Random Review: Before I Fall

I know a lot of people loved this book, found it deep and profound and moving. Or whatever. So I’ll be brief.

Before I Fall by Lauren OliverBeforeIFallHC-jkt-final

Sam Kingston is a former-inviso-girl turned 2nd-tier-Queen-Bee. She has finally caught her prize meathead’s eye, she gets wasted at all the right parties, and she has effectively strong-armed an acceptable number of people into sending her status-symbol roses on Cupid Day. Life is everything she plowed under her personality hoping to achieve, until the night she dies in a fiery car wreck. Or does she die? Sam relives the same day seven times until she finds a way to give her squandered existence some small significance.

This book is well-written. All of the characters are well-rounded, and the plot is engaging enough. I thought I felt nothing about it but now I think I don’t like it. It’s a big ol’ nothing. A writing exercise in how the same miserable, shitty, rudderless girl can re-live the same day in different ways. And it’s nearly five hundred pages long. What, exactly, is the point Ms. Oliver? The novel is written as though Sam is obviously an everygirl, but I suspect you were exorcizing some of your own demons.

I’m sure some girls relate to this book. I’m sure some find it cathartic. I found it pointless and kind of depressing.

Chair Rating:

Pointless, Embarrassing, kind of depressing, something only a teenage girl could love.

Pointless, embarrassing, kind of depressing, something only a teenage girl could love.

Random Review: The Raven Boys

A mix of A Separate Peace and The Goonies, with a few ancient supernatural forces thrown in for good measure.

The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys

Blue Sargent is a signal booster for the supernatural, which makes her a blessing to both her professionally clairvoyant family and a few boys at the local boarding school who’ve been chasing a legend. Blue can’t see the spirits herself, though she accompanies her mother annually to a graveyard on St. Mark’s Eve, where those destined to die in the coming year pass through. When Blue sees her first spirit, one of those Aglionby boys, she knows one of two things: he is either her true love, or she will be the one to kill him. Though she knows nothing good can come from running with the privileged Raven Boys of Aglionby Academy, she can’t help but be caught up in the search for an ancient Welsh king, led by the boy who will break her heart.

Obviously this book came out awhile ago and, as I had pre-ordered it, I read it pretty much the instant it was released. As a big fan of both The Goonies and A Separate Peace, the story was right up my alley, though I felt as a novel it didn’t always work. Now that we are on the eve of The Dream Thieves release, I thought it was about time I posted a review. Let me just state out front that I will be reading the sequel.

There are a lot of elements at play in the story of Blue and The Raven Boys’ search for Glendower, and some work better than others. Blue’s family is easily the strongest aspect: a houseful of spiritually attuned women who use their gifts for second sight to make a living, the dynamic between the different seers makes for great reading. One of the most chilling scenes in the novel takes place at Blue’s house, and it gave me the genuine, all-out willies. One of the weaker elements is the depiction of the boys themselves. The narrative rests heavily on their relationship, and their interactions don’t always ring true. Each of them is an interesting, fleshed-out character, but when they speak to each other it sounds like a girl imagining a conversation between boys rather than one boys would actually have. There is a villain of sorts, but his story is joined to the main narrative so awkwardly that I keep forgetting he exists.

This is a story with massive potential, and while The Raven Boys didn’t always hit the right notes for me, I will absolutely be back to find out what happens in The Dream Thieves. The novel has adventure, realistic romance, spooky supernatural moments, and healthy doses of mystery and humor. It probably suffered slightly in my view because it followed the near-perfect The Scorpio Races, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Goonies, A Separate Peace, or even Indiana Jones.

Chair Rating:

Potentially magnificent, comfortable enough to sink into, a bit threadbare in places.

Potentially magnificent, comfortable enough to sink into, a bit threadbare in places.