Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Cruelty: Red-headed stepchild of the YA genre

I will find you... And I will read you. On 2/17/17
People who read my blog, take note: I am a bibliophile. You probably gathered as much from the fact that I have a book review blog that I post in on a mostly regular basis. Still, I wanted to preface the following review with that statement, so you would understand just how I came to possess a copy of Scott Bergstrom's The Cruelty. I love books, and if a print copy of something should be offered to me for free, well... How could I say "no"? It had everything to do with wanting a new book, and nothing with the fact that it's "young adult" fiction or that the plot is essentially reverse-Taken.

It's "reverse Taken"...?
Yes: a loved one is kidnapped by terrorists/mobsters/criminals that are involved with human trafficking and our heroic protagonist must save them. It just so happens that this time, the daughter has to go save her kidnapped father instead of the other way around. Dad's been damseled, but everything else is very similar.

Our heroine, Gwendolyn Bloom, is the seventeen-year-old daughter of a kidnapped diplomat, and she has tough choices ahead of her. Terrorists rarely pick the best time to kidnap one's family, and for Gwendolyn they chose the day after the tenth anniversary of her mother's murder. With one parent already brutally slain, Gwendolyn won't let the other go. The choices she faces begin benignly enough: will she go meekly to live with a distant relative she doesn't know and accept that the authorities are doing everything in their power to rescue her father— the only family she's ever really known? Or will she wrest control of the situation and do everything she can to get him back? I don't think we'd get much of a book if she'd done the former— "well-behaved women seldom make history" (L.T. Ulrich) and all that jazz. From that point forward, Bergstrom sets the narrative on cruise control in the "action packed novel" lane, complete with training sessions (where Gwendolyn emerges as a teenage badass capable of defending herself against anything after a month of intense training), breaking and entering, murder, even picking up on a cold trail in a missing person's case through Europe (which is where her dad disappeared).

That sounds intense!
It's predictable, yet satisfying. Except for a slow start— potentially a case of "first novel syndrome"— the writing was interesting and well-paced. I only wish that I'd actually been in the mood to read it, and that it weren't in the first person point of view because I find that irritating— both of which are personal problems and not the book's fault. It also didn't help that this was the third version of the Taken-plot I've read in the past month. (That was purely accidental, by the way.) But if you don't share my personal problems and you're a fan of action-packed, young adult thrillers drizzled with murder, you'll probably like this book.

There were a few things that pulled me out of the action. They mainly had to do with the aforementioned "first person perspective." That and I find it hard to believe any normal, "soft" 17-year-old could do this kind of stuff: leave the comforts of home only to get her ass handed to her repeatedly until she learns to destroy everything in her path. Still, it made for a good story.

Wait, how is this the red-headed stepchild of the YA genre?
Ah, that... Apparently the author made some disparaging remarks regarding young adult fiction, its writers, and audience in general. Or at least, he made remarks and they were taken very personally by the audience. If you google his name and the name of the book, it's practically the first thing that pops up. I mention this because I think the negative reaction is exaggerated— especially when people are rating the book like crap even if they haven't even read it purely because Bergstrom made some ignorant remarks.

I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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