Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Schultz

Emma is trying to start life over after nearly dying at the hands of her stepfather. She's at a new school, living with her aunt, and has a massive crush on the unattainable hottie boy (of course). It's a bit like Cinderella: the evil stepsisters are conniving socialites; the mice are a closeted gay boy, Emma's aunt, and her perky cousin; and her fairy godmother is a Wiccan. But when Emma's supposed to be having her happily ever after it seems that supernatural forces are gathering to make sure that a selfish request made hundreds of years ago well end Emma's life.

After making myself read the entire thing, two things stick out in my mind - one good and one bad - no wait, three things stick out in my mind - one good, one bad, and one eh -

  1. Good- There were some great one liners that made the entire thing much more palatable. The unexpected humor really helped when I was ready to just throw my hands up and think this thing was too frothy.
  2. Bad- Eventually I had to look up Cara Lynn's background because she got SO heavy handed with name dropping that I thought she had to be the most green writer in existence. Turns out she's a senior editor for People. Go figure. Anyway, it got pretty obnoxious when she kept mentioning the moronic music that they were listening to (which isn't really moronic but not what I would call super popular right now, nor super vintage/hipster) and also jokes that are rather played out but had some sort of renown maybe five years ago. I don't need nor want these things in books. Perhaps taking out the references to Blink 182 would make for a smoother read, or at least get rid of the feeling that there's a gigantic bat ready to bash me over the head with how 'hip' and 'with it' the characters are. In the end it just smells a bit of desperation.
  3. Eh - This reads a lot like Twilight. Just not super original, though it wasn't poorly done. But it's been done. A lot. By others. Perhaps try something else. Or try not taking all the tropes of this genre and retaining all of them. Something to ponder as you make your thousands of dollars.

This isn't to say that it was all bad. There were some good parts, Emma seems to be a pretty grounded personality, and I like that she doesn't seem to get super carried away in her romance. She doesn't throw out all of her hopes and dreams to be with Brendan, i.e. super unattainable hottie, and she's not a complete Mary Sue like other characters whose name rhyme with Ella and love boys whose name sound like Bedward. So that's something.

I did like most of the secondary characters, they seemed to have 'real' emotions and reactions and gave some depth to a rather one-dimensional story. The unfortunate part? They don't pop up very much, and when they do it seems a bit "Oh that's right, you're in this story too." Too bad. I won't delve into the fact that the villains might as well have gigantic mustaches that they twirled while cackling.

I liked the fact that there was some upfront sexy time. Not that the children had sex, because that would just be wrong since they're too young, but that they sometimes acted like actual teens. It was pretty frank and I appreciated the fact that it wasn't demonized like past books who like to tout their religious views about sex. That'll do.

You know there were two things that didn't work for me other than the pop references: One was Brendan. He was so..... boringly perfect. He's rich, smart, ridiculous handsome, fantastic hair and to die for eyes (Bedward is that you?), and oh so talented. Boring. Utter snooze fest. It makes the love that's never been loved before and never will be loved again seem a bit flat. Like it was a bit one-dimensional and contrived (which it is but I don't need to be slapped in the face with it.) Two was the rather disjointed writing. There were parts that seemed to be a bit choppy, and this isn't a great critique because I can't really give you a solid example but I just noticed that I would either get bored at parts only to find that all of a sudden I didn't know where we were and why we were there during an action/emotionally charged sequence. There wasn't a clear tempo I guess. I wish I could elucidate more on this, but it just escapes me. Sorry.

So to wrap it up. A passable debut. If they could tweak some things I think it would be more engaging and less disjointed. Fluffy but not mind-numbing. I guess there's going to be a sequel, I don't think I'll read it but who knows what my state of mind will be. Spellbound comes out in July.

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