Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: November 8th, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Source: I received an e-arc from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Blurb: Reality TV meets a chillingly realistic version of America–and the fame game is on!
Amy had dreams of going to college, until the Collapse destroyed the economy and her future. Now she is desperate for any job that will help support her terminally ill grandmother and rebellious younger sister. When she finds herself in the running for a slot on a new reality TV show, she signs on the dotted line, despite her misgivings. And she’s right to have them. TLN’s Who Knows People, Baby–You? has an irresistible premise: correctly predict what the teenage cast will do in a crisis and win millions. But the network has pulled strings to make it work, using everything from 24/7 hidden cameras to life-threatening technology to flat-out rigging. Worse, every time the ratings slip, TLN ups the ante. Soon Amy is fighting for her life–on and off camera.
Review: Going into this book I had no expectations. I didn’t know what I was going to be reading. I had never read this author before, and to be frank, I doubt I will be reading this author again after this experience, which was not a very good one. Trying to articulate this in words will be fairly difficult, but I’m gonna try the best that I can.
First thing you should know, I love dystopian books. Though most dystopians are not actually dystopians, and that is the case once again with this book. But that’s not where I am going with this. There are far, far worse things for me to complain about here. But my rambling does lead into the importance of world-building in dystopian fiction. A lot of readers get annoyed by exposition. I am not one of them. It’s true that it can be overdone, like anything really, but in this type of novel, set-up and explanation is oh so important. Guess what there wasn’t in this book? A whole lot of world-building or explanation. And that annoyed me, because most of the time I had no idea what was going on in the outside world. I felt that this whole reality show was almost created in a vacuum. It was a very strange feeling. We learned about why the economy collapsed but most of that didn’t come until later on, and the weird thing was that at close to the end of the book the author started infodumping information during what I felt was the climactic scene. It was a little too late and really messed up the pacing. It was supposed to be suspenseful but it ended up being slow. And that’s not the only place there was a pacing issue in this novel. It was pretty much an issue throughout the entire book. There were scenes that were completely useless and served no purpose. There were entire chapters where nothing happened, then the characters would enter another scenario (which were all stupid) and it would get exciting (not really) for awhile and then it was slow again. But again, there are worse things to complain about.
The book opens with slut-shaming, and I do believe that was the only instance of that in the book, but I could be wrong. That was bad enough, but more irritating than that was how the female characters would argue with each other. They insisted on finishing almost every sentence with “bitch.” Like “what’s your problem, bitch!” or “shut your mouth, bitch!” It was just really disgusting. It’s not a good message to send to girls and I really don’t think women with integrity and personal pride would be speaking to each other in this manner. Once or twice I can deal with, but this happened numerous times in the book. It just got really nauseating and depressing.
Also, what was with the over-describing of women’s breasts? Like I said in my Goodreads status updates, some writers are obsessed with over-describing eyes, this one was obsessed with breasts. The tops of breasts, the shape of her perfect breasts, there was a scene of public nudity from a fifteen-year-old girl that I just felt was not handled correctly. This was a minor we are talking about here. And the way she was objectified, I just felt really uncomfortable. I did not much care for the way female bodies were handled in this novel. And believe me when I say I am not a prude. And before you attack me for this, read the book. It WAS weird.
As far as the rest of the writing goes, it was really choppy and disjointed. It lacked a sense of place in a lot of the scenes. I didn’t know where I was and couldn’t even picture the setting. This also probably had a lot to do with the excessive telling in the writing. Where was the imagery? It just wasn’t well done. Coming from an award winning author, this was a tremendous disappointment. I expected more.
Now we get to the fun part. The characters and their development, or lack thereof. Let me just get to the point really quickly here. They were ALL cardboard, including the protagonist. But that’s all you really need to know about any of the side characters. They weren’t developed well, and as such, were completely unmemorable. So when something happened to them, I just didn’t give a shit. They were also incredibly cliche and stupid. The hot jock boy. The nerdy but slightly good looking geek that has a crush on the main character. The stereotypical rich mean girl. The villains were cartoonish as well. It was bad and uninspired.
But the protagonist? Hoo boy! This review is already lengthy and it’s about to get lengthier. I kinda hated her. I don’t even feel bad for saying that because she was vile. First of all, I have to mention the writing again. Amy had this weird obsession with name brands and fashion. Which isn’t a bad thing–I like fashion too. But not like this. She judged people based on the clothing they were wearing. Especially the girls, but this happened with almost every character. And it was sooo weird. In almost every scene Amy would talk about name brands–in extreme detail. I could have made a complete sketchbook of all the outfits she described there was so much clothing detail (if I could draw). Name brands were mentioned in almost every scene: Zac Posen, D & G, Miu Miu, Manolo, Jimmy Choo, etc. I just did NOT care and the extreme emphasis Amy put on fashion in a nation going through economic collapse just really did not sit well with me. This could have been done purposely on the author’s part which in a way is kind of cool, but it was pretty much ONLY the protagonist that did this, with the exception of her sister in a few scenes. It just really made me dislike both of them.
But that’s not the only issue I had with Amy. She treated her only sister like garbage. And her sister was a pretty obnoxious character herself, but that’s kind of not the point. She’s your little sister and she really needs your help and support. But Amy was just disgusting to her. It made me angry.
She got over her grandmother’s death in five minutes. For someone who cared about Gran so much, she certainly didn’t react in a very realistic way. Gran died and then after about half a page of Amy talking about it, it was never mentioned again except for one more time in passing at the end of the book. It made me so angry. Amy and Gran had this great relationship but once she is dead, it’s done apparently. I mean…WHAT?
Also, there was sort of a love triangle in this book. I say sort of, because some readers might say it wasn’t really a love triangle. And I can sort of see that too. But regardless, it was nauseating. Amy was creepily into a boy that didn’t want her. At all. She obsessed over him to the point of thinking about him constantly and he hardly ever spoke to her! But her sister Kaylie was into him. And Amy had a serious problem with that. Get over it, girl! He’s not into you! Have some self-respect! Jealousy is not a becoming characteristic on ANY character, and pining over a boy with no personality–compete cardboard–that your sister is with was just bizarre. And he barely had any lines!
Speaking of barely any lines, there was more than one character who hardly spoke. It was a huge problem. The flaws in this book were just so blatantly obvious. The writing was all over the place and the author certainly didn’t write the characters to my satisfaction. I think maybe there were too many of them. This book clocks in at about 423 pages and it felt like a thousand.
I know I didn’t really talk about the actual plot much, but there were so many problems with the book, that the plot was the least of my worries. The story is…okay, but it’s nothing special. And with all the other flaws this book is loaded up with, it just wasn’t worth reading at all. The idea for the story itself was a good one, but really, I wish someone else had written it. You might say that’s mean, but I can’t help it. I refuse to write anything else this author has written.
So at this point, I am going to wrap this review up, though I could go on forever. But I will say that it is NOT recommended. How I got through it, I will never know.