Three Mehs and a Maybe

I’ve read a grip of books that I intended to review here, but they all turned out to be middling. Rather than giving the each the individual treatment I’m going to lump them together, each got three stars from me on Goodreads.

Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks

I loved the first book in this trilogy, Evil Genius, unfortunately the follow-up didn’t have the same spark. Cadel Piggott is a pretty fascinating protagonist: an effeminate-looking boy genius raised with no moral compass by henchmen. He developed a conscience over the course of Evil Genius, and he spends most of Genius Squad struggling with it: balancing his desire to solve puzzles and exercise his mind with his instructions to lie low and be a good boy.  Both novels have a diverse and interesting cast of characters. One of my favorite things about Evil Genius was that a friend of Cadel’s had a serious disability, but this person was valued for their cleverness and intelligence and made quite important to the plot, rather than being a footnote (trying to avoid spoilers here). This is not so in Genius Squad , every mention of this character is defined by disability to the point that the character becomes almost dead weight (Cadel uses some of the drawbacks of the disability to his advantage). Quite sad. The novel was slow to start, though it did introduce two interesting new characters into Cadel’s life in the form of an empathetic social worker and an honorable detective, but by the time he hooked up with the rest of the Genius Squad I was hoping for a really juicy caper along the lines of the first novel. No dice. There was a caper, of sorts, but it was dry as they come. Genius Squad was really a bit of false advertising: there was a squad, but it wasn’t made up of kids or (for the most part) geniuses.

The Glimpses of The Moon by Edith Wharton

When will I learn not to read “Introductions”? They always spoil the story. As billed, The Glimpses of the Moon is an imagined sequel to a House of Mirth that ended happily. Nick and Susy Lansing read like slightly dopier versions of Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden, which I suppose makes sense as they are honeymooning. The novel itself is good, Wharton was in fine form creating her nuanced social puzzles to draw feeling from her readers. Reading the novel is a bit like imagining what would happen after the end of a romantic comedy: the pair marries, gets to understand each other more intimately, and comes up against the daily struggles of “managing” (and their gendered approaches to it). The novel escapes the feeling of “fan-service” by honestly mining the realities Susy and Nick face, even if they do get some lucky breaks. It’s a sweet summer read, it just doesn’t have the impact of House of Mirth.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

This book was all over the place, it tried to handle too many issues in too small a space: heartbreak, maintaining self-worth in the face of unreasonable expectations, the problems with an apathetic approach to life, the perils of fitting in versus those of standing out, and it even shoehorned in a few nods to loyalty and tradition. Nineteen girlfriends is quite a lot for a recent high school grad, even by Colin’s broad definition, and then when you add the conceit that they were all named Katherine (and with that spelling)! It’s a lot of disbelief to suspend. Especially when the dater of these nineteen Katherines is a completely self-absorbed whiner who has given his life to his studies. Thinking back on it I feel that John Green wrote a book around the idea presented by the math: an equation to predict relationship length. While he likes the math, the way he writes about it makes it clear he doesn’t really understand how it works, and that bothered me more than the abundance of footnotes. Colin’s anagramming habit did not bother me either, I had one myself when I was younger. The rest of the plot just doesn’t live up to the concept, and that’s a shame. Colin’s neuroses are hard to take for hundreds of pages with only a stereotypical in every way friend and a lackluster love interest to break through his self-doubt. There is a bit of high-drama at the end that just feels a little strange, because I didn’t really care for any of the characters and their already surreal situation. A lot of window-dressing on a rather dull story.

Right now I am reading Switched by Amanda Hocking, it’s pretty good so far, and I have Gone by Michael Grant on deck. My crit partner and I have decided to move the deadline for our story challenge to the end of June because she’s had some setbacks and mine has turned into a novella. After that, we hope to make it a monthly occurrence and post the stories here on Ink!


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