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Monday, June 18, 2012

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare

Publisher: Penguin (Speak)
Pages: 380

Publication Date: February 16, 2012
Type: Paperback, received as gift

Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss in this charming romantic comedy

Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that's just fine by her. She's got her friends - the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She's got her art - and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it's hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they're dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?



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A lot of good and a lot of bad.

This book has a fair amount going for it.  The writing is good; intelligent and cute and clear.  The premise is intriguing and adorable.  Both the concept and the execution of the Truth or Dare games were fantastic--it added a really wonderful dynamic to the trio's friendship, and to the story as a whole.  And as for the trio itself, I was very pleasantly surprised by our protagonists's best friends. When they were first introduced, I cringed quite a bit; they seemed destined to be nothing but flat, irritating stereotypes.  However, as the novel progressed, the two became shockingly three-dimensional, likable characters--more likable than the protagonist herself.  Also, I really enjoyed the strong presence of family in this novel, even if Ella's relatives occasionally bordered on stereotypical.

And, since this is a romance at heart, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the love interest himself.  I expected Alex Bainbridge to be the typical rich, hot jackass, so I was again pleasantly surprised when he turned into quite the likable character.  While at times his behavior really irritated me, he was funny and sweet and even a bit nerdy, and I grew quite fond of him.

Sadly, that's where the positives stop.  And sadly, my very first and biggest negative is the protagonist herself.

I did not like Ella. I did not connect with Ella.  I did not sympathize with Ella.  And that made this novel significantly harder to enjoy.  There were a few occasions where she acted admirably, or said something witty, and I would smile and nod and think, perhaps there is some hope!  But then she'd go back to being shy and self-deprecating and creepy, and the positive feelings would all bleed away.

Ella brings nothing new to the table, not even her disturbing obsession with a dead guy named Edward--it's all been done before!  She's quiet, awkward, self-conscious, constantly belittling herself, constantly wondering oh-why-oh-why could someone like him ever want someone like me.  And worst of all, she's obsessed with an artist that died over a century before.  When I say obsessed, I don't mean she really loves his artwork and is fascinated by his life story.  I mean she imagines that she holds conversations with him, and even thinks of him in a romantic light.

I think that was supposed to be cool and quirky, but it just creeped me the fuck out.

And that sort of leads into my other major problem with this novel: we were supposed to think she was the absolute coolest.  We were supposed to think that /quirky/ Ella and her friends are just the absolute best and all these hot, bitchy, completely one-dimensional popular kids are the worst thing to ever grace this earth.  I mean, G-d forbid you actually give the popular people . . . personality.  Or . . . complexity.  What kind of book would that be?  Clearly, popular people are only popular because of their money and sense of fashion.  Clearly, the /artsy/ and /intelligent/ and /wonderful/ people are a million times better than those who dare to care about their appearance!

Ella didn't outright think these things--because of reasons called low self-confidence! this is something I've never seen a YA novel before!--but it was the attitude of the entire novel, that we were supposed to find Ella and her friends so superior to these poorly-characterized, stereotypical popular ilk.  

My dislike for Ella and this attitude as a whole made it difficult to truly feel the romance, much as I may have liked the love interest.  It's hard to root for a couple when you hate  half of it, and since the romance was a rather large part of the plot, my failure to feel warm and tingly feelings put a bit of a damper on my reading experience.

Also, while this is a much more minor complaint, I think the use of French could've been handled far more skillfully; I wasn't too lost, considering that's the language I'm currently taking, but those less familiar with French might be left a wee bit confused.

Overall? It's not a horrible book.  It entertained me, and even made me laugh aloud.  It simply had too many distasteful aspects for me to properly enjoy it.  However, I would recommend this to those looking for a fun, mindless read.

2.5 stars.






11 comments:

Traci @ The Reading Geek

This is disappointing. This book sounds really good but I have heard from quite a few people now it just isn't that great. I doubt I will probably read it then unfortunately. I especially don't like it when the main character is someone you can't stand. Also now hearing more about the plot and characters, I don't think this is a book I would enjoy. Great review!

Traci @ The Reading Geek

Jenna

I couldn't even finish the book because Ella was just so FREAKIN' ANNOYING. I hate leaving a book in the middle of it, but at that point I was just like "Seriously, I do not want to listen to her anymore" All the reasons you pointed out, from the popular characters to her very creepy obsession with Edward, I agree with.

Nicole Spencer

.______.

Oh my gosh. Neucrophilia.

*scuttles and notes NEVER to read this book*

I also hate it when I can't connect to the main character in a story. I mean, I understand that there are some protagonists that are just too weird or badly-written (in my opinion) for me to understand them, but it really disrupts my enjoyment of the story. I don't think I'll be reading this (but great review).

Gigi

Ella and Edward? Really? And Edward is dead? Is anyone else seeing what I'm seeing here?

Amy

I have heard a lot of negative things about this book. I was interested in it when I first heard about it, but once the reviews started popping up I wanted to read it less and less. Awesome review.

Sam

Lovely review, Lexie. I can understand why any troubles with the main character would have dampened the reading experience for you. It's such a shame too as it sounds like you would have liked it more otherwise. I'm glad you did still enjoy the love interest. I think I might avoid this as it never did sound like my type of book and the reviews so far haven't been fantastic. :(

The Headless Owl

Ahh, the whole Ella/superiority complex thing really turns me off this book. I don't understand the popular-bitch trend (in books, movies, whatever) at all! There's nothing inherently wrong with being popular, and someone with no friends is equally capable of being unlikeable or shallow. Gahh. I can't think of qualities I'd dislike more in a protagonist. Thanks for the review!

Kara_Malinczak

I'm disappointed you didn't like this one. I own a copy and it's in my tbr pile. Annoying protagonists are the worst. I hope she doesn't grate on me like she did you. But I am hard to please these days so I suspect I will have issues as well. Thanks for the warning. I'm gonna try it since I already own it but my expectations are lowered at least.

Giselle

oh I get you! If you can't connect or sympathize with a character it definitely hurts the momentum of the book and makes it kind of blah no matter how great everything else is. I've seen a lot of similar opinions on this one which is why I haven't rushed to get it >.<

Meg K.

Oh dear. O_O And this book looked absolutely juicy. Sounds like the author needs more lessons on forming good characters. I'm really sad that you couldn't connect with Ella, because MCs are the people you're supposed to like and be able to think happy about. I guess there'd be one think I'd like, though: Alex.

Thanks for the review!

Meagan

I absolutely love that when I can't manage to put together why I dislike a book (and you feel the same way), you put it so well. Ella and her stupid superiority complex while being a complete creepy bore is what got to me, in the end. That and the love interest being a poop.

I had such high hopes with the writing style and everything (and yeah, the cover), but I was so disappointed.

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