A.C. Gaughen – Scarlet

While, strictly speaking, this is not a fairy tale retold, Scarlet is an alternate version of Robin Hood. And yet another tale that everybody knows and that is possibly best known by me for its Disney adaptation. After a while I found it almost a blessing that my head kept picturing friar Tuck as a badger and Robin Hood as a fox. Because there isn’t much originality in this novel. Man, fairy tale retellings month is letting me down!

ScarletUS.indd

SCARLET

by A.C. Gaughen

published: Bloomsbury USA, February 2012
ISBN: 0802723462
pages: 292
copy: Hardcover

my rating: didn’t finish

first sentence: No one really knows ’bout me.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

I know a few versions of this story. The Kevin Costner movie, the Disney adaptation of course, and I saw one episode of the BBC show (I think). I wouldn’t call myself a Robin Hood savvy person and other than the basic names of his band of thieves, I really don’t remember any details. The idea of turning Will Scarlet into a girl sounded intriguing though and, let’s be honest, reading about thieves and criminals is usually fun. Sadly, my bad luck when picking YA novels seems to continue.

Yet another fail in book-picking, this book was a terrible bore, despite its short chapters and easy readability. Not only is there nothing new to this story, what is there, is incredibly lame and none of the capers, awesome thievery and outwitting the sheriff that I was hoping for, was delivered.

The language is very basic, which is due to Scarlet being the first person narrator. The author susbstitued every single “was” with a “were”, I’m guessing to make Scarlet sound less educated and more like a scoundrel. The problem with that is that otherwise  she uses almost perfect grammar. I got annoyed with the many “were”s extremely quickly and it diminished the reading pleasure a lot. A sad mistake because it could have been remedied by some simple editing.

The plot utterly failed to engage me. Nothing really happens and the initial spark that’s supposed to set up the plot is Guy of Gisbourne appearing in Nottinghamshire to catch Rob and his crew. However, as I didn’t care about Scarlet one bit, and Robin is only there to make her blush whenever he smiles, I also didn’t really care if this particular version of Robin Hood gets caught.There is some mystery surrounding Scarlet – the fact that she’s a girl is never a secret – but the solution is blatantly obvious to anyone with imagination (or anyone who’s read a handful of books before). So I kept asking myself (instead of paying attention to the book) why I’m still reading this? All we find out in the first half of the novel is how wonderful Scarlet is. Robin, Little John and random townspeople simply can’t stop mentioning just what makes her special. Be it her pretty long hair, how quickly and silently she moves, how tough she is and her deep-down kindness. Perfect characters don’t interest me. Even if they’re rude and can’t speak properly.

Genderbending alone does not make a retold tale interesting. So Will Scarlet is a girl, a nice idea. It opens the road to romance not invoving Maid Marian but even what little romance there is, is badly executed. All Scarlet seems to do is blush furiously (14 blushes only in chapter 4!) and speak English badly. After about a quarter of the book I was ready to lem it… I struggled on until about half but if a book still hasn’t gripped me at the 50% mark, it’s just not meant to be. Bear in mind though, that this review is only for the first half. Who knows? The book just may turn awesomesauce in the second half, though I stronlgy doubt it…

THE GOOD: Will Scarlet as a girl is a cute idea.
THE BAD: I was bored to death, the writing was bland, the protagonist’s style infuriating and there was no plot I could detect.
THE VERDICT: Did not like it. In fact, it was so boring, I actually didn’t finish it. The characters are one-dimensional and since there was nothing happening, I don’t feel I missed anything.

RATING: Didn’t finish the book.  What I did read was a waste of time.

After all that negativity: Big thumbs up for having an original song written for your debut YA novel, though. It’s called “Scarlet” by Jenna Paone. While it’s not entirely my kind of music, I had it on in the background while reading and it did add to the atmosphere. It’s certainly awesome that you can download or listen to it for free here.

Related posts:

Myra McEntire – Hourglass

I probably would have completely ignored this book if it weren’t for the reading group on Literaturschock (German). While I still believe it’s always good to keep an open mind, in this case, I wouldn’t have missed much. This turns out to be just another pointless, wannabe YA romance with fantasy elements. *sigh*

HOURGLASS
by Myra McEntire

published: Egmont USA, 2011
ISBN:1606841440
pages: 394
copy: ebook
series: Hourglass #1

my rating: 2,5/10

first sentence: My small Southern hometown is beautiful in the haunting way an aging debutante is beautiful.

The blurb: For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning SouthernBelles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s triedeverything, but the visions keep coming back. So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure.But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past. Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says?Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should havehappened?

What I thought:
Emerson, our emotionally damaged herione, meets a tall dark stranger and finds out she can actually time travel. Yay!  Let me say first and foremost that this is pretty much it. There is very little plot to this story and the time travel element, which I was really looking forward to, is left unexplored and sadly explained in a very bad way. You need the time travel gene (fair enough), something called “exotic matter” (I had to look this one up on wikipedia) and – here’s the bummer – an object, usually a ring, made of duronium, a mysterious type of metal. Now I know this isn’t hard science fiction and I’m fine with that. But rather than come up with a ridiculous explanation like that, the author should have just left it vague. Time travel gene, click your heels and  – boom! – you’re in the past, would have been better than this. That’s just my opinion.

So, if there’s not much plot, what are those almost 400 pages about, you ask? Weeeeeell, about the characters of course. This book focuses on the relationships which happen both way too fast and are very much lacking credibility. Maybe because the characters are simply stand-ins for one trait each. Michael stands for “mysterious hot guy”, Kaleb stands for “slightly more open hot guy”, there’s the BFF hot girl, the competition hot girl, the physicist hot woman and an evil guy who is virtually never present. This actually led to me mixing up the names of the evil guy and the man they set out trying to save. Everybody’s hot, everybody’s kind of the same – except for Emerson, who’s just weird and has aggression issues.

We are thrown into a very small world, populated by just these few and way too perfect characters. As world-building goes, I’d say this is the bare minimum. Settings are secondary, characters’ looks are the focal point of McEntire’s writing. The heavy dialogue almost comes as a relief after too many descriptions of muscular bodies, six-packs and gorgeous women with endless legs. Not a single person in this story seems to look like a regular person. Sure, this is the Hollywood approach, but I personally love books because you still meet flawed characters. Physical as well as character flaws are what draws readers in and in Hourglass, these were simply missing. Also, I did a search for “muscle” in my ebook and it comes up a whopping 15 times. And that’s just the world “muscle”. Not considering “abs”, “six pack”, or “bicep” which are also used to describe any male character.

Em’s first person narrative tries to be witty but ends up being unoriginal and gravely misunderstanding her own personality. She thinks of herself as this bad ass karate kid who’s tough and pulling through hard times. But the way she acts shows us that she’s quite sensitive and frail, if very aggressive and easily jealous. Of course, she has no idea how beautiful she is. What’s worse though is that none of the characters have any drive for doing what they do. For me, pretty characters without personality are just not enough. I want to identify or at least care about the characters. I want to feel that spark between the lovers, not bluntly be told “They’re in love other after two weeks of knowing each other”.

There are two plot-twists towards the end, one of which was painfully predictable. The ending as such was not satisfying at all. Too many coincidences come together, side plots are introduced or hinted at and then abandoned (I’m assuming, for use in later books) and success was much too easily achieved.

If there’s no conflict and no plot and no proper time travel, why did I read this book in the first place? Because it’s a quick read. There may not be much happening and I may not have liked any of the characters but the writing is fast-paced and you can finish this book in a day. I think Myra McEntire has potential as a writer, this book was just below avarage for me and I’m not sure if I’ll read the second one in the series.

I don’t know what it is lately with me picking really bad YA books. But I’m going to leave this particular genre be for a while and read me some grown-up books by authors who know their craft. I’m really yearning for characters with flaws and stories with plot.

THE GOOD: Fast-paced, easy read.
THE BAD: One-trait-characters, everybody’s beautiful. Not much time travel going on.
THE VERDICT: Not a book you have to read. If you want good YA time travel, read Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red trilogy.

RATING: 2,5/10  Not complete rubbish but close enough

The Hourglass series:

  1. Hourglass
  2. Timepiece
  3. not published yet

Aimée Carter – The Goddess Test

In retrospect, the Cassandra Clare blurb on the book cover should have tipped me off… I had high hopes for this book, expected it to be a fun, light YA read with some Greek mythology and a love story mixed in. That could work, right? I guess it could but in this case, it didn’t.

THE GODDESS TEST
by Aimée Carter

published: Harlequin Teen, 2011
ISBN: 1459201698
pages: 267
series: Goddess Test #1
copy: ebook

my rating: 1,5/10

first sentence:”How did it happen this time?” Henry tensed at the sound of her voice, and he tore his eyes away from the lifeless body on the bed long enough to look at her.

It’s always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate’s going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won’t live past the fall. Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he’ll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests. Kate is sure he’s crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she’ll become Henry’s future bride, and a goddess.

I’ve been a fan of Greek mythology since I was little. Having a Greek grandmother may have helped spurn my interest and I remember always having tomes upon tomes of mythology books at home. So tackling this topic in a teen romance way sounded intriguing. The persephone myth is one of my favorites and I thought a good writer could really make something of it. Tortured, dark, brooding Hades? Hell yes!

This book feels like it was written by two people. In the beginning, a number of characters is introduced and some of them even go through some character development. But as soon as the plot is supposed to take off, they all miraculously turn to cardboard. Any lessons they’ve learned, any growth they’ve gone through, is forgotten and they’re just stand-ins for lame, kitschy talk about love, death and morals. And you don’t want me to get started on the “morals” taught in this story. (Let’s just say: If you’re a girl, you’re not allowed to have your own mind and you must behave like a 50ies housewife. Otherwise, you’re automatically a Bad Person!)

There’s a not-very-underlying message of sex being dirty and how a girl should be ashamed of herself if she likes it, especially if she dares sleep with someone before being married. Are these the stone ages? Do we want young girls to feel ashamed of their urges? Does Aimée Carter want her daughters – if she has any – to grow up thinking all they’re supposed to do is please their husband and never have sex just because they want to? And if they do, they should feel guilty about it? Wow, this makes me angry. The fact that one character is immediately branded a slut for dating one guy, then breaking up with him because he only wants to have sex, and moving on to another, kinder guy, is equally as ridiculous. That’s what happens when you’re young. You fancy yourself in love, you realise your mistakes, you grow from them. And yes, you may date a bunch of guys until you find what it really is you need from a relationship. And a novel published in the 2000s should not portray it as okay for men to “browse” and experience their youth but not for girls. They are immediately to be despised and discarded, even if they were best friends.

Other than that, there is not much plot to this novel. Kate goes to live in Eden Manor to win immortality and save Henry’s (Hades’) immortal soul. Her reasons for this – or in fact for her falling in love with him – are absolutely unbelievable. There is no drive in any of the characters, the so-called love story makes no sense. If you want readers to engage with your characters, then show us what they’re like, show us why the fall in love. None of that happens here.

As for the tests: There are supposed to be seven tests and they are not always supposed to be obvious. However, there is not a single test that we actually know to be one. Sure, it’s nice that someone is not copying Battle Royale for a change, but the blurb promised seven tests and I was looking forward to seeing the protagonist struggle, fight her worst fears or be in any other way challenged. She’s not. The worst things that happen to her are that she’s forced to wear pretty dresses and eat wonderful food and spend time with her friends in the gardens. Wow… what an interesting idea.

If that weren’t enough to piss me off, the incredibly schmaltzy mother daughter dialogues about “living your life to the fullest after I’m gone” and how much stronger Kate is than she dares to believe would have decided my rating. Actually, all the dialogues are badly written, cheesy and simply boring. All the mythology woven into a modern story I was hoping for was, well, non-existent. In the end, we meet some gods when the decision is made if Kate passed the Goddess Test, but they are as lifeless as the rest of the cast.

Few as they were, the plot twists can be guessed by a reasonably attentive reader way ahead and so the last straw I was holding on to for getting something out of this book, was broken.

For me, this was a hugely unnecessary read and again, a beautiful cover got stuck on a bad book. If you want Greek mythology (or Aztec, or Norse, for that matter) and a nice, quick YA read, go for Katherine A. Applegate’s Everworld Series. I have read and re-read those books many times and they were as much fun for adult me as they were when I first discovered them at the age of 14.

THE GOOD: The cover art. The first 20 pages or so when characters still have a hint of personality.
THE BAD: Cheesy, bad dialgoue, lifeless characters, lack of plot, lack of mythology, very wrong take on sex and morals.
THE VERDICT: I honestly can’t think of anyone I would recommend this to.

MY RATING: 1,5/10

Chuck Wendig – Blackbirds

I am such a sucker for beautiful covers. So I really wanted to like this book, because it looks soooo pretty. But – and this is a painful experience every time – a beautiful cover does not make a good book. Neither, it seems, does one good idea if it is badly executed… or not at all.

BLACKBIRDS
by Chuck Wendig

published: 24 April 2012 by Angry Robot
ePub ISBN: 9780857662316
pages: 264
cover: Joey Hi-Fi
copy: epub via NetGalley
series: Miriam Black #1

my rating: 2/10

first sentence: Car lights strobe through busted motel blinds.

The blurb:
Miriam Black knows when you will die.
Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name. Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

A premise such as this may not be entirely new but it is a good idea with lots of potential. It all depends on what the author makes of it. In this case, Chuck Wendig may have given his protagonist a special gift (or curse) but other than her having this gift, it has no relevance to anything in the story. This is your basic, and sadly quite cliché-ridden, crime thriller. Except I wasn’t very thrilled. Miriam knows how people are going to die and makes a living out of picking ones that will bite it soon and stealing whatever they have in their wallet. One day, she meets Ashley, a self-proclaimed con-artist who would like to team up. Meanwhile, evil people hunt for them.

As exaggerated as that summary might sound, that’s really all there is to it. And again: I desperately wanted to like this book. Here’s why I didn’t:

The characters
Miriam is a badass tough girl with a filthy mouth and neither conflict nor motivation. Her constant swearing and cussing (something I generally like in books) feels so extremely forced but neither serves the purpose of shocking the audience nor does it help make the scenes stronger. It gets annoying pretty fast, especially when Miriam makes up expressions that contain as many “fucks”, “shits” and “cunts” as humanly possible. Using bad language does not make a character strong – actions do. And Miriam is painfully direction-less.

Ashley calls himself a con-artist with his biggest “scam” being the theft of an object whose owner didn’t look for a moment. And some petty thievery. Wow! Big con-artistry going on there. He is as unlikable as Miriam, even though he at least has one goal that drives him somewhere.

The bad guys are such tropes it hurts to talk about them. So I just won’t.

The language
This being my first book by Chuck Wendig (and I’m sure you’ve guessed by now it’s going to be the last) I thought it might be his debut. But a quick check over at his website shows me that not only has he published a couple of books already but also some  non-fiction about helping people to become better writers. Sure, style is a matter of taste, but to me this was just pure irony.

Because there are flaws in the writing that even I (as a non-English native speaker) learned in school to avoid. There are many examples all over this book but I’ll just give you a taste from a “sex scene”.

Her mouth on his mouth, her tongue is a snake in the grass, a worm in the apple.

The short, cut-off sentences are probably meant to drive the pace, to make it more thrilling. It is readable and it won’t take you long to get through the book. If you manage to keep up some interest in what happens. Because most of the time, nothing does. And even if something does – stuff happeneing is still not plot! This book reads very much like the author is trying so very hard to be gritty and dark. For me that led to overanalysing what I think he might have been trying to achieve, instead of doing what I should – enjoying the read.
Oh, and the third person present tense didn’t help either. Just didn’t work for me. I felt like I was supposed to be inside Miriam’s head, but I wasn’t. The handful of first person chapters made a real difference and got to me way more than the rest.

And then, almost every scene is set up in exactly the same way. A description of the surroundings in jerky sentences:

Motel room. Floral print bedspread. Gold-rimmed mirror with the old showbiz-style lights marking its perimeter. A painting of a magnolia tree on the wall.

Which leads us to my last point – the plot
What little there is of it is inconsistent and plain boring. I don’t care about the characters so why should I care what happens to them. None of them have any real conflict to deal with nor any real goals to pursue (Ashley wants to be rich, and that’s not enough to keep me reading). And the worst thing is – why would this story need a paranormal element when it has no meaning whatsoever to the plot, the characters and their behaviour or, in fact, the story-line.

As horrible as this sounds, it wasn’t all bad. What’s really interesting are the Interludes, the chapters that jump in time to a place where Miriam is interviewed by a man named Paul. She talks about her ability (or curse), how she got it, how she tried to fight it and how it changed who she is – that’s what I was hoping for when I first read the blurb. These chapters are also better written. Miriam still curses like a sailor but it feels less exaggerated, she seems more like a person.

The same goes for chapters told out of other characters’ point of view. I caught glimpses of good writing there and found those passages eternally more readable than the rest of the book. I nerver truly warmed to the style but I do believe Chuck Wendig can write and simply chooses this partiular way of telling his story. It’s just really not my cup of tea – but read a sample chapter and see if you like it. I guess you either love it or hate it.

A story like this is always a great opportunity to explore certain themes. Fate vs. free will, accepting the future (or the past for that matter), how a person’s character changes when hit with an ability like this, a morbid look into other people’s futures, at how theirs lives end. Unfortunately, Chuck Wendig leaves pretty much all of these unexplored. Yes, Miriam turns into a fucked-up mess of a creature because of this gift and yes, she did try once to prevent a death she pre-witnessed. But that’s it. No other relevance to the story, no deep thoughts – or even shallow ones – just a big fat void.

I feel guilty for writing such a negative review on a book the publisher was nice enough to give to me (though, thankfully, I am not completely alone). And I do think that people who read more thrillers and spy stories than me and like their protagonists dark and negative may find something in it. For me, this simply wasn’t it.

THE GOOD: Interesting idea, Wendig doesn’t hold back on the cuss-words, easy and quick read.
THE BAD: Characters without personality, unoriginal gangster-hunting-other-gangster story, writing style you’ll either hate or love.
THE VERDICT: A good idea wasted on inconsistent characters, wrapped in a predictable story, ridden with clichés…

RATING: 2/10

Amélie Nothomb – Tuer le père

Amélie Nothomb conquered my reader’s heart with her wonderful novel Stupeur et Tremblements (Fear and Trembling) and has – with a couple of exceptions – been very dear to me as a writer. Her unique voice (and the fact that I can work up enough gumption to read a French book when it comes to her) has never let me down and while she’s taken one huge misstep with Sulphuric Acid, it was easily forgiven. As all of Nothomb’s novels, this one is really short, more novella than novel. Usually, she uses the lack of pages to show her strengths in story-telling but lately, I feel she’s been slacking and her stories get boring and unmemorable.

TUER LE PÈRE
by Amélie Nothomb

published: 2011
by: Albin Michel
pages: 162

my rating: 3/10

first sentence: Le 6 octobre 2010, L’Illégal fêtait ses dix ans.


Joe is 14 years old when his mother politely throws him out. He goes to live in Reno, learning card tricks. Soon he’s picked up by Norman Torance and his girlfriend Christina who take him into their home and treat him like a son. Growing up with them, he develops a severe crush on his surrogate mother and learns all there is to know about magic tricks and sleight of hand from Norman.

Mademoiselle Nothomb, I am not impressed. Joe, unlike most of the author’s protagonists, does not feel real so his journey was doomed for me from the get-go.  The things that happen to him feel equally as unbelievable as they are boring. Norman becomes a father-figure to Joe but instead of showing that fragile relationship through one of the many conversations, Nothomb just hammers it into her readers by bluntly stating facts. Even when finally some conflict appears – namely Joe’s crush on Christina – the author manages to play it down so much that I didn’t really care if Joe managed to secude her or destroy her relationship with Norman.

The theme of this book is magic, artistics, players and sleight of hand – while these are all things that I find highly interesting to read about and that offer many possibilities for great writing, Amélie Nothomb chose not to take that opportunity. There is no magic in this book, the writing is just there, it doesn’t leave any kind of impression. Then again, she throws in passages that instantly strike a chord with me and make me reminisce of “good old Amélie” and the wonderful books she’s written.

Les fire dancers n’ont pas créé leur art pour le plaisir un peu vulgaire de faire du trop difficile. Il y a une logique profonde à associer ces deux dieux, la danse et le feu. Regarder de grands danseurs provoque le même émoi que regarder une bûche enflammée : le feu danse, le danseur brûle.

That’s what I expect from a Nothomb book. Concise writing and a story that combines plot with the author’s thoughts on certain themes. Unfortunately, that is the only quote worth mentioning in this story.

Now, it wasn’t all bad. The ending does hold a little plot twist and while it may come as a surprise to some, the lack of interest in the characters left me strangely unemotional about it. This has been a trend in Nothomb’s last few books and I certainly hope she’ll get back on her writer’s feet. Otherwise I’m just going to have to re-read her older works and ignore whatever comes out next.

THE GOOD: Quick read, I improved my French.
THE BAD: If you don’t care for the characters, might as well not read the book. Lame story, not very well-told.
THE VERDICT: No need to read this. If you want Nothomb, pick up one of her older books. You won’t regret it.

RATING: 2,5/10

Ally Condie – Matched

Es ist immer wieder dasselbe. Ein Autor oder eine Autorin landet einen großen Hit mit einer (vorzugsweise) Trilogie von Jugendbüchern mit Fantasy-Element und viele andere ziehen nach und laben sich am Erfolg des anderen. Wie das bei Nachmachern so oft der Fall ist, lässt die Kopie leider sehr zu wünschen übrig. Besonders auffällig ist das hier in Ally Condies Matched – einer dystopischen Liebes-Trilogie, die sich aus allem, was Erfolg hat, ein bisschen was rauspickt und so ziemlich alles falsch macht, was man nur falsch machen kann.

Deutscher Titel: Die Auswahl – Cassia & Ky
Erschienen: 2010
Seiten: 366 (452)
Übersetzt von: Stefanie Schäfer
Erschienen bei: Dutton Juvenile (Fischer Fjb)

Meine Bewertung: 1/10

Erster Satz: Now that I’ve found a way to fly, which direction should I go into the night?

Die 17-jährige Cassie erfährt bei einem grandiosen Bankett, wer ihr “match”, ihr Lebenspartner sein wird, den sie später heiraten wird. Dieser Partner wird von der Society ausgewählt und Bürger haben keinerlei Einfluss darauf, mit wem sie zusammengewürfelt werden. Das Augenmerk liegt auf genetisch und psychologisch passenden Partnern. Cassia kann ihr Glück kaum fassen als sie erfährt, dass ihr bester Freund Xander ihr “match” ist. Doch dann passiert der Society ein Fehler – auf Cassias Speicherkarte mit den Daten über ihren zukünftigen Ehemann, ist ein anderer Junge gespeichert. Der mysteriöse und stille Ky. Nun weiß Cassia nicht, in wen sie sich verlieben soll…

Es ist wirklich traurig, im Laufe dieser ohnehin nicht sehr originellen Geschichte, zu bemerken, aus wie vielen Ecken Frau Condie ihre Ideen ausgeliehen hat. Eine Gesellschaft, die fast ständig überwacht wird klingt zwar sehr nach dem Urvater der Dystopien, George Orwell, aber der Vergleich widerstreb mir zugleich. Denn ein Meisterwerk wie 1984 mit diesem Roman in einem Satz zu erwähnen, macht mir ein schlechtes Gewissen. Die Idee, dass man seinen Partner nicht selbst auswählen kann, ist erstens in vielen Ländern auch jetzt keine Absonderlichkeit und weil so wenig auf die tatsächlichen Kriterien bei der Auswahl eingegangen wird, konnte sich bei mir auch kein wirkliches Interesse bilden. Vor allem, weil die (übrigens perfekte, schöne und schlaue) Protagonistin Glück hat und ihren besten Freund ergattert.

Das Liebesdreieck, wenn man es so nennen will, ist praktisch eine Kopie von Suzanne Collins’ Katniss, Peeta und Gale. Mädchen, bester Freund und ein bisher nur wenig bekannter Junge, der aber schon lange ein Auge auf das Mädchen hat. Die Liebesgeschichte war schon bei den Hunger Games nebensächlich und zumindest für mich eher langweilig (mir war so egal, wer wie mit wem und warum!), aber hier eine bekannte und öde Geschichte in schlechtem Stil aufzuwärmen und sie zum Hauptthema zu machen, ist ein fataler Fehler.

“There’s Em,” I tell Xander, pointing, and together we weave our way through the blankets on the grass and say hello to our classmates and friends. Everyone is in a good mood, giddy with the novelty of the whole activity. Looking down, trying not to step on anyone’s blanket or in anyone’s food, I walk right into Xander, who has stopped.

Ally Condie beweist in diesem Buch keinerlei Sinn für Geschwindigkeit, Plot (Zeug, das passiert ist NICHT gleich Handlung!), Sprache oder Charakterentwicklung. Die Charaktere, viele sind es nicht, bleiben allesamt flach und furchtbar uninteressant und seltsam unemotional. Wer will schon über ein Mädchen lesen, das so viel besser ist als alle anderen, aber mit keinerlei Konflikt konfrontiert wird. Dasselbe gilt für die beiden “Helden”. Kein bisschen Persönlichkeit, nur strahlende Augen, die ihre Farbe wechseln, und hübsche blonde Haare.

Weiters benimmt sich gesamte Gesellschaft wie Schafe – und damit tue ich den Tieren noch Unrecht. Keiner stellt irgendetwas in Frage und das ganz ohne Gehirnwäsche. Wenn die Gesellschaft wenigstens ordentlich beschrieben würde, sodass man das Handeln der Charaktere nachvollziehen könnte, wäre das etwas anderes. Aber auch diese Mühe spart sich die Autorin zugunsten von langweiligen Jung-Mädchengedanken über das Küssen und ihr schönes Bankett-Kleid.

Um diesem Desaster eines Romans dann etwas Tiefe und Stil zu verliehen, fügt Frau Condie Gedichte von Robert Frost, Tennyson und Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night ein. Leider ist der Zusammenhang dieser Gedichte mit der Handlung ebenso wenig durchdacht wie das System dieser Dystopie selbst. Dass es etwa nur noch 100 Stück von jedweder Kunst gibt – Die Hunder Lieder, Die Hundert Gedichte, Die Hundert Bilder, etc. – hat absolut keinen Grund und wird mit einem wegwerfenden Satz erklärt: “Wie sollen sich Menschen denn sonst für etwas entscheiden in all dem Überfluss?”

Nach etwa drei Vierteln habe ich dann aufgegeben und beschlossen, dass mir meine Lesezeit zu kostbar für so einen Schulmädchenaufsatz ist. Das Ende habe ich dann noch überflogen und bin zu dem Schluss gekommen, dass ich absolut nichts verpasst habe. Kein Konflikt, keine Beziehung zu den Charakteren, kein Grund weiterzulesen.

Um zu einem Ende zu kommen: Dieses Buch ist für mich mangelhaft in so ziemlich jeder Hinsicht. Das Einzig schöne daran ist das Cover und auch wenn ein schönes Äußeres bei einem Buch toll sein kann, macht das die Geschichte hier keinen Deut besser.

PRO: Ich kann mir vorstellen, dass “Team-Edwart/Jacob/Peeta/Gale” T-Shirt tragende und lesetechnisch unbedarfte junge Mädchen vielleicht genug Fantasie haben, um in dieses Buch eine Geschichte hineinzulesen, die halbwegs interessant sein könnte. Mir ist das nicht gelungen (trotz Fantatsie-Überschusses).
CON: Anfängerfehler was Stil, Charaktere und vor allem Plot betrifft.
FAZIT: Grauenvoll!

BEWERTUNG: 1/10

Jo Walton – Among Others

Nach dem unglaublichen Mechanique, habe ich meine ganze Hoffnung in die anderen Bücher gesetzt, die dieses Jahr für den Nebula Award nominiert sind. Doch dieses hoch gelobte Buch wäre auch ohne so große Konkurrenz eine Enttäuschung geworden. Vermutlich ist es Geschmackssache, aber mir entzieht sich, warum Kritiker und Autoren so von diesem Roman schwärmen. Für mich las er sich wie eine zweitklassige Coming-of-Age-Geschichte mit ganz viel Name Dropping.

Deutscher Titel: noch nicht bekannt
Erschienen: 2011
Seiten: 302
Erschienen bei: Tor

Meine Bewertung: 3,5/10

Erster Satz: The Phurnacite factory in Abercwmboi killed all the trees for two miles around.

In Tagebuchform von der 15-jährigen Morganna Phelps geschrieben, erzählt dieses Buch ihre Geschichte nach einem tragischen Unfall, in dem ihre Zwillingsschwester Morwenna ums Leben kam und sie selbst die Fähigkeit, ohne Stock zu gehen, verloren hat. Das junge Mädchen wird aus ihrer Heimat in Wales auf ein Internat in England gesteckt, für das ihr bisher unbekannter Vater (da geschieden) bezahlt. Sie fühlt sich abgeschoben und ungewollt, findet nur schwer Freunde und flüchtet sich in die Welt der Bücher. Science Fiction Romane verschlingt sie am liebsten. Und immer wieder spricht sie von den Feen, die in unserer Welt versteckt leben…

Morganna – kurz Mor oder Mori – kam mir von Anfang an sehr reif für ihr Alter vor. Die Gedanken, die sie sich über das Leben, Sex und die Schule macht, sind sehr erwachsen, aber überzeugend. Ein Mädchen, das viel liest, lernt schließlich auch, seinen eigenen Kopf zu benutzen. Als Charakter war sie mir persönlich zu unsympathisch. Ihre unsoziale Art, wie sie auf ihre Mitschülerinnen hinabsieht – auch wenn diese teilweise etwas dümmliche Mädchen sind – und wie sie sich von allen fernhält, konnte ich nicht nachvollziehen. Ihre Tagebucheinträge sind dafür angenehm kurz.

Das Problem mit diesem Roman ist, dass er sehr langatmig ist – und dass auf gerade mal 300 Seiten! – und dass man, abgesehen vom Erwachsenwerden der Protagonistin, keinen Plot entdecken kann. Mor berichtet von ihrem Alltag in der Schule, den Büchern, die sie liest und immer wieder schwingt mit, dass ihre Mutter, vor der sie geflohen ist, eine schreckliche Person und vielleicht sogar eine Hexe ist. Allerdings erhalten wir dazu so wenige Information wie zu den Feen und somit hat sich bei mir keinerlei Interesse für die Hintergründe eingestellt.

Die Magie, die schon das Cover vermuten lässt, kommt fast gar nicht zur Geltung. Es kommt keinerlei Stimmung auf, die Autorin trickst in den wenigen Szenen, in denen Mor zaubert und lässt sie in ihr Tagebuch schreiben, dass sie lieber keine Details erwähnt. Feen werden zwar immer wieder erwähnt, als seltsame Wesen, die an Bäumen lehnen und keine klare Form haben, aber auch die Dialoge, die gehalten werden, bekommen wir Leser nicht zu sehen. Ob das Faulheit, Ideenlosigkeit oder Absicht ist, ist schwer zu sagen. Mich hat es jedenfalls furchtbar gestört und die Geschichte hätte wesentlich besser werden können, wenn man das ganze magische Element einafch weggelassen hätte.

Sprachlich ist das Buch zwar in Ordnung, aber weder besonders originell noch besonders berührend. Nur Mangel an Fehlern zeichnet noch kein gutes Buch aus. Ebenso wie “Dinge passieren” noch lange keinen Plot ergeben. Und hier passieren nicht einmal besonders viele Dinge. Mors Alltag ist trübe, sie verliert sich in ihrem Tagebuch in Landschaftsbeschreibungen und berichtet von Briefen, die sie an ihren Opa schreibt, in dem sie Treffen ankündigt, über die wir dann später lesen müssen.

Am besten haben mir noch die Erwähnungen der vielen Bücher gefallen, die Mor liest und über die sie grübelt. Einige davon habe ich selbst gelesen, auf andere habe ich richtig Lust bekommen. Ihre Liebe zu Büchern war auch das einzige, worin ich mich selbst wieder erkannt habe. Was das Lesen und die Liebe zu Büchern betrifft, fühlte ich mich von Mor einfach verstanden. Aber auch dieses Element zerbröselt irgendwann in sinnloses Namedropping ohne Hintergrund. Die großer Ironie ist ja, dass Mor und ihre Freunde teilweise literarische Werke kritisieren aufgrund von Mängeln, die Jo Waltons Buch hier selbst – und zwar viel extremer – aufweist.

Das Ende ist stumpf und uninteressant, fühlt sich wenig abgerundet an. Hätte Jo Walton die “Magie” einfach weggelassen und sich mehr auf die Familienverhältnisse konzentriert, hätte das ein schönes Buch werden können. So wurde es leider vor alle mit fortschreitender Seitenzahl eher eine Qual.

Wie dieses Buch eine Nebula-Nominierung bekommen hat, ist mir ein Rätsel, aber neben Mechanique von Genevieve Valentine (lesen!) hat Jo Walton nicht die geringste Chance.

Ich hoffe, mit Jo Waltons Roman Tooth and Claw (Der Clan der Klauen) habe ich etwas mehr Glück.

PRO: Jede Menge Buchtipps für Sci-Fi Fans und solche, die es noch werden wollen. Als begeisterter Leser erkennt man sich teilweise in Mor wieder.
CON: Unsympathische Protagonistin, langweiliger Plot und schlecht konstruierte magische Welt.
FAZIT: Muss man wirklich nicht lesen. Das Jahr 2011 hat weitaus bessere Roman hervorgebracht.

BEWERTUNG: 3,5/10