Read: 1st October 2016 – 3rd October 2016
Spoilers in review: Not really
Note added August 2020: I’m going through all my reviews for the purpose of cross-posting them onto a new blog. It’s been a few years since I read this book, and I most remember it for its aphobia and its girl hate. I’ve left the rest of my review below unchanged, but I do not recommend this book.
This novel is about a girl who has just moved from New York to Sydney due to her parents’ work. Unfortunately for her, the move happened soon after an incident with her best friend who now isn’t talking to her. In Sydney she makes new friends, but desperately wants to reconnect with her friend back in New York.
I will start by saying that the cover art of the book is amazing. I love it. However the novel itself was a frustrating read.
I liked the character of Stella. She seems to be a sensible, responsible girl who isn’t afraid to be enthusiastic about what she loves. I want to read her story.
My main issue, however, was that Zelda, the protagonist and narrator, is annoying. The novel opens with her describing another girl, who she doesn’t actually know, in an extremely negative light. This is followed with her informing the reader that she’s ‘not a bitch’. Straight away, I knew I was going to have issues with her. At one point she describes herself as ‘easygoing’ which was surprising, seeing as she spends a lot of time thinking about how much better she is than other people. Show don’t tell? Later on in the novel she takes a dislike to another girl because she’s ‘bossy’. The ‘bossy’ girl cares about doing well in their drama piece, and is good at what she does. It was a shame that the story is told from Zelda’s point of view, because I’d have liked to get to know Ashani better. But Zelda decided she didn’t like her for arbitrary reasons so she remained in the background.
Zelda doesn’t introduce herself to the reader until 17% of the way through the book (according to my e-reader). When she finally decided that the reader should probably know her name, she halts the narrative entirely to share it. She also described a lot of activities as being ‘not [her] thing’ without giving any hint as to what she actually enjoys, leaving me under the impression that she doesn’t really like anything for a large chunk of the book.
The novel reads like Zelda herself is telling you the story. I quite liked the switching between the past and present. It allowed the question of what exactly happened between her and Prim to stay unanswered for a while longer, which is one of the reasons I kept reading (that and I don’t like leaving books unfinished). However, through the first quarter the phrase ‘did I tell you…?’ showed up whenever a previously unmentioned detail about her life became even mildly relevant. That may seem like an unimportant thing to complain about, but I felt like I was going to scream if I had to read that sentence starter again. It is possible I’m overreacting. After all, I’m fairly certain I’ve reused phrases in my own writing before. There are also instances where events aren’t described properly, and the reader is told to just ‘trust’ Zelda’s opinion. This goes beyond ignoring the ‘show don’t tell’ rule, by not even telling you anything. It is sort of in character for her to not describe it properly, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
By the time I was halfway through the novel, nothing of note had happened. Even by the end, there was absolutely no character development for any of the characters. There’s nothing wrong with having a couple of flat characters, but not a whole cast of them. It’s a shame, because this could have turned out to be great if the development was there!
I personally wouldn’t recommend this novel. It’s alright if you’re, like me, looking to read more lgbt+ fiction. But I found it disappointing even despite that. I feel that it would have been greatly improved if it hadn’t been from a first person perspective, as really my only problem was with the protagonist herself.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying this book despite everything I’ve said here; my opinion is not law. A lot of people seem to really like this book and that’s okay! I just personally don’t think it lives up to it.
I received a copy of this book from Ylva Publishing in return for an honest review.
Review originally written in 2016