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Book Review: All the Pretty Things by Emily Arsenault

All the pretty things

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Random House Children’s, via Netgalley for an honest review. 

Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

Plot: For Ivy, summer means roller-coaster season, spinning cotton candy at the Fabuland amusement park, and hanging out with her best friend, Morgan. But this summer is different.

One morning, Morgan finds a dead body. It’s their former classmate and coworker Ethan. To make matters worse, Morgan is taken to a hospital psych ward only days later, and she’s not saying much–not even to Ivy.

The police claim that Ethan simply took a bad fall, but Ivy isn’t convinced and realizes it’s up to her to get answers. What she finds is unsettling–it’s clear that some people aren’t being honest about Ethan’s last night at Fabuland. Including Morgan. And the more secrets Ivy uncovers, the closer she gets to unraveling dark truths that will change her life forever.

Opinion:

Wow.

I mean…

…what the actual f**k?

There were about a dozen different ways I saw this story going, but the way it DID go?

Wow.

This lovely little tale is told by Ivy, the daughter of the owner of the Fabuland amusement park. After her grandparents had successfully opened multiple chains of their popular doughnut shop, her father decided to think bigger and purchased Fabuland. Now Ivy works every summer at the park in the cotton candy booth, surrounded by smells of fried food and the screams of terrified and joyous park-goers zipping by on roller coasters. It is usually always a summer to remember, and this summer is no different. While out of town with her mother, Ivy gets a call that a well-known young man and Fabuland employee, Ethan, had been found dead. The police suspect that he had fallen off the train trestle in a nearby park on his walk home, but when Ivy’s best friend Morgan alludes that something more shocking may have happened, Ivy begins digging for answers.

Who doesn’t love an amusement park and a little murder, right? The smell of freshly popped kettle corn, fried dough, and colorful cotton candy mixed with elated screaming from a roller-coaster drowning out the real screams of someone being killed?!

*Drip. Drip. Drip.*

Is that rain I feel coming down?!

Nope! It’s the blood draining from a body!

No.

That’s not how this story goes at all.

“Sometimes I wonder if you’re scared of the wrong things.”

All the Pretty Things was NOTHING like I expected. Even more than halfway through the book I was assuming it was going to turn out one way, and then it veered off the tracks and plummeted into a crowd of chaos and epicly wretched confessions. I wasn’t blindsided per se, I was just…left completely speechless. But even after I sat there in my super uncomfortable chair with my mouth a little agape from shock, and slightly hinged to the side from disgust, I knew I was going to have trouble expressing my feelings on this one.

*Sigh*

Here goes.

Ivy is seventeen. She seems chill, seems responsible, and seems patient as hell with a dad like that. But that’s pretty much all I know about her. Yeah, no s**t. That’s about it. Sure, I knew her parents were divorced, and that her brother didn’t come back from college that summer to work at Fabuland, like he normally did. And okay yes, I also knew her best friend Morgan was the one who found Ethan’s body in the park (YUHIKES). But apart from that, the girl really doesn’t have much of a personality or any scheme of emotions other than blasé and MORE BLASÉ.

I’m almost offended on Kristen Stewart’s behalf for me even putting this Kristen Stewart gif in here, as if I’m assuming Kristen Stewart has no personality.

Which I’m not

I just really needed a gif of a girl in a carnival.

But the point is this: Ivy is a little bit dull, and honestly, it’s okay that she is for most of the book. But by the time that shocking ending came around, I NEEDED the girl to give me SOMETHING! But instead, she had BARELY. ANY. REACTION. to what had just happened. All I got was a little bit of shocked realization, her going to get closure from a friend, and a confirmation of some past childhood memories from her even more under-developed mother. Suffice it to say, the characters in this book are about as interesting as cardboard. They are developed just enough to be passable in a story, but you never make a connection to anyone or end up caring about their well-being. There’s no substance, no feeling and no emotion.

But what I really need to talk about, is Ivy’s father.

“I always knew you wanted to stay small.

Just a small person, I guess.”

The guy is a jackass and had me cringing five pages in. He is written in such an awkward way that doesn’t seem at all intentional, and every time he had a “scene” my face smooshed itself up into this formation of disgust, annoyance and perma-confusion. It was like the author was trying to make him cool and witty, but was failing miserably at it. He’s just that type of person that has so many personalities but can’t seem to pick one to run with. And I kid you not, the entire page of notes I have written for this book is all about her dad and my feelings on him from beginning till end, and that’s all!

Here, let me show you:

Ivy’s dad is legit f***ing creepy and disgusting.

He just drooled over a twenty-year-olds ass…nice.

He is super annoying and all over the place.

He legit just called his employee a dumbass. Twice.

So. Much. Crude. S**t.

Okay this guys is seriously so f***ing creepy, I can’t stand him.

What an asshat.

His offhand comments are so random and weird, it makes me super uncomfortable.

IS THIS GUY EVEN A PERSON?!?

 

 

Oh.

Look. I know this review probably doesn’t make a lick of sense to you, but don’t worry. I don’t even know what I just read. Which is upsetting, because it’s not like this is a horrible book by any means. It was just…strange. The characters felt thrown together, the premise was not even the actual premise because it was just a cloak and dagger show for what the real premise was, and the ending didn’t give me enough clarity or leave me feeling like it was securely tied up. I think the only thing that saved this book for me was that it was set in an amusement park, and I was so curious to figure out how Ethan died.

But at least there were some good quotes.

“It had been here from this perspective the whole time – creaking away in the background, behind all the good-natured screaming. I’d always heard it, humming along in the distance, day in and day out.

I was just afraid to open my eyes and look.”

 

2.5 Stars

 

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Book Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Wilder Girls

 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Random House Children’s – Delacorte Press, via NetGalley for an honest review. 

Genre: YA/Horror/LGBT/Mystery

Plot: It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

Opinion:

“My other eye’s dead, gone dark in a flare-up. Lid fused shut, something growing underneath.

It’s like that with all of us here. Sick, strange, and we don’t know why. Things bursting out of us, bits missing and pieces sloughing off, and then we harden and smooth over.”

This book will make your skin shift,

your toes coil,

and your breath hurt.

With every page it slowly peels away layers of your heart while simultaneously sewing those pieces back together; until you’re left with nothing, but this mismatched, lumpy, irregular beating organ lost inside your chest that you aren’t even sure is yours anymore.

There is a rawness and truth hidden in these beautifully writhing words.

So make sure you’re listening.

“…and I miss the way the wind steals your breath like it never belonged to you in the first place.”

A year and a half ago, the Tox infiltrated their island. It crept its way through the trees and animals, tickled the locks on the gates and doors. It sighed through the ventilation like a whisper after lights out, and it took a hold of every girl with a beating heart and a smile. The Navy said they were looking for a cure. That there is still hope, they just needed more time. But the girls at Raxter don’t have time. The Tox is ripping them apart one by one, making them turn on one another, or worse, making them turn on themselves. But Hetty, Byatt and Resse have each other. And as long as they stick together, they can survive anything.

Unless the next flare-up shreds them from the inside and turns their bodies black.

“About three months into the Tox, they came back from the woods with their names torn out of their heads. The Tox took what they were, took everything except how to hold a knife. It made them stick each other in the main hall during dinner, made them watch themselves bleed dry.”

This book took my body through a mess of psychological and physical torment. My stomach is still writhing around and trying to jump out of my throat, and I’m honestly more than a little concerned that something might be crawling around inside me now. Wilder Girls…is wild. Rory Power has taken the typical “virus outbreak” story and dipped it in a drum barrel of mental terrorism to give you a tale of graceful misery and unorthodox beauty.

Because that is exactly what this toxic storm of starvation, terror, and savagery is.

It’s beauty.

“His skin peels off like strips of paper, gathering under my nails, soft and pulpy.”

These sweet, innocent and delicate young girls are trapped in an asylum that keeps them cut-off from the rest of existence. Their once normal lives have been drowned; washed away by an outbreak that leaves behind unpredictable flare-ups that leave the girls in a state of physical insanity. Bruising from the inside out, second spines and hearts, a silver scaled hand, skin lesions and bubbles. Each girl is a walking nightmare. A grotesque and brutal version of their former selves. But what makes these girls truly breathtaking and beautiful, is that they look at one another without judgement.

Each girl is wild, untamed and ferocious. They are monstrous creatures with brave hearts and convictions. They go to physical blows over scraps of food, but protect one another with a passion and savagery that is…enviable. These girls push through their bleak existence to find love and comfort in one another. It’s a story of strength and iron-will. Of yearning and love that doesn’t need to be explained. These girls aren’t pushed into categories and stigmas, they just ARE.

“Reese and Byatt, they’re mine and I’m theirs.”

The three main girls are Hetty, Byatt and Reese. The story mainly unfolds by the voice of Hetty, but flips over to Byatt’s viewpoint occasionally as it progresses. Hetty and Byatt are extremely close, to the point of near obsession for Hetty. She wants to be everything that Byatt needs, and credits Byatt for being the one to show her who she really is. But somehow, this obsession doesn’t feel poisonous or harmful. It feels loving, respectful and protective.

“Byatt was the one who put the bones in my body.”

The romance in this story is slight, but it is absolutely heartfelt and soft. It isn’t lustful or forced, and it doesn’t take away from the plot. To be honest, it’s one of the only truly good feeling moments in Wilder Girls. The sweetness of it is quick and will be gone before you know it, so enjoy that moment while it lasts. Because this book isn’t going to lull you into blissful dreams.  

“My back arches, eyes slamming open. Thrashing against the straps pinning me, throwing my weight from side to side. Paretta, at the foot of my gurney, saying my name, but she’s the one who did this to me. I scream.”

 

This is a horror story, and it is indeed horrific. It is eerie, creepy and doused in a gloom so thick you can barely focus your eyes. It made me cringe. It made me disgusted. It made me keep the lights an hour after I finished the book. But most of all, it created a pit in my stomach that I still can’t seem to shake. And honestly, that is all I ever want from a book.

For it to leave my body in a state of confusion.

“…I start to know what the rope is for. But I don’t do anything. I sit so my legs are tucked under me. I watch the Tox go to work. On his knees. A rope into a noose. His eyes never close. His grip never changes. He is pulling right until the end.”

5-stars

 

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