb doesn’t even begin to describe Aislyn. I think she gets a Golden Bella and then some when it comes to her lack of intelligence. I might’ve been able to buy some of it if she’d been younger, might’ve, but I don’t. I think I know what Sussman was trying to do with this character. Screw ups can be fun to read about. And let’s face it, no one wants to read about a perfect character. But Aisyln is sort of the Mary Sue of screw ups to the point it’s just painful to read her POV.
Plus, she makes some real idiotic choices.
Oh, and falls in love instantly. And is too special for her heart to go all Once Upon a Time bye-bye. It’s no wonder why I hate her.
Problem Three: Wrong Genre:
I really think this book would’ve benefited from being middle grade. It could’ve been a cute middle grade book if a lot of editing was done and the whole purity subplot was diluted somewhat. I think it rings more MG than YA for me because the character just reads really young (despite being either fifteen or sixteen). It would make a lot more sense for Aislyn to be younger, it would’ve made her behavior seem more natural.
Instead, she seems like an overgrown cast member of Sophia the First.
Problem Four: Tell Rather Than Show
This book tended to do rampant info dumps of telling rather than showing. And I get it, first book in the series, of course you’re going to info dump a bit…but this was way too much. Way too fast. I couldn’t get into this world and even though I was told what the characters motivations were, but based on what was shown to me they felt too stilted and stiff.
Again, like a bad kid’s show.
Problem Five: Balancing Mystery versus Manners
I spent a good semester in my Writing Projects course talking all about this. Mystery versus manners is in some ways, an extension of showing versus telling-except what you want to tell and show.
While there weren’t a lot of things shown, the things that that were shown, were mere glimpses were rather fascinating but they did nothing to add to the plot. They were just sort of there yelling-look, this book could be good if it ever learned writing basics.
As for that information that was dumped upon us, it was essentially useless to the part of the book I read other than that fairy godmothers wear purple.
This is one case where I blame myself more than the book. I was warned and I should’ve known better. But I was still intrigued, and you only have one life to live so I was like why not. Needless to say, I learned quick not to give in to intrigue.
Overall Rating: DNF F.