Posted in Books

“Instant Karma” by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer is a YA author best known for The Lunar Chronicles, her science fiction fairytale quartet that spawned a graphic novel sequel duology and a handful of short stories set in the same universe. Since their publication, Meyer has published a handful of other titles, but Instant Karma is her first foray into realistic fiction. It’s a YA romance, set in a Florida beach town just when summer is getting started.

Prudence is not just an over-achiever, she’s the over-achiever. Unfortunately, her lab partner, Quint, is the worst kind of slacker, and after a disastrous final project, Pru is determined to resubmit their assignment. However, their teacher won’t accept it without Quint and Pru’s input, and Quint is not inclined to spend his summer on schoolwork. Pru makes him a deal, but to hold up her end, they have to spend a lot of time together- like, a lot.

Not only does Prudence have to spend an unfortunate amount of summer with her nemesis, after a weird karaoke accident she finds herself the instrument of karmic justice. Pru realizes that with a gesture, she can dish out the universe’s recompense on anyone, and they will be rewarded or punished. Unfortunately, it isn’t up to Prudence to decide what people deserve, and karma can really be a bitch. When faced with the consequences of karmic retribution, Pru has to to figure out if the upside of instant karma is worth the potential fallout.

This book runs a little long for a YA realistic fiction title, and it definitely takes a while to get into. Prudence is an unpleasant, off-putting character, difficult to like. She has a tendency to judge and write-off others, and while she certainly has her moments, she’s not the best character in the book. Quint is more interesting, he has a lot of depth to him, and I enjoyed the parts with him most. The story does work, as Prudence is written to be unlikable, but it could have been a bit more subtly done. It’s supposed to be a big deal for Prudence to realize that she’s wrong and she’s been making snap-judgements, but the reader picks up on that from the third chapter. The pacing isn’t great, the story drags its feet for the first half of the book, and then picks up and doesn’t stop running.

The pacing problem comes from the book trying to do too much- this is a stand-alone novel, and it doesn’t have the space for character development a series does. There are too many sub-plots, which leaves the novel feeling bulky without adding at all to the narrative cohesion. The karma aspect of the plot is underdeveloped and seems as though it was put in just to justify some of the plot-twists rather than as a novel concept. It reads more like a romantic drama than anything else, which does work for the story.

While the book certainly has its flaws, Meyer’s fans will certainly enjoy it. The book is just as romantic as her previous work, and it’s a pleasant read. There are a lot of really fun characters, and the setting is really inventive, but it’s not what you might expect from the premise. The book veers less towards supernatural justice and more towards environmentalism, which isn’t a bad thing, but certainly isn’t something expected, given the cover and the publisher summary. 

I did like the Pride and Prejudice-like relationship between the two protagonists. Their animosity is amusing, and it’s fun to watch that slowly melt away. There are some pretty great side characters, and overall, the story holds together and ends satisfyingly.

Instant Karma will be available for purchase November 3, wherever books are sold, or at your local library. You can also purchase it from Amazon using our affiliate code. The reviewer was provided with an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Books

“Fangirl” By Rainbow Rowell

You’ve probably heard of Rainbow Rowell (yes, that is her real name) YA novelist taking the world by storm, even if you haven’t had the pleasure of encountering her writing. She is the author of five novels, but Fangirl is something special. It was published in 2013, and I read it the summer after my freshman year of college. It’s about a young woman named Cath, who goes off to college with her twin sister and has to adjust to major life changes with this new phase of her life.  

Image result for fangirl rainbow rowell

Rowell writes dynamic, fluid characters who don’t conform to archetypes. A good writer can make you love a character, but a great one can make you identify just a bit with each one. Refreshingly, the main focus is on Cath and her sister Wren, not their romantic subplots. Fangirl explores the deep complexity of sisterhood, jealousy, feelings of inferiority, and emotional isolation. Their differences are explored throughout the novel, as we see them starting at the same university and living separately for the first time. The twins experience a lot, and the ways that they grow and change make them better.  

Fangirl emotionally impacted me because parts of the story felt so true to my life. I struggled through my first year of college, and it was reassuring to read about someone similar. Cath didn’t always feel like me, but her experiences felt like mine. Cath has realistic burdens, from troubled relationships with her family to her desire to escape into a fictional world. As in reality, conflicts go unresolved. Not everyone is unscathed, but life goes on. 

Another reason this book is important is the portrayal of mental illness. Cath and her father suffer from different neurosis, and it isn’t simple, because illness isn’t pretty. There is no quick solution to their problems. Importantly, Cath is loved, despite her issues. She still deserves love. That’s crucial, because people think that if they show the part of them that is vulnerable and imperfect, they won’t be seen as worthy of love. Cath learns that opening herself up can be painful, but rewarding.  

Cath will make you laugh and cry in the same paragraph, in the same sentence. I was hesitant to read Fangirl, but I’m so happy I did. I promise, if you pick it up, you will be too. Rainbow Rowell in general is great reading, she has a few books for adult and some YA novels. Eleanor & Park and Carry On are young adult novels. Attachments and Landline are for adult readers. I have read them all, and I can say that they only improve upon rereading. I can definitely recommend all of them for discovering your inner fangirl. If you click on these links, you can purchase Rowell’s books through Amazon, but they are also available wherever books are sold or for loan at your local library.