Thursday, August 11, 2011

Verdict, No. 9

 (find the judgment here)
If you had asked me yesterday what the most disappointing sequel I've ever read was, I would have said Mockingjay. Today? I might just have to go with this book.

After a promising debut, Jillian Larkin seems to have forgotten how to write. Maybe she fell and hit her head, maybe she took a writing class from Stephanie Meyer. But something happened, because reading this was pure drudgery. And it's not like I was expecting some grand, award-winning story. I just thought, I dunno, that there would be some sense of continuity. So much of this novel failed to make sense. It was a complete and utter disaster.

First, it was the same exact story. Only, she rotated the characters. So instead of hating Lorraine, Clara becomes the annoying one who ruins everything good in inexplicable ways. She goes completely haywire. Lorraine is set up like Clara was in the first: she's in a new city, trying to prove herself while simultaneoulsy find herself. And Gloria becomes stale. She, and her storyline, were completely forgettable (don't even get me started on that reunion at the end. Talk about mood swings). And I guess Larkin was going through a bad break-up or something, because she hated men in this one.

Which brings me to point two: for a series that started as a tryst-ridden, breezy-romantic story with a darker side, now it's gone ultra-feminist for no apparent reason. The characterization from the first is made void in this one. Every character is suddenly an inexplicably different person. Marcus is suddenly close-minded and dull; Vera is suddenly sweet and even approachable; all the girls change roles as previously mentioned. It's just a catastrophe. As if Larkin wanted to write a completely new story. Well, then she shouldn't have made it a series following the same people doing the same things in the same settings.

I suppose if this were a separate novel, or if maybe I read this one first--I suppose then it might not have been so bad. Except for the writing (Seriously? Was the first one this bad? Or was I just less of a snob then?). I might have enjoyed it on some level (probably not, actually). But the real problem here is that it is a sequel. It's a follow-up and it's a prequel to the next. Yet Larkin spends this whole book taking apart what was built up in the first (mostly), and I no longer care what happens to them. I feel betrayed.

I feel like she lured us with a honey-coated story of glamor and intrigue and indelicacies only to suddenly snap at us with this men-suck tirade. After a torrid tale of forbidden romance and will they/won't they, it becomes all work and no play. The girls are boring, the boys are dull, and the "drama" with the mob isn't really that dramatic at all. Now I can't trust Larkin's ability to spin a serial like this. I'm afraid to attach to any of the characters now because maybe she'll just twist 'em about in the next one too.

A quote on the cover--the only quote, and by some nobody too--says it's "the dishiest." No, not really. Not at all. It's dry and it's boring and too self-important, whereas the last was merely self-indulgent. She puts her characters and her story into a blender, along with any credibility she may have had as a writer. Then she adds a dash of new and unlikable characters, a splash of sudden and unresolved twists. Finally, with a violent edge, she dices up the charm of the first, throws in some all-men-are-cads, and rips out the cattiness and any fun of the first. She turns it on and watches it churn into trite nonsense with, I imagine, only the snidest smile. Ding! It's done. The result? A catastrophic and epic fail with no real explanation.

No, scratch that. The explanation is that Larkin wanted a different, edgy story. But she betrays her foundation, and her fan base, to get it. And, trust me, it doesn't pay off.

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