Book Review: “the Asp of Ascension” by R. B. Myers

Title: The Asp of Ascension
Author: R. B. Meyers
Genre:
Mystery/ YA
Date Read: 17/04/2017 – 21/04/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

After a slow start, this book did grow on me a little, but I was still left feeling that it was a little rough around the edges.

Nefertari “Terry” Hughes is still recovering from the accident that killed her mother and left her permanently injured. Now she has to start at a new school while her dad helps to organise an exhibit at the local museum, which may feature the sarcophagus of Cleopatra. But when Terry’s dad is found unconscious in the museum’s Egypt Room, she finds herself trying to solve a 50-year-old mystery and dealing with what may be a 3000-year-old Egyptian curse.

The plot of this book, with its mystery and also small supernatural element, was actually pretty tight, but the writing style felt more middle-grade than young adult. Apart from the romance, which felt pretty target-age-appropriate, the characters felt a lot younger than their sixteen/seventeen years. Some of them  actually also felt rather two-dimensional, particularly in the beginning. At about 20% in, I was reading on the bus and turned to my partner to complain that the characters were all such archetypes, “the jocks”, “the cheerleaders”, “the one who doesn’t fit in”, “the quirky one”,  etc. Fortunately, the main characters did at least develop a little more depth, though several of the side characters still felt two dimensional.

There was also the issue that took 75% of the book to hit me, but once it did I couldn’t let it go: one of the characters is an Egyptian Prince (allegedly). With all the talk of Cleopatra and pharaohs, I didn’t question it at first, until my brain finally caught up said, “But wait… Egypt’s a republic!” I did Google it just to be sure, and Wikipedia tells me the monarchy in Egypt was dissolved in 1952. And the thing is, this character doesn’t even need to be a Prince for the story and his character arc to make sense. He could have just been a diplomat. It wouldn’t have made any difference, apart from the fact that the teenage characters couldn’t swoon over there being a literal prince in the vicinity.

Okay, I feel like I’ve ranted a lot, so here are the things I did like. I thought the mystery was well-constructed and I enjoyed seeing the characters doing some really good research into the past of the museum. I also really appreciated that there was some ethnic diversity among the characters; I’m not sure but I got the impression that one or both of Terry’s parents had been Middle-Eastern or of Middle-Eastern descent. Not only that but there was the fact that Terry was dealing with chronic injury/pain, which is uncommon in YA protagonists. I also really loved the frienship between Terry and Maude, who was another social outcast at the school. The scene where Maude admitted she hadn’t acted when the school bully started approaching Terry was because it was nice to not be the target anymore  felt painfully honest.

Having said all that, the book was enjoyable but nothing amazing for me, so I don’t think I’ll be reading the second book in the series.


(Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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#aww2017 “Rack off, ya fishface moll!” // Review of “Puberty Blues” by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey

Title: Puberty Blues
Author: Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey
Genre: Contemporary YA
Audio book narrator: Rebecca McCauley
Date Read: 04/04/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

I think I can see how this book ended up a cult classic. First published in 1979, it encapsulates the youth culture of 1970s Sydney. But. While the language is completely authentic, it lost me on the content.

Puberty Blues tells the story of of Debbie and Sue, two thirteen-year-olds desperate to make into one of the surfie gangs that hang around Cronulla Beach. As they try to make it to the top of the social heirarchy, they learn about sex, drugs, boys, and ultimately, themselves.

First things first, Rebecca McCauley narrated the book perfectly. She had the Western suburbs accent down pat and this added to the authenticity of the book. There were times when I felt like I was listening to a three-hour Kylie Mole sketch, but this book is exactly the type of suburban Sydney life that Kylie Mole was parodying.

When Puberty Blues was made into a TV show a few years ago, they upped the ages of the main characters to sixteen, and I can see why they did, even if it did cop criticism. There’s something very uncomfortable about listening to a thirteen-year-old character describe a seventeen-year-old boy trying to have sex with her, or casually describing the gang rape of other girls from her school (obviously, the ages don’t matter at all there), or the fact that they would all spend their weekend dealing weed.

There was also the issue that while the characters were very well drawn, there was very little plot. I do wonder if it’s because I didn’t read this as a teenager that I didn’t connect with it. While I wasn’t the sort of teenager depicted in the book, there were certain things that would have still resonated. As it was, I had little to identify with.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author:
Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Contemporary YA
Date Read: 16/10/2015 – 20/10/2015
Rating: ★★☆

Review:

fangirlcover

I read this book as a former fangirl. I am not invested in fandom to the degree I was even a couple of years ago. And I’m okay with that. But I think it probably did taint my reading experience a bit. As I said in my review of The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA fiction, but this one is so well-known, I decided to give it a go when I saw it on a display at the library. Unfortunately, for me it fellt a bit flat.

The main character, Cath, and her twin sister Wren, are Simon Snow fangirls. They’re also starting college, and to Cath’s great horror, starting to drift apart a little. Having to deal with life on her own for the first time ever, Cath navigates classes, boys, and a mentally ill father without her sister by her side. But at least Simon Snow fandom is always there for her.

It was cute. I’ll give it that. But my main issue was I never felt like the fandom aspect rang true. I felt like it looked at fandom through the same lens that The Big Bang Theory looks at nerds. That’s a bit harsh, and I certainly didn’t have the same issues about Fangirl as I have about TBBT, but it did feel a bit outside-looking-in.

There was also the issue that Cath only ever seemed to go through fairly superficial character development, and the side characters didn’t seem to have any. Levi, the main love interest, was basically just Amazing and Perfect, Wren was a typical party girl… I guess this is probably all pretty standard for YA, but as someone who doesn’t read a lot of contemporary, it stood out. Add to this the fact that some pretty loose ends were never tied up at the end, and I really couldn’t bring myself to give this more than 2.5 stars.