I received an e-book ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
While this is my first review of a novel that is yet to be released, it will certainly not be my last. When I discovered that NetGalley existed I felt supremely lucky to be able to read and review books that haven’t yet hit the shelves.
I decided to stick with some comfortable territory and check out a Young Adult title that looked promising.
Cease de Menich is a rising star, whose fame has arisen due to a gene that has been passed on to her from generations of ancestors. She discovers this truth as she is cast in a ‘reality-drama’ in which she plays Jeanne D’Arc. As events in the show begin to reflect those hidden in her family history, Cease must decide what to do with her budding fame.
Claiming to be a ‘dark contemporary thriller with a supernatural twist’, I was excited to read something with a potentially unreliable narrator.
Unfortunately, this book didn’t live up to its description.
While the concept of this novel was really interesting, there were a lot of things that just didn’t work while I was reading it.
This book was written in first person, present tense. However, the person that Cease is narrating to seems to swap randomly between the audience of her show, and Jeanne D’Arc. Her internal monologue isn’t so much unreliable as it is simply muddled.
The first five chapters were confusing. Not in a ‘this is making me curious’ kind of way, but in an ‘I don’t know what’s happening and if this continues for much longer I won’t keep reading to find out’ kind of way. As these first chapters usually let the reader get to know more of the setting and the characters, I was let down at this wasted opportunity to build up a great story.
Cease at times seems like an interesting protagonist – her family with all its drama, her fledgling acting career, and her thoughts on her fellow competitors are all things I wanted to know more about.
Unfortunately it was difficult to focus on her story due to some bizarre plot and word choices. Cease’s legal guardian is her Aunt Nina, but Cease always refers to her as ‘my Nina’ when speaking of her. She’s a strange guardian considering most of what she does is indulge in Cease’s bad decision-making and refuse to discipline her even when she’s being cruel. She even lets Cease make choices that could kill her.
Some other strange word choices were adults always being referred to as ‘grown-ups’, the show’s young fans always being referred to as ‘boys and girls’, and the numerous times that Cease’s internal monologue brings up Nina’s ‘spongy breasts’ (four, by my count).
Cease herself seems to yo-yo between confidence and self-doubt with alarming frequency. She would make a decision and then almost immediately change her mind. She would be in love with someone and then suddenly not be. She would compare herself to another actress only to then think they were mortal enemies. I think her character needed more fleshing out to be more consistent. It was very hard to root for her when she was so all over the place.
When it comes to the ‘reality-drama’. Well, it was certainly a unique concept. It seems this novel is meant to be a social commentary on the state of the media and its fascination with gore and sex – and how far someone will go to achieve that fame even if it contains them. I think that’s certainly an admirable subject to delve into, as were the themes of faith, love, and family abuse.
The chapters containing the show were very evocative of The Hunger Games. In fact, ‘May the odds be ever in your favour’ is said several times by different characters deliberately, so I’m assuming this similarity was purposeful. Some chapters are simply script pages of the show, which was jarring as it started occurring more than halfway through the book. I wasn’t certain at first if they were actually happening or not.
My largest issue with this novel was repetitiveness. Passages are repeated almost verbatim several times. Some scenes between Cease and Nina, and Cease and her mystery correspondent play out in similar fashions more than twice in each case. It was tiring to read through basically the same thing multiple times without any advancement to the plot or additional insight into the characters.
This book could easily have been half the size it is and be better for it. This story idea has such great potential, all it really needs is a deep cut and edit. All of the problems that I had with this book could be fixed with a very thorough read-through by an honest editor.
As it is though, I wouldn’t read it over nor would I recommend it.