Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Graces, by Laura Eve

I went into this thinking it would be the school royalty vibe of Mean Girls mixed with the funny but also serious but mostly really about relationships paranormal goodness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But it's not. It's hard to say whether this book takes itself too seriously, or whether all its characters do. Both, possibly. It's slow. It's super emo. It thinks it's dark and deep and poetic but it's just plain pretentious. The repetition of coal black, coal bright made me irrationally angry.

River- not her real name, moves to a small coastal town after the sudden and mysterious disappearance of her dad. Her mum is so absent she might as well not exist, so let's not dwell. River quickly learns that resident within the town are a family, the Graces, with whom the entire population are obsessed. They are super attractive, glamourous, rich and rumored to be witches; two twins and a younger sister.
Fenrir: fit, smells of manly vanilla, everybody is in love with him and his luminous glow of buffness.
Talia: his twin. All incense, windchimes and headscarfs and floor length skirts.
Summer: younger sister. Attitude, black everything, too cool.

They are insular and private and never have any long term friends, never have anybody over to their giant mansion and don't invite friends to their parties so River is very surprised to be adopted into their clan. She becomes very close to the Graces, convincing herself that if she acts right, says the right thing and shows the appropriate amount of interest in magic she can become like them, thus solving all of her parental and poverty problems. There's some chanting and herbs, and the three Grace siblings all have different attitudes to the magic that may or may not be real. This book really lacks atmosphere.

River then, the narrator. I did not like her. She is a standard out-for-reinvention protagonist that's 'not like other girls' because she's so unique and different and she wants to get to know the *real* Graces, not the glamourous, mysterious witchy ones. Joke- that's exactly what she wants, but has calculated that the best way to go about it is to carefully curate her behaviour , opinions and action to seem like a genuine, interesting, unique person. Also- 'not like other girls' girls can just stop happening already, there are an infinite variety of girls.

However, an unlikable main character does not necessarily make a book bad. She is (naturally) obsessed with Fenrir, but hides it well. So well everyone feels betrayed when it comes to light. Her every action, thought and verbalisation is calculated to appeal to the Graces, to seem cool, different and fascinating. We are subjected to a constant inner monologue of her second guessing every action, an analysis of how well she performed in every encounter or conversation. She is insecure and naive, and the Graces like her because they believe her to be the carefully constructed role she plays. I'm not saying there aren't people like that; there most certainly are, but when you combine a drab, neurotic narrator with three other irritating, pretentious hipster characters, add very little plot- it does not end up as an enjoyable read. The writing is by no means bad, that's what's so annoying. There's obviously talent there, but I felt that this book did not showcase it well.

I liked Wolf, the Eastern European cousin, but he doesn't feature enormously. He is honestly the only character I felt even remotely interested in. He is the individual around which most of the book's plot (what amount there is) focuses around when it attempts to become mysterious.

I was expecting a big twist at the end but was very disappointed. Not just because I saw the switch-a-roo that-explains-all-the-stuff coming, but the outing LGBT* relationships and characters as a plot device left a very nasty taste in my mouth. It's not a plot device. It's just not. Even annoying characters deserve better than that.

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