By Juno Dawson
Obviously, from the half star rating, I hated this book. In fact, I didn’t even finish it. I got to 66%, and why I kept forcing myself to read it for that long is beyond me. But when I saw how many days it took me to read just 269 pages, it was obvious that I’d had been struggling to care or want to read this book at all. Finally last night I admitted to myself that the book sucked and it wasn’t going to get any better. So, what was so bad about it? Well, it would be a much shorter post if I told you what was good about it (a single additional word, in fact), but that wouldn’t tell you why you should avoid this book.
I didn’t realise when I bought this book that it was the author’s first adult novel. If I had, I probably would have borrowed it from the library to see if it was any good first. Did this read as an adult novel? No. It seems the author thinks that the only difference between YA and adult is that the latter has lots of swearing and some sex thrown in. There is no subtlety, the writing is jarring and the style reads overall very basic. Dare I say, juvenile.
This book also reads like the author went through a checklist of the types of characters many are looking for these days: BIPOC, gay, gender non-binary, trans. I have no problem with any or all of these, but if you are going to include them, do it properly. Instead we get one-dimensional characters and over-blown stereotypes. And each comes with their own message: oppression, discrimination, hate. I’m not saying that these don’t exist, but the way they were presented in the book was that if you aren’t black, you’re against blacks; if you aren’t gay, you’re against gay; cis white females are evil; etc. Where some of these themes could have been explored well and in-depth, they just weren’t. Many authors in Sci-Fi/Fantasy make social commentaries of the time, exploring deep and important issues. It’s one of the things I love about these genres, as historically authors have been able to say a lot more than they would have in general fiction. This novel doesn’t explore the issues well at all. Instead, the book feels like the social justice warrior equivalent of bible bashing.
So, it’s badly written, the characters are one-dimensional and themes/issues are done poorly… surely at least the plot has something going for it right? Wrong. There isn’t much of a plot at all. If you remove all of the parts where the book is hitting you over the head with those poorly explored issues, you’d be left with a short story. And a boring one at that.