Tuesday, March 20, 2012
#Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate
Author: Lauren Kate
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2009
I’ve been meaning to lay hands on this book for a long time, mostly because books two and three have landed on my desk as review copies for the newspaper publisher I write for. What more could I ask for? Pretty cover art and an angelic theme? Plus I’d seen a lot of hype in the shops. A LOT of hype. From what I can see, gallons of marketing blood, sweat and tears went into Fallen to follow successfully in the wake of Tweelight. I’d even heard some folks telling me Luce and Daniel were to Fallen what Bella and Edward were to Twilight. I suppose to those peeps were right but it still doesn’t make this a good book.
Where do I even start? I feel like I’ve wasted hours of my life I won’t get back. My first gripe occurred when I noticed that I’d gone through more than three quarters of the novel and was still waiting for the story to happen. The writing is fair to middling, therefore there were not enough pretty narrative passages to cover up the fact that NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. And a great work of literary fiction this is not.
Lucinda Price’s last squeeze dies amid mysterious circumstances when the icky black shadows come to haunt her. She gets sent to the Sword and Cross Reformatory School where she sees Daniel, whose hot/cold responses to her presence has her getting completely gaga over the lad. A typical love triangle occurs (well, of COURSE) when the scary goth kid Cam ends up being the bad boy (well, of COURSE). This push/pull situation between the two potential matches waffles on for a bit. The kids seem to get away with drinking booze and having parties after hours (at a reformatory? WTF?) Luce makes friends with the geeky nerd girl Penn and the rebel, Arianne, and has run-ins the BAD punk rocker (well, of COURSE). This type of obvious dualism in protagonists vs. antagonists is something I'd expect in Hollywood and not have the idea bashed over my head in fiction.
Then right at the end, stuff happens, people die and nothing is really explained. Oh, and there’s a Mexican stand-off of sorts, so far as I can tell. But I’m not sure. Actually, I’m not sure why a bunch of stuff happens and why the stuff that did happen waited to happen when it did. And what the hell was stopping it from happening in the first place? Confused yet? So am I. None of this was clear, and while I do like some mystery and magic, I like to understand the motivations of the different characters, even if there are no real resolutions. I’m still sitting here with a massive WTF scribbled in indelible marker all over my face.
While we’re at it, Lucinda Price makes Bella Swann look like a fascinating, three-dimensional female lead. The fact that she might have inadvertently led to the death of a young man doesn’t seem to haunt her. She obsesses about a dude who treats her like shit. She has no fire, no motivation, and is easily led by the people around her. She has no interests save for Daniel. I cannot relate to this character.
When I was a teen I remember falling in love, for sure, obsessing even about movie stars, musicians and boys, boys, boys, but for goodness sake, I had other interests too, like music, art and writing, and watching cool movies and going on holiday and one day being a famous rock star. Luce’s entire life seems to revolve around her seemingly unrequited love for Daniel. We get no sense of any personality lurking beneath the surface, other than she vaguely misses her best friend and family.
Lauren Kate’s writing is okay. It’s not spectacular and to give her credit, she doesn’t make me want to stab my eyes out with the red pen I use when I’m proofreading. She can carry a story but please oh my god please can someone help her with her plotting and building tension? Add looking beyond the obvious light/dark is good vs. evil? Yes, there are ways to get around this even if you’re writing about angels and demons, (Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a very good example). Fallen is not a good book. I don’t recommend it and I’m shuddering at the thought that I still have to review books two and three. You have better things to do with your time than read this book, like unblocking your toilet or flossing your teeth.