Friday, May 30, 2014

Fiction Friday (29)

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I rarely like to read YA novels. It's not because I don't enjoy them, it's more that they tend to frustrate me in several ways. I'm not a YA illiterate by any means. I spent most of my early 20's devouring the genre, but my reading habits drifted away as I start to write more and more for the same audience. I find that within the YA community there is a bit of in-breeding in the sense that so many authors read and love their contemporaries, admiring them to the point where so much of the genre sounds as if it could have been written by the same two or three writers. Apparently the rest of the world is okay with that because the books still seem to sell, and anything that is truly different tends to have a problem standing out. As I'm currently not actually writing a YA manuscript, only revising one, this is one of those moments when I like to dive into the YA books that have been sitting on my self waiting to be read. I picked one that I've wanted to read for the last year. It sounded captivating, and readers seemed to love it. Hoping for another Hunger Games revelation,  I bought the ticket and took the ride.

Starters by Lissa Price
(Delacorte Press, 2012)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this novel for me is the wealth of wonderful reader reviews for a book that is average at best. The concept may be fascinating, and the cover compelling, but unfortunately the writing does neither of them justice. I found the writing to be completely devoid of any style. Not that it was poor, but rather utterly blank. The was just no life coming off the pages, or out of the character's mouths for that matter. Everything in the book felt put in there to achieve deliberate plot points delivered in a perfunctory manner. Though I will say this, the pacing of the story and the layout of the plot were done quite effectively.

For readers who are only peripherally interested in plot, I suppose this would be a "good" book. But anyone who reads with slightly more focus will inevitably find problems with this novel. Though set in the future, one wrought with changes to the social order, the book can't help sliding into a love story that reads like a contemporary drama played out on a WB television program about rich teenagers in Beverly Hills. One of my biggest problems with this book was the way so much of it seemed to ignore the world it was creating. Of course, that wasn't too hard considering that very little time was spent on explaining why the world had become the way it was. To be honest, it felt like an attempt to dress up a contemporary poor-girl-falls-for-rich-boy story with a dystopian flair. In the end, I didn't find either compelling.

I didn't mind so much that the story idea is heavily borrowed from the under appreciated Dollhouse television show. We all get inspired by other fiction. Part of the function of fiction is to spawn new fiction. I just wish it had been more realized, or expanded on the idea in a different way. But I don't like to write a review without bringing up something positive, because every book has some value and I know how frustrating it is when a review focuses only on the negative. On the positive side, there moments where the victimization of the donors is palpable and truly stuck with me. I guess I just wished there were more moments of real emotion besides those few brief glimpses.

Overall, it's a page turner with an intriguing plot. Not at all unenjoyable, but like cotton candy, it simply dissolves leaving one to wonder if you ever really tasted it.

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