By Shereen Lee
The Blue and Gold (Shilin, Taipei, Taiwan)
Kimberly Reid, #Prettyboy Must Die (Feb. 13; Tor Teen)
This book about an undercover teen spy practically oozes with condescension. The main character constantly makes grandiose, self-important statements like “this is serious business” unironically, and everyone besides the main characters are treated like they are completely incapable of critical thinking. This was further hurt by the gender dynamic between the teen girls who fangirl over him, who are treated as singlemindedly vacuous and totally devoid of any motivations besides getting a photo of him.
However, I think suspension of belief will definitely make the story better. The unfeasible plot can be entertaining if the reader goes into the book not expecting much in the way of logic.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review. My rating and review were not impacted by this.
Dhonielle Clayton, The Belles (Feb. 6; Disney Hyperion)
The book, which features a fantasy world where people are born with grey skin and go under surgery by magical “Belles” to change their appearance, does a great job addressing issues with body image. I found that element very important, and appreciated the book highly for that reason. At the same time, I was disappointed in the lack of discussion on class dynamics in an otherwise very political book.
However, I enjoyed the characterization of the main character in this book. Camellia was a great character with a strong-willed and likable personality. The one drawback was that she could be very thickheaded sometimes, and I felt that the book could have been much shorter were she slightly more efficient. Main secondary characters, from the villains to the love interest, were very one-dimensional and obvious in their intentions. While this book was a solid “meh” for me, I am willing to give the sequel another try.
Arvin Ahmadi, “Down and Across”
This book, about a teenage guy who sets out to solve his lack of direction by running away to Washington, D.C., was a solid, cute read. I loved the character development and sheer relatability of all the characters. I liked that each person clearly had their own unique personality traits, and even though some elements seemed overplayed (teenage kid in existential crisis is inspired by gruff mentor, discovers the meaning of life!).
“Down and Across” is a feel-good novel with a lot of unrealistic elements. The book had a plot element regarding mental illness at one point and I thought that there would be some interesting discourse on depression and anxiety, but sadly such discussion never appeared. In fact, I found the author’s treatment of mental illness a little bit rough-handed and shallow.
Otherwise, I enjoyed the discussion of crossword subculture that appears in this book. The novel is forgettable but fun.
Photo Credit: Blue and Gold