Friday, June 7, 2013

Book review: Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Goodreads: Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.
With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…

I’m going to plagiarize myself here, because I left a comment that ended up being a short review over on the Vaginal Fantasy discussion board for this book (yes, this was another VF selection.) So, here is that, slightly expanded:

This book was really problematic for me in a lot of ways. I had a really hard time getting behind the romance: I get it, they were lusty for each other, but otherwise they both treated each other pretty badly and I don’t understand why that’s supposed to be hot. Like, here is an actual quote from the male hero: “Hell, Evie, you’re probably the last girl on earth for me. Would it kill you to put out?”

I mean, *SWOON*, right?

For her part, Evie has a lot of icky class-based issues with regards to Jackson. She doesn’t explicitly express these thoughts to him, other than calling him “Cajun,” but she’s supposed to be one of the wealthier town residents before the apocalypse, and he’s very poor and wrong-side-of-the-bayou and all that, so despite her physical attraction to him, she initially views him as wrong for her just based on the money issue.

I also thought way too much of the book was spent recounting her high school angst in excruciating detail. At least a third of the book was spent in this retrospective, which is, specifically, the week leading up to the apocalypse (here it’s called the Flash.) Cole’s motivations, here, were probably two-fold. First, she needed to set up the relationship with Jackson, and how they were attracted to each other but ultimately “all wrong for each other” in the high school scenario. She also probably wanted to paint a picture of what Evie felt was her declining sanity, but I think all of that could have been done much more concisely. What I felt like we ended up with, as the reader, was a lot of obnoxious brand-name dropping and class-based snobbery to establish Evie’s queen-bee credentials, and a lot of contrived exposition about gothic drawings and Evie trying to re-assure her peers she is totally fine, didn’t just come out from the mental ward, etc.

I was irritated because Cole was working with such a cool idea here — kids/young adults having powers based on the Tarot, leading up to an epic battle — but I felt like she just threw out a bunch of post-apocalytic cliches at us in lieu of actual world-building. All at once, after the apocalypse, we find out that there are zombies for some reason, and that basically all men have gone rotten because there aren’t enough women, and there are cannibals, and we’re all supposed to go “Oh, okay, that sounds about right for the end of the world,” except that none of these things really make sense given the context of what actually happened during the apocalypse (solar flares maybe? parts of the earth scorched, people burned up immediately, no one really knows) and we’re not given any kind of explanation as to why they evolved. All of the time spent in the high school part could have been used toward fleshing out this new world.

I was, fortunately, reeled back in toward the end for spoilery reasons. I’m the kind of person that will put aside a lot of crap I don’t like if the plot is a page-turner, which, frankly, this was. So even considering all of my gripes above, I’d still be interested in picking up the sequel(s) because I’m still interested in how this story resolves itself. I can let go of my world-building issue, but I think that if Cole wants Jackson and Evie’s romance to be a main draw, she needs to put a lot of work into making these people more likeable as a couple, because right now, I have no patience for two people who snipe back and forth at each other so crassly but are supposed to be in love. I happened to catch a sneak peek of the cover for the sequel, and Evie is posing with a different guy (from my understanding, it’s the guy who represents Death in the Tarot.) So, love triangle! I’ve gotta say — the guy hasn’t even really been properly introduced yet, only hinted at, but I’m already kind of rooting for him, because I really don’t like Jackson at all. Anyway, I’d recommend this maybe for people who are like me: you don’t mind spending a few hours reading something that is ultimately fun, despite being pretty problematic.

2.5 stars

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