Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley this has not effected my review of the book. However, it does make me love Netgalley and Entangled publishing a bit more.
Have you ever seen Blackadder Back and Forth?
If you haven't you're really missing out. This book made me flashback to a particular scene in my favorite New Year's special. In the special Blackadder gives a beat down to Shakespeare for writing King Lear or course he later learns the errors of his ways when Shakespeare stops writing all together and history is changed...but just to have the revenge on an author who spited you because your English teacher tried to teach you about culture by making you read the entire book and test you on odd little quotes so that you couldn't use cliff notes and had to suffer through the entire book....Well, this book has it's revenge on Charles Dickens.
Ah, yes, Charles Dickens writer of Victorian melodrama that was written to pave the way for social change. And if you don't know shit about Dickens you've probably seen The Christmas Carol in one of its various incarnations and want to tell Tiny Tim to just shove it...Blackadder sort of mocked this too in its Christmas special and it's another reason why that show is probably my favorite British comedy of all time.
That aside, his work really doesn't seem like it should be YA retelling material. I mean, social poverty, illiteracy, kids working in factories, crazy old ladies in wedding dresses....how can you possibly turn that into teen angst involving insta love, bad boys, and main characters whose stupidity makes them deck worthy.
Well, just ask Vivi Barnes.
For the sake of this review and your reading experience, I'm going to try to view this book as a revenge against Dickens. It makes reading the book actually easier because it makes some of the alterations easier to handle and the YA tropes that emerge almost funny. Because come on....if you've read Great Expectations you'd sort of want revenge on Dickens.
Or maybe not. I actually do know a lot of Dickens fans and, well, Dickens fans you can have him.
To be fair, I think Barnes had some good ideas going into this adaption. I liked the whole hacker angle. It sort of worked, but it went a little too extreme. And that, I think, was a big problem with this book besides the handling of sensitive issues, but more rants about that later.
It just seems like these kids can hack into any system and poof....their problems instantly disappear. No one ever questions the changes they make. One particular case I can think of off of the top of my head is the creepy foster dad. That is easily resolved because the kids hacked into the police system. Not because our main character did the logical thing....turn the pervy DVD that creep-o foster daddy took of her taking her clothes off to the police like a sane person would do. Or for that matter, have her teacher manually check her grades when her love douche interest changes her A to a C.
Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with the non-hackers in this world? They have about the idiocy level of those people in Doomed
(and don't get me started on that book because....yeah, it sucked ass).
And it just didn't extend to technology it extended to all aspects of this book. To the level of being offensive. I'll just state now if I still had the appropriateness category in my reviews, this book would be getting a big F.
One of the most offensive things I find possible in the genre is when sexual assault or issues with sexual assault are handled inappropriately. While I don't like YA books to be a PSA, these are issues that when talked about need to be talked about appropriately. Let's face it, there is such misconstrued information out there for people who have been sexually assaulted. Look at the U.S. 2012 election
if you need any more proof. If the topic is brought up in a YA book it should be a good place to explain the issues surrounding being assaulted and give the reader an idea of what to do
. And it can be done without being overly preachy. Here, it's not done at all. And God, the character is assaulted several times where I just want to scream.
1) She's drugged and no one does anything but takes her home. No hospital. Never mind that date rape drugs can kill
someone. Just dump your friend at home and she should be okay after sleeping it off. Oh, and don't call the cops...cause people just don't do that.
Rage mode yet, it gets better.
2) Creepy Pervy Foster Dad: Yes, we decide to go the good old bad foster daddy root. And while there have been some cases with abusive foster parents, for the most part this doesn't happen. But when we find out our main characters back story we learn that this isn't the first time she's been abused.
Fucking seriously. If that was the case, she'd be getting some therapy and the case worker would be working her ass off to make sure it didn't happen a freaking third time.
Honestly, the whole foster parents situation reminded me of that movie It Takes Two- an Olsen twin shit fest that my childhood best friend coerced me to view at her birthday party.
I remember ripping off her Barbie's head in revenge.
The Olsen twins make people do strange things.
3) When she finds out that bad foster daddy has a secret nasty DVD of her she doesn't go to the police. Or drunk foster mother. Instead, she just holes up in her room until now drunk bad foster daddy almost attacks her....and then doesn't do anything.
Except, well, hack him because she doesn't have enough evidence to put bad foster daddy away in jail.
YOU HAVE A DVD THAT HE TOOK OF YOU NAKED AND ARE A MINOR.
So what little life lesson does this teach us if one is assaulted? Does one call the police/ask help according to this book.
And again, I get it's not a PSA but come on. Some of these things could've been handled better. I can suspend some logic, but not the amounts of logic that this book wants me to suspend for it.
Like how everyone had a long lost rich relative. Olivia I expected so much, but Z or Jack (since that's his real name). And why not ever tie up that loose end...we certainly did have to learn how everyone got into Princeton at the end even though....you know what I just need to create a meme where you throw logic out the window. Oh, wait everyone went to Princeton inACinderella Story. And Hillary Duff movies are always an exemplary source of logic.
And oh yeah, we went with Jack the most cliche YA hero name ever. Or for really any romance novel hero's name.
I know by this point you probably think I'm just bitching and perhaps I am, but there was so much potential here. I even ignored the numerous errors in this book that made it almost unreadable-to be fair it was an ARC and hopefully it will be cleaned up but when I stare at a page for thirty seconds trying to figure out what the author is saying I just get annoyed.
The characters aren't well fleshed out either. Olivia and Z/Jack are cliche as they come. Olivia of course is that not so pretty new girl Bella type and Z/Jack is the mysterious Edward type that just happens to break anyone's nose every time his girlfriend sneezes even though he's really a horrible person.
The plot follows Oliver Twist enough, I guess. But the spirit of Dickens is long lost. While Dickens brought up social issues in a melodramatic way that actually worked and brought interest to the subject matter, Barnes melodrama is better suited for Lifetime. Also, the plot seemed be lost a lot of the time so that the romance could be thrown in our face. Honestly, I thought the villains were pretty weak because we had to read so many scenes about Olivia New Moon-ing it up with Z/Jack.
To sum it up, it's by far not the worst book I've ever read. A lot of people are going to enjoy it. And you know what, that's fine. Perfectly fine. I just felt the over use of YA cliches, couple that with the improper handling of sensitive issues, with bland characters, quoting the movie instead of the book, and an already difficult book to retell in a modern YA setting, it just didn't work for me at least.